During the early days of the pandemic, skiing was among the few social activities still permitted to be carried out in the NWT’s Emerging Wisely document.
During the months of full isolation, Rosie Bennings, a volunteer with the Yellowknife Ski Club, said skiing “was a godsend.”
Last week, the Yellowknife Ski Club announced its Covid plan for the upcoming season so Yellowknifers can celebrate in knowing that throughout the many uncertainties of the pandemic, at least skiing remains an option.
With the help of the GNWT and the City of Yellowknife – as well as the guidance of ski clubs throughout the territory – the club has come out with a Covid-safe plan to go ahead with the season.
Heather Scott, president of the Yellowknife Ski Club, said the biggest change will affect the chalet.
What was once a spot to sit, chat, eat, drink and be merry, will now be restricted to washroom use, changing equipment, and warming up, when necessary.
“The chalet can’t be a gathering place anymore for people to hang out for hours, just to be in line with the (public health) guidance we’re receiving,” Scott said.
Other changes include a sign-in sheet to allow for future contact tracing, the closure of the communal kitchen and maximum capacities per room of the chalet.
Based on signup numbers, Yellowknifers don’t seem to mind. Scott said many of their youth programs are bigger than they’ve ever been and membership is already up 17 per cent from last year.
“Most people are sticking around here, looking for ways to stay active and healthy and enjoy the great outdoors,” she said. “Everyone is enthusiastic about skiing.”
Bennings coordinates the Jackrabbits program for skiers ages six to nine.
Compared to previous years, she said the chalet restrictions will be a big change for the program.
In the past, participants have come into the chalet for hot chocolate, sliced fruit and bagels.
Now Jackrabbits will be given individually-wrapped snacks to take home. They are also asked to arrive ready to ski so they won’t have to use the chalet to get dressed.
The ski club has also added two entry points on the trail so groups of six to 10 skiers can maintain proper distances from each other.
While some may be disappointed by the changes, Bennings assured “the quality of program won’t suffer.”
“It will still be a great season,” she said. “We’re going to have an amazing time outside.”
Scott said the club will also be running outdoor events throughout the season to “keep things fun.”
Skiers can expect ski-bingo, three free Sunday ski days, and some version of the annual loppet at the end of March.
A number of the club’s programs have already begun. Dryland training and the trails are set to open later this month. Groomers are working now to pack down ski trails and the exact launch date depends on when there’s enough snow pack. Scott said the club will circulate the word when specifics are known.
The Yellowknife Ski Club encourages skiers to stay home when feeling ill or while self-isolating and to clean and disinfect touched surfaces with provided cleaning supplies.
Scott said 2020-2021 is set to be a great season and she encourages people to join.
“Wrapping our heads around safely running and cleaning our facility during this time has taken a lot of work,” she said. “I’m very proud of the hard and thoughtful work that our volunteers have dedicated to drafting up a great exposure control plan.”