If you saw the images from Sommet Saint-Sauveur circulating social media over the weekend, perhaps you’ve already gone into full-on panic mode over what might occur once the lifts start spinning just south of the Canadian border.
One week after throngs of skiers and riders showed up en masse to Italy’s Cervinia, a similar situation has arisen in North America. A Facebook post via blogger Ski Octopus revealed photos of a painfully long line at the single lift that was running for season pass-holders at Sommet Saint-Sauveur, located in Quebec.
The post read: “The Octopus has a really scary story to share — which hopefully it will remain only a Halloween story and not a glimpse into how the ski season will look like.”
Granted, it was opening weekend, and only one lift was running at the ski area. But the situation might not be very different when ski areas in New England start opening for the season later this month. Even limited to pass-holders, such crowds will likely form stateside, as lift operators try to deal with social distancing procedures.
Then again, on Friday, lines were pretty much nonexistent at Saint-Sauveur.
In Italy, the images from Cervina led the government to temporarily shut down the ski resort for fears of COVID protocols being ignored. Cervinia said the photographs misrepresented the situation, which might actually be the case in Canada as well.
Another ski blogger, at SlopeEdge, wrote the following about her experience on Saturday at Saint-Sauveur:
The Ski Octopus, posted a rather fear-mongering commentary about the length of the line and number of people, perhaps without considering that Sommet Saint-Sauveur already has a whole summer of waterpark and mountain bike chairlift line management behind them and closed their season with success and no outbreaks (to the best of their knowledge). As someone whose goal it is to promote skiing in the East regardless of conditions, I would suggest that such reporting and complaining about these conditions is not doing any of us, the resorts, or the ASSQ a favour — keep in mind it only took a few similar reports to shut down Cervinia in Italy immediately following their first weekend, and it sounds like Cervinia was not prepared for the crowds they received while Sommet Saint-Sauveur implemented a number of strategies for crowd control and flow. Instead, I really want to highlight that Sommet Saint-Sauveur’s strategies, while increasing wait times (as can be expected), did a great job of keeping adequate space between people in the lineup and that really such lines are not any different than the lines we see at IKEA and CostCo (standing outdoors two meters apart for a length of time with strangers). In fact, I think the spacing between the two lines was better than I have experienced at my local Home Depot and IKEA. We can absolutely expect long lines during peak hours this season, and the more we approach the whole experience with a positive attitude, the more we will enjoy our season, and focusing on constructive criticism will improve safety for everyone.
Yes, 30-minute lift lines could be a thing during the early portion of the season, and perhaps holidays and powder days will have longer waits than usual. But these images are likely outliers, rather than what to expect for the norm.
Unless your favorite ski area plans on only operating one lift this whole season. In that case, be prepared to wait.
Now, if you want to start worrying about the increase in COVID cases affecting operations more so than the long lines you might have to wait in, there’s probably some reason for concern.
Just be prepared for a lot of preemptive strikes when pictures of long lines at ski areas in New England make some similar waves.