Baldface Lodge will not open when the 2020-21 ski season begins due to COVID-19 impacts.
Jeff Pensiero, the owner and founder of the cat ski resort located in the Selkirk Mountains, said Thursday the combination of the Canada-United States border closure and health concerns for staff and guests made the decision for him.
“Knowing what we know and watching what we’re watching and trying to look out for the health of my family, my community, my customers, if this thing’s as bad as it’s supposed to be — how could I open?” said Pensiero.
Pensiero said the lodge typically has 80-to-85 guests and staff present during operations. Even if they restricted their lodge and accommodations to 50 people, he said, it is too difficult without road access to isolate an ill person and safely send them home.
“It’s not really clear to me if I’m supposed to shut down the lodge or not if somebody has symptoms,” he said. “If they get a positive test result, it’s not clear to me what that means to my operation.”
Baldface employs approximately 110 people, and Pensiero said he hopes making the call in September to scrap the season gives his employees time to find new winter work.
“I’m sad. I’m sad for all my employees, all my friends. This is a pretty tight-knit group and that’s why, more than anything, I made the call early.”
Pensiero said because his resort is all-inclusive and mostly caters to international guests, the border closure and required 14-day quarantine is keeping the majority of people who previously booked reservations from travelling.
Baldface gave customers the option of a full refund, or a deposit that can be used into 2022, according to Pensiero. Of those customers who had already booked, he said 80 per cent opted to keep their reservations.
Baldface’s decision to close comes after Whitewater Ski Resort and Rossland’s Red Mountain elected to re-open when the season typically begins in December, albeit with their own COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
Meanwhile, construction continues on Baldface Lodge’s new Nelson office building at the corner of Vernon and Stanley streets. Pensiero said the building will help centralize food and warehouse operations, which will in turn make more room available at the lodge.
The shutdown will also offer him a chance to reassess the future of his business.
“We’re going to come out of this better than ever. I’m not worried,” he said.
“It’s going to be great. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, I haven’t done anything else but try to open every winter. And this winter I’m going to totally focus on what that place is going to look like for the next 20, 25 years.”
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