Skiers and snowboarders rally against the closure of slopes in Ontario
Less than a week into Ontario's latest provincewide shutdown, more than 70,000 people have signed a petition calling upon Premier Doug Ford to reconsider his stance on one particularly confounding rule: The one forcing ski and snowboard hills to close.
The full closure of all slopes and resorts, which came into effect on December 26, sparked fast criticism when it was announced last week among outdoor sports enthusiasts — well, some of them.
Ice rinks, snowshoeing trails, dogsledding facilities and tobogganing hills all remain in bounds under the province's latest lockdown framework, as does tobogganing, snowmobiling, skating, riding horses and any other outdoor activity that can allow for physical distancing.
But not skiing or snowboarding. Ontario made specific note of this when releasing its shutdown rules last week, writing "ski hills are closed" on its own separate line.
People immediately started begging questions like: "why can we go skating, but not skiing?" and "how is it any safer to visit a busy big box store (or airport, for that matter) than it is to snowboard?" and "does anyone in the government know how much protective gear this stuff involves?"
Such questions and criticisms are continuing into the weird week between Christmas and New Year's Eve as hills in Toronto grow dense with tobogganers and outdoor skating rinks remain at or near capacity.
"Ontario is the only province, state, or territory in North America to shutter ski hills," reads a petition started last week by a frustrated resident named Dwayne Cardoso.
"We want Premier Doug Ford to allow skiing during this pandemic, because it's also an opportunity for peaceful sport, family time, and exercise for young children up to and including adults in a safe outdoor fresh air environment. Keep the lifts and slopes open, close the shops and restaurants to help mitigate Covid spread."
This is one of the many crazy things about the lockdown in Ontario. Stifling kid activity and seasonal regional businesses. I petition Doug Ford to do the right thing : Allow ski hills to operate during Ontario lockdown - Sign the Petition! https://t.co/EmOUBkJNNK via @CdnChange— 🙃Charley Workman🙂 (@Charley2021) December 29, 2020
Cardoso points out in his petition, which as of Tuesday afternoon had been signed 73,638 times, that skiing and snowboarding are inherently safe sports to participate in... at least in terms of not spreading germs.
"Skiing should be the safest sport to participate in with face coverings, mandatory space between patrons (skis and snowboards easily facilitate social distancing), riding chair lifts with only family," reads the petition.
"In a time of immense negativity, this can also help our mental health, not to mention the exercise that we all desperately want."
The Ford government has yet to issue a response regarding whether or not they'll consider reopening ski hills in Ontario, but the heat is cranking up as more and more people share the petition and their own personal stories about what the closures mean for them (and for local economies.)
FOLLOWING WHOSE SCIENCE? Zero-risk ski hills & other essential physical services across Ontario have been caught out by the Ford government's appeasement of Toronto hysterics.— National Citizens Coalition (@NatCitizens) December 28, 2020
"It was really upsetting, on Christmas Eve we’re handing out layoff notices." https://t.co/6q3Lw6aAu4
And then there's the issue of Ontario residents driving over to Quebec for their ski and snowboard needs, potentially spreading or bringing the virus back and forth between jurisdictions. The powder's already better in Quebec — with hills closed in Ontario, there's all the more reason to visit.
"I ski with two masks and ski goggles and couldn't be safer anywhere in the province except on a ski hill," reads one comment on the change.org petition.
"We don't eat at the club or go to washrooms, or mingle anywhere with other skiers. Skiing was the only hope to keep my kids engaged this winter. Terrible decision to shut ski hills and keep Walmart and Costco non-essential aisles open."
"We wear goggles, face shields/masks and our equipment keeps us at least 6ft apart from people in front or behind us in line waiting for the lift," points out another.
"Not sure how golf was safer?"
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