By Steve Hubrecht
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt Columbia Valley residents’ lives, and with search and rescue organizations throughout the province (including here) pleading with people to stay out of the backcountry, there has been a noticeable uptick in valley locals heading up to Panorama Mountain Resort for some frontcountry ski touring. This has resulted in at least one incident, which in turn has prompted the resort to ask people – in a letter sent out to season pass holders and others connected to the resort, and in a statement from resort chief executive officer Steve Paccagnan – to please stop.
The letter outlines that the resort was closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the area, and that this means no public access of any kind is permitted to the ski terrain.
“Unfortunately, over the past two weeks we have seen a number of people irresponsibly disregarding this closure and hiking-up/skiing and snowmobiling on the slopes. This is extremely dangerous and we have already seen a serious incident,” reads the letter. “Please respect the mountain closure, it is to keep you safe and no turn is worth injury or worse, someone’s life.” The letter later notes that Panorama’s avalanche team control team is no longer assessing the runs and with the fluctuating spring weather the stability of the snow is constantly changing.
The message was re-emphasized in a statement Paccagnan gave to the Pioneer several days later.
“This is a very difficult time for everyone in our community as we face the realities of the COVID-19 crisis. Firstly, our thoughts and well wishes go out to all of our valued resorts guests everywhere. Panorama Mountain Resort made the difficult but right decision to close early for the winter season in an effort to do our part and support efforts in flattening the curve. The impacts on our people, business and local community are enormous. Understandably we all share a huge passion for the mountains and being outdoors especially knowing this spring would have been fantastic skiing,” said Paccagnan in the statement.
“I get it, many want to get outside and into the mountains but unfortunately we have seen many people up tracking and skiing on the closed trails. Additionally, there have been several people entering the closed ski terrain on snowmobiles, this presents a very serious risk of collision or accidents. We ask that everyone please respect the closure of the ski terrain and controlled recreation area as Panorama Mountain Resort has a duty of care under our master development agreement to manage and mitigate risks, keep people safe and the terrain closed. Having staff respond to potential accidents, rescues and providing emergency care will simply put more strain on our medical community. We have a great resort and look forward to seeing everyone again once we are past this crisis,” he concluded.
(Photo by Chris Moseley: Jack, 6, enjoyed Panorama earlier this winter when the mountain was open.)