WESTLOCK – Despite COVID-19 and the restrictions which limit capacity, Tawatinaw Valley Ski Club officials are aiming for a break-even 2020/21 ski season.
The hill officially opened Dec. 18 and was able to run daily (except Dec. 25 and Jan. 1) until Jan. 3 — this past week and for the rest of the season it will only be open Friday to Sunday.
“It’s been steady. I’ve worked the front gate and the grounds pretty much every day since we’ve been open. Everyone has been compliant with having to wear masks all the time on the hill. And we’ve had a lot of new people who’ve never been here before,” said ski club president Wendy Batog.
“We’d like to break even this year. I know COVID is unpleasant and the restrictions are horrible and a lot of people have lost their jobs. But I’m just glad that we’re open and can provide people with a little happiness.”
With lift tickets only sold online, limiting capacity has been relatively easy — Batog noted that the 100 people who purchased season passes always get first priority. Pre-COVID the largest number of guests they saw was 574 on Family Day 2020, while this year they’ve capped capacity at 300. Batog noted that in addition to following all the relevant Alberta Health Service protocols, only 15 people are allowed in the chalet at a time, while only one family is allowed in the rental shop at a time.
“With 145 acres, three T-bars, a bunny hill and a tube park, you don’t really notice those numbers on the hill. We have a lot of room. Every day our tube park is sold out and that’s 90 people right there and our bunny hill operates on its own and then with all the T-bars open there’s a lot of space to ski,” said Batog.
“We have so many runs, trails and so much space, plus all three T-bars are running so everything is fine tuned and organized. In the last two years we’ve focused on our product and being able to offer a family experience with a personal touch. I’m really proud of our staff who’ve handled all of the newcomers and given them a great experience which has increased our exposure immensely.”
Batog noted that with capacity capped at all hills, more Edmonton-area skiers and snowboarders have also been looking to Tawatinaw.
“To be honest we’re getting a lot of the overflow out of Edmonton. They can’t get on to those bigger hills — parking lots there are being blocked at 10:30 in the morning.”