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Spring skiing is not going according to plan in British Columbia. On March 29, the government announced that the province’s largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb, would be shuttered immediately. Officials cited an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases, including illnesses caused by the Brazilian P1 variant.
During a press conference, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry noted that Whistler was at the heart of the recent surge that saw a large uptick of cases throughout the province linked at least in part to skier travel. This past weekend alone there were 2,518 COVID cases in B.C., with six deaths.
“We know people have taken advantage of the weather and the March break to go places with their families,” said Dr. Henry, “and what that has meant is we’ve seen a rapid rise in cases as people have returned to their home communities.”
The resort will remain closed until April 19, when the province will reassess health conditions.
Indoor dining and group fitness are also on hold in Whistler, though other ski resorts in the province remain open, including Revelstoke and Kicking Horse. This also comes after some restrictions were actually lifted earlier in the month, including allowing gatherings of up to 10 outdoors.
“It is a most challenging time for us right now,” Henry said. “A circuit breaker is now required to break the chains of transmission in our province.”
Covid cases are rising all across the U.S., as well, thanks in large part to spring break travel. Colo.’s Summit County, home to Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper, reported over 100 new cases last week according to the Summit Daily. Likewise, Vermont Public Radio reported that the state tallied a record number of new cases at the end of last week, despite some of the strictest health regulation in the country.
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A faster vaccine rollout in the U.S. is credited with keeping our resorts open for the entirety of the season. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, less than two percent of Canadians have received both doses of the vaccine, and less than 10 percent have gotten at least one dose. Fifteen percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.
If there’s good news to be found here, Whistler Blackcomb historically has one of the longest seasons in North America, with Blackcomb Mountain scheduled to stay open until May 24 this year. (The Whistler side closes on April 18.) So if this “circuit breaker” has its intended effect, there may still be spring turns to be made after all.