A pandemic paradox of two London & area ski resorts
LONDON, ONT. -- It has been a tale of two ski chalets this winter.
On the one hand, the struggling lockdown fortunes of Boler Mountain in London, and on the other hand, Circle R Ranch, which includes an operating cross-country trail system just southwest of the city limits. It has noted a small boom in business.
But come Tuesday, both sites will be on equal playing fields again as the lockdown ends and downhill skiing is permitted.
At Boler, Manager Marty Thody is grateful to finally get the season started, with extra help from Mother Nature.
"We’ve had two great snowfalls in there, plus the snowfall at Christmas to pack in with our production snow. We have some snow coming up in the forecast too."
But, the lockdown has unquestionably hurt Boler’s bottom line. The resort is a non-profit agency.
"We’re plugging the leak in the boat but we’re still bailing. It’s going to take years, years to recover from this."
Manager at Boler Mountain Marty Thody speaks in London, Ont. on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)
Boler will open Tuesday with extended hours, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and a limit of 300 people on the hill at any time.
Lift tickets will also be capped at four hours.
Thody hopes the longer hours will ease some of the anticipated financial losses.
On the other side of fortune, Circle R Ranch.
The resort, impacted by a loss of summer camps and fall activities, is experiencing a boom in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Both were permitted to remain open during the lockdown.
"So grateful we have been able to open and offer an outdoor recreation facility for people," team member Leah Riehl tells CTV News.
Leah Reihl of Circle R Ranch speaks on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)
Still, she states there have been many weekend days where online ticket sales were cut off, to keep crowd sizes down.
On Friday, Michael Gibson, the operator of a well-known city art gallery took a break from his store to cross-country ski.
It is something he had not done, until recently, for years.
While Gibson still plans to return to downhill skiing next week, he will not forget about his new outdoor option.
Cross-country skier Michael Gibson hits the trails at Circle R on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)
"You can walk. I’ve done a lot of walking but that gets kind of tiresome, but this gets quite interesting. You are really in nature and they have five trails here."
Riehl says Circle R has seen many people return to the trails since downhill skiing went on hiatus.
"Many people have said, 'Oh many years ago, or 10 years ago, I don’t even know.'"
Another boost here has been the weather. It has been years since trails have stayed open without a thaw in between.
Yet, while fortunes are brighter at Circle R, both Riehl and Thody say the loss of March Break will hurt numbers.
Another 'kick' Thody says Boler will have to adapt to.