Some B.C. ski hills, including Whistler and Blackcomb, close in response to COVID-19; others remain open

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      The parent company of B.C.'s marquee ski resort has ordered its closure for seven days.

      Vail Resorts suspended operations at all of its North American mountain facilities and retail stores from Sunday (March 15) to next Sunday (March 22).

      That includes Whistler Blackcomb, which is one of B.C.'s prime tourist attractions.

      "All our scheduled employees, both seasonal and year-round, will be paid during this upcoming eight-day period, without needing to use any vacation or sick time," CEO Rob Katz said in an open letter. "Their commitment to our company and guests during this uncertain time has been unwavering and I am personally grateful beyond words."

      It came in response to the spread of COVID-19.

      "Without question, our top priority has been the health and wellbeing of our guests and employees—and to no lesser extent the health and wellbeing of the communities where we operate," Katz stated. "We know each decision we make has a broad impact far beyond our operations."

      The announcement came one day after B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors and travel to Whistler during spring break from public schools, which began on March 14.

      Katz apologized to guests who are at the resorts, saying information about cancellations and refunds are on the company's websites.

      "Many things like ski school, lift tickets, equipment rentals, and transportation can be fully refunded, and we have new credit policies in place for our owned and operated lodging properties," he said. "Please know that we will get to everyone and appreciate your patience as our most immediate priority must be the health and welfare of our resorts and communities."

      After Vail Resorts made its announcement, SilverStar Mountain Resort in the B.C. Interior and Cypress Mountain Resort in West Vancouver issued similar announcements.

      Silverstar will remain closed until March 22 and Cypress Mountain will cease operations at 4 p.m. today until further notice.

      As of this morning, the websites of Grouse Mountain Resort, Mount Seymour, Big White Ski Resort, Mount Washington Alpine Resort, and Sun Peaks Resort say they are remaining open for business.

      "Select Canadian resorts have announced closures today due to decisions made south of the border in the United States," Sun Peaks states. "However, at this time, British Columbia remains one of the safest places in the world and our guests are having a great time on the slopes.

      "Precautions definitely need to be taken and adjustments need to be made, but Sun Peaks Resort will continue to operate unless we receive new information from the relevant authorities with whom we are in regular contact. Obviously, this is a very fluid situation and we will continue to do our best to keep everyone updated."

      However, Sun Peaks advises guests over 70 years of age and those with underlying health conditions not to visit at this time.

      In addition, it has eliminated single lines on all chairlifts and not to load unrelated groups on the same chairlift.

      As of March 14, B.C. had recorded 73 positive tests for COVID-19 and one fatality, an elderly resident of Lynn Valley Care Centre.