My Mountain Co-op is urging the public to stay away from Shames Mountain after camera footage shows a parking lot full of visitors socializing and not respecting the province’s request for social distancing last weekend on March 21.
On March 24, the Shames Mountain Team posted a plead on Facebook requesting the community abstains from recreating at the ski hill as they aim to do their part in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The scene in our parking lot on Saturday the 21st was not a display of our community actively participating in social distancing,” the Facebook post reads. “From our parking camera and witness statements we could see a nearly full parking lot, full of mingling and group activity; tailgate gatherings, guests from all ends of the world, and entire families out.”
Shames Mountain general manager Christian Theberge says he was taken aback with the number of people that have continued to access the ski hill and its backcountry, despite operations being ceased early and repetitive pleads from the government for the public to stay at home to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
“Last weekend, there were a lot of people still acting like nothing was wrong, they were outside as it’s spring break and thinking they’re social distancing by just getting out of town… but it’s not,” Theberge says. “I understand it’s a wonderful area to spend time outside with family and friends, but we need people to know that life cannot go on as usual right now.”
Theberge says their team was on the fence about addressing the issue publicly as they noticed that come Monday, there was a lot more media discussion for people to stay away from outdoor recreational activities. As a community hill though, they felt it was important to ensure the message got across to everyone locally.
“This really prompted us to take a stance and look at our responsibility here as business owners and land tenants… I think there was a strong belief that here in the Northwest, we’re very rural, very isolated and we’re protected from the pandemic reaching us, but there’s a good chance that this thing has already started to spread here,” he says.
“This post was a big step for us to do… it’s certainly something that’s never been done before either.”
Theberge recognizes that although skiing and snowboarding can ultimately be respectful of the social distancing criteria, he says people will easily break that by congregating closely in other ways such as in the parking lot or even when taking breaks.
He adds Avalanche Canada has also recommended that people stop visiting the backcountry as they currently only have access to a limited amount of data as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic, which can result in inaccurate forecasts.
“This means their forecasts are not as good as they could be and they will soon be stopping their forecasting, so for people deciding to go into the backcountry without having accurate, complete safety forecasts for the avalanche conditions is certainly a risk for everybody,” Theberge says.
“We know that we are an access point to the backcountry and that means we have to do our part to support Avalanche Canada as well.”
He says he has also been in contact with Terrace Search and Rescue (SAR) who have asked the ski hill to minimize risks of possible rescue calls to avoid straining their volunteers and resources, along with emergency and hospital services. As a popular gateway to the backcountry, Theberge suggests everyone should just stay away to avoid any misfortunes.
Some residents have asked for Shames Mountain to close off access with the main gate, but he states it’s up to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to make that call as the main road up to the ski hill belongs to the province.
He asks for people to respect their requests to avoid any drastic measures be taken and hopes that the message to stay at home has become clearer over the past week as case numbers continue to climb across Canada.
“We have not barricaded our parking lot with barbed wire, we do not want to go in that direction,” he says.
“We all have to work together to get through this and I think it’s very beautiful to see that happening, we are already seeing the responses from our post — people are thankful and accepting that these decisions for everybody’s good.”
The Terrace Standard has reached out to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to inquire about the gate and is awaiting a response.