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Cross-country ski trails stay open despite new COVID-19 restrictions (2 Photos)

People at Kamview were 'a little bit on edge' about Ontario's new restrictions.

THUNDER BAY — Unlike downhill skiers, cross-country skiers will still be able to enjoy their favourite outdoor activity over the coming weeks despite Ontario's stay-at-home order.

Management at the Kamview Ski Area in Thunder Bay was initially worried about Premier Ford's announcement of broadened measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"We're ecstatic that we can be open," says general manager Dave Suttie. "People need something to do. It's a real bonus for people to be able to get out and do some exercise."

Suttie said some skiers who came to Kamview on Tuesday were expecting it might be their last time out this season. 

"We were definitely a little bit on edge here. But fortunately we've made it through again," he said.

Kamview expects to see increased traffic in the days ahead, but Suttie said it has measures in place to keep skiers separated at all times, including "no racks at the chalet here, getting people to move along when they put their skis on, getting them moving from the parking lot so we don't have any crowding."

A staff member is posted in the parking lot to greet people.

"His role is to get people moving along, making sure they wear masks around the chalet, getting their equipment on and getting onto the trails right away, with social distancing," Suttie said

Lingering is also being discouraged when skiers return from the trail, although the canteen remains open to dispense takeout food from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Suttie said a Thunder Bay District Health Unit inspector visited Kamview Tuesday to check out its COVID-19 mitigation measures.

At the Mount Baldy Ski Area, the mood is very different this week.

Referring to Premier Ford's announcement, co-owner Jason Kardas said Wednesday "When news can't get any worse, then you get that one. It's definitely frustrating."

The province ordered the closure of Ontario downhill ski areas on Dec. 26, and that order remains in place indefinitely.

Kardas estimates it has cost Mount Baldy about 40 per cent of its annual revenue.

"To work so hard, only to have the hill closed, that's a hard pill to swallow because the conditions are amazing and the weather is amazing," he said.

Kardas said support in the community for reopening has been phenomenal, adding "they've stuck with us right from the start."

Although he estimates that government financial support will cover only about 10 per cent of his costs, he said "I'm pretty sure we can get through this financially. We're on track still to do the installation of the chairlift. We just want to be able to open the doors when this lockdown is over."

Kardas noted that downhill ski sites in every other province in Canada remain open, but he has yet to hear about any COVID-19 case connected to any of them.

Other outdoor recreation facilities in Ontario are permitted to stay open under the provincial guidelines announced Tuesday, including ice rinks, but the announcement said this is "with conditions."

Details were not provided.

A spokesperson for the City of Thunder Bay said the city is examining the government order, and will provide information to the public when it's available.

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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