COVID-19 in Whistler

by Amanda Pataky

COVID-19 restrictions are in effect across BC including in Whistler. Until June 15th, people are advised to avoid non-essential travel outside one’s own region.

This article includes details about the coronavirus and the situation at the ski resort. It also has links to websites with additional information. (Note: Regulations, advisories, the status of the pandemic and other details are subject to change.)

 


SKI RESORT CLOSED

Since late April, 2021, people from outside the immediate region have been asked to NOT visit Whistler. The Province of BC has been advising against all non-essential travel. The communities of Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton have gone even further and asked non-residents to stay away until COVID conditions improve.

Since March 29th at midnight the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort has been temporarily closed. This was due to concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The closure was expected to last until May 25th, 2021.

On the above date in March the BC government announced a series of new restrictions impacting the ski hill and the surrounding village. In addition to the closure of the ski hill, indoor dining at restaurants was prohibited until May 25th. Restaurants were, however, allowed to offer take-out options as well as dining on outdoor patios.

As of May 25th, 2021, restaurants can once again  offer dine-in service for groups of up to 6 people per table. Alcohol can also be served up until 10 pm daily. After June 15th, it’s possible that liquor can be served up until midnight, although exact details depend on the state of the pandemic.

Also as of May 25th, travel outside the three designated regions of BC – the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and BC Interior – is still restricted. You still can’t engage in non-essential travel from one region to another. You can, however, travel more freely within your own region (and Whistler is within the Metro Vancouver and Lower Mainland region).

The resort hopes to reopen on May 31st for summer activities. Exact details, however, are to be confirmed.

For a list of what’s open and what’s not, see the Tourism Whistler website.


 

Whistler During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Many municipalities across the Lower Mainland have implemented COVID-19 restrictions in order to reduce the spread of the disease. The Resort Municipality of Whistler is no different. Restrictions present across the town include mandatory face coverings in indoor spaces, physical distancing requirements and increased sanitation. In addition, the town asks people from out of town to avoid non-essential travel to the area.

As of the Family Day Long Weekend in mid-February, 2021, around 73,000 people in British Columbia had been infected by the virus including around 950 active cases within the Vancouver Coastal Health Region of which Whistler is a part. According to the regional health authorities, between January 1st and the 26th there were 288 reported cases in Whistler itself. The majority of those were adults between the ages of 20 and 39 who lived and worked in the community.

For the week of February 7th to 13th, there were 72 reported cases of the virus in Howe Sound (which includes Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Mount Currie). For comparison, for the week of May 9th to 15th, there were just 14 new cases in the region. Cases numbers in the Sea to Sky area have been dropping consistently over the past number of weeks, thanks in part to local residents getting vaccinations. COVID numbers over the previous seven or so weeks have dropped from 410 to 337, 131, 50, 39 and then 11.

As of May 24th, 2021, there had been 142,347 cases of COVID-19 in BC since the start of the pandemic. As of that date, there were 292 people in hospital including 96 in intensive care. 293 additional cases had been reported in the entire province over the previous 24 hours. The rolling 7-day average was 383, which was the lowest it had been since early November in 2020.

 

COVID Status in Early 2021

The entire province of British Columbia, including the Town of Whistler, has been under a public health order. The current order was initially in effect from November 19th, 2020, until February 5th, 2021. In early February the order was then extended indefinitely. Restrictions stated in the order include the following:

  • Mandatory masks in all indoor public spaces
  • Physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) in public places
  • Avoid all non-essential travel, including travel to, from and around British Columbia
  • No social gatherings with anyone outside your household bubble (including at restaurants)

In addition to the above, events are not permitted. Cinemas and theatres are also closed.

These restrictions, along with Whistler’s community regulations, can be found on the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s COVID-19 page.

The BC government website also explicitly addresses travel for mountain sports. In their statement, the government advises that those who live in Vancouver and surrounding areas should ski and snowboard at local mountains such as Cypress, Grouse and Mount Seymour. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has also said that if Metro Vancouver residents choose to ski at Whistler that they should do so as part of a day trip and not stay overnight. More information can be found on the BC Government’s Province-wide Restrictions page.

 

Stay Safe COVID Reminder

 

On the Mountain

Vail Resorts, the US-based owner of Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, has implemented a number of policies to keep visitors safe on the mountain in the 2020/21 ski season. Face coverings (with three or more layers) are now required in all spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained. This includes (but isn’t limited to) in line-ups, on the lifts and gondolas, and in all indoor spaces. Transactions at the mountain are now cashless to reduce contact points. Additionally, the number of tickets sold to access the mountain has been greatly reduced in order to facilitate physical distancing.

It appears that the ski hill doesn’t currently discourage visitors from out of town as it did for a while in the spring of 2020 (at least not yet, as of early January 2021). However, they advise that all visitors (whether local or from out of town) follow all COVID-19 policies and guidelines. For more information visit the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort Winter Experience page.

 

In the Village

COVID-19 restrictions in Whistler Village are generally the same as in other areas of the province. Masks are mandatory in all indoor public places including restaurants, bars and shops. There are signs reminding the public about the need for physical distancing. Increased sanitation measures are also in effect. As well, the town encourages people to wear masks outside such as when walking the Village Stroll. Tourism Whistler also recommends either making reservations or picking up takeout at local restaurants to reduce crowding. The town’s COVID Travel Manners page encourages “fewer faces in bigger spaces” and for folk to stay home if they feel sick.

The Whistler Visitors Centre is currently closed (as of mid-January 2021) due to the province’s ban on non-essential travel. However, Tourism Whistler operates both mobile chat and telephone services for those wanting to learn more about the resort and what’s open. Click Ask Whistler for chat services or call 1-800-944-7853 to speak to a local agent.

As of January 7th, 2021, Tourism Whistler has posted an update regarding travel on their website. The statement emphasizes the same message from the BC Government’s COVID-19 update and advises against non-essential travel to, from and between regions in British Columbia until the current round of restrictions has been lifted.

Many businesses have been negatively impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. Many closed temporarily last spring but have since reopened with updated COVID-19 policies and procedures. Some places, including night clubs, however, remain closed as of early 2021. Tourism Whistler has published a list of businesses that are currently open despite the pandemic. To learn more visit the Whistler Doors Open Directory.

 

Wear a Mask and Social Distance!

 

Other Information

Whatever you do while the pandemic continues to be a problem, keep safe, be responsible, follow health authority regulations, stick to your immediate bubble and stay home if you aren’t feeling well!

For more information check out the following articles and websites:

 

 

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