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Tawatinaw aims for big winter on the slopes

Hill makes necessary COVID-19 adjustments in advance of ski season
Tawatinaw tractor
Thanks to the loan of this tractor from Martin Deerline, Tawatinaw Valley Ski Club volunteers were hard at work Oct. 5 mowing the hill in preparation for the upcoming ski season.

WESTLOCK - Tawatinaw Valley Ski Club officials are working hard behind the scenes to ensure the 2020/2021 season, which is planned to kick-off in early December, is not only enjoyable, but safe for skiers, snowboarders and even snowshoers.

Although the first snowflakes have yet to fall, volunteers have been busy on site with a number of small projects, ranging from mowing grass on the hill, to general site clean up.

But the real work has been in getting the facility ready to deal with the numerous COVID-19 safety protocols that’ll be in place for staff and patrons.

Club president Wendy Batog said they’ll be following COVID-19 rules laid out by an advisory group of ski industry leaders who’ve developed the Ski Well, Be Well operational best practices plan based on scientific guidelines from experts.

Tawatinaw is also part of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, a group that includes reps from big resorts like Sunshine Village, Marmot Basin and Lake Louise. During the opening weeks of the pandemic, Tawatinaw officials were on conference calls with other Canada West hills to talk about best practices and have even been involved in Zoom calls with hill operators in New Zealand and Australia to get their insights.

“We’ll have every protocol in place to open, which we plan on happening in the first part of December. We’re moving ahead 100 per cent. We intend on having a fabulous season and providing the community the opportunity to get outside and enjoy themselves because it is going to be a long winter,” she said.

On site, folks will notice some small changes, like less tables inside the chalet, which caps the capacity at 75. Masks inside the chalet will also be mandatory until patrons sit down to eat. Beyond those physical changes, Tawatinaw is sporting a redesigned website,, allowing for contactless payments for lift tickets.

“In our chalet we’ve had the local health authority out and they’ve done a complete inspection and we organized our tables to be appropriate for social distancing. We’ve also set up to two warm-up tents outside and we’ve received two donated patio heaters for the deck outside,” she said.

The club is facing some big bills for the year, exacerbated by the fact the 2019/2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the year ahead.

The cancelling of school trips to the facility has added up to a $45,000 deficit, while snowmaking isn’t cheap and will cost $50,000.

Batog said they launched a 50/50 online-only fundraiser at to help cover some of those expenses — so far $570 is in the kitty with an Oct. 31 end date and a guaranteed payout of at least $1,000.

As well, they’ll be opening up the café at the chalet for evenings starting Oct. 31 — following they’ll have the bar and food available every Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m., even if the hill hasn’t opened to skiers.

They’re also hosting a special Oct. 23 showing of Koot’s Quarantine, the Westlock Rotary Club Dinner Theatre show (see more on the show on Page 7 of this week’s edition). Doors for that open at 6 p.m., while the show, being streamed via the Internet, starts at 7 p.m. — tables can booked at Tawatinaw’s website.

“We are very excited that we will be able to do this for the Rotary as our first official open day of the season,” added ski club business manager Victoria Harrison.

George Blais,