The ski season isn’t up just yet, and according to operations manager at Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR), Mark Ormandy, they’ve had a “pretty good season so far.”
Speaking at the Tourism Fernie AGM on Wednesday Mar. 30, Ormandy gave a snapshot update of how FAR and parent company, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) had been faring through the 2021-2022 winter season.
“We were busy with a lot of families – we sold a lot of day tickets,” he said.
An issue of contention ahead of opening day was FAR’s vaccine policy, which Ormandy suggested had had a slight impact on ticket sales.
”We had a small decrease in season passes this year, incidentally it was roughly the same percentage of a decrease as unvaccinated Canadians, so we’re pretty sure that had a lot to do with our vaccine mandate here.”
According to FAR and RCR policy, going into the ski season all guests were required to have proof of full vaccination in order to get their season pass, effectively making vaccination a requirement to use the chairlifts to access terrain.
Ormandy said that as with many other industries, COVID-19 was the biggest challenge, saying that unforeseen issues and constant changes from the government regarding mandates and requirements kept them on their toes.
“It pretty much dominated every aspect of our business in some shape or form,” he said.
Ormandy also shared some insight into staffing at the resort, confirming that they were short hundreds of workers due to the pandemic and limits on travel.
“Obviously immigration was a big part of that – normally we employ 30 to 35 percent international people that would be coming on work visas. This year we had less than five percent, and that left us a big hole at the start of the season,” he said, adding that right when the season began on Dec. 11 2021, FAR were short by about 120 staff.
“At times we were up to about 200 staff short with staff off with sickness and quarantine requirements,” he said.
The shortage meant that staff were all hands on deck, managing staff and assignments on a day-t0-day basis all the way through the season.
“Our food and beverage manager would daily be on one of the lines flipping burgers and making food. Our mountain ops team and all the managers were chipping in, driving loaders and doing whatever they needed to do to get through the day….I just saw our Accounting manager walk through the plaza with a ski school jacket on, he was out teaching lessons.”
He concluded that they’d managed to make everything work. “We’re pretty proud of how the team managed it.”
FAR will remain open for a week longer than originally planned, with closing day for winter operations set at Sunday, Apr. 17.
Ormandy said that after a break, the team at FAR would be looking forward to summer operations, scheduled for June 25 through to the Labour weekend in September.
“Hopefully we see the lifting of all government mandates with regards to masks and vaccinations.”
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