Ridership of the Fernie ski shuttle is down by 77 per cent so far in the 2020-2021 winter season, leading to operators reducing frequency for the foreseeable future.
“The current service was tailored this season to adapt to the COVID-19 safety protocols while increasing frequency. It was a great schedule but the ridership just isn’t there,” said Jikke Gyorki of Tourism Fernie, who added that with ridership down by so much, losses in revenues and increases costs to operate have required the shuttle to reduce frequency “until travel restrictions ease and other ideas or funding come to the table.”
From next Monday (Jan.18), the shuttle will only do two circuits between the Fernie Alpine Resort and downtown hotels in the morning, one mid-day and two in the afternoon. The evening service will stop running.
Previously, the shuttle would do circuits every 20 minutes during the day, and one the hour in the evening.
Executive director of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce Brad Parsell said that the shuttle was a vital connection between the resort, hotels and downtown.
“Obviously this isn’t the outcome we were hoping for this season, but with travel restrictions still very much in play it makes little financial sense to have empty buses driving around our community. It’s important the ski shuttle remains sustainable in the long run and we look forward to seeing this service return to a full complement when the situation surrounding the pandemic allows.”
Numbers of visitors to the resort itself are not available.
The updated schedule will be available online at FernieSkiShuttle.com.
As reported last week, the provincial travel advisories discouraging travel beyond local communities have been extended through to Feb. 5, with new and active cases of COVID-19 remaining stubbornly high despite a month of banned gatherings and advisories already.
On Jan. 14, and provincial health authorities reported 115 new cases of COVID-19 in the Interior Health region.
The most recent data on the local area (between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2) reported only one positive case in the Fernie area. Cumulatively, the Fernie health area (which includes all the Elk Valley and South Country) saw 59 cases for the entirety of 2020.
Is there more to this story?