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City staff preparing to get outdoor rinks and ski hills up and running for the winter

Ski hills and arenas are full steam ahead for the coming winter season; staff to be hired starting this week
Queen's Athletic Skating Oval. (File)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on outdoors enthusiasts, as many recreational activities were curbed over the summer.

Beaches, sports fields and parks were vacant throughout much of the summer, as pandemic restrictions limited the numbers of people who could gather in certain areas.

While a trio of the province's COVID-19 hot spots - Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa - have all been moved back into a modified stage two of reopening, and York Region set to move back into stage two on Monday, Sudbury and Northern Ontario have weathered the second wave of the virus fairly well.

Greater Sudbury has not seen the significant spike in case numbers that other regions of the province have experienced, and as a result, city officials are set to begin planning for a winter that will offer residents all of their favourite cold weather activities.

"Although a second wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic has become evident in several Ontario regions, Northern Ontario in general, and Greater Sudbury in particular, has so far avoided a significant spike in confirmed cases," said a report headed to city council on Oct. 20. 

"Continued vigilance and adherence to the guidance of public health is required to maintain this situation, particularly as the weather changes and people will spend more time indoors."

City council will receive their latest COVID-19 update on Oct. 20, which includes plans to prepare for the upcoming winter. Staff are still in the process of consulting with public health officials in order to finalize the details of their plans, but all signs point to Sudburians being able to get out and enjoy their favourite leisure activities this winter.

The province has stated that recreational activities such as ski and snow recreation are not subject to gathering limits listed for sport and recreational facilities. Other sections of the province's regulations may apply for indoor spaces - for example, a facility may be opened to the public, but the number of individuals permitted in a chalet or support building will be limited to ensure physical distancing can be achieved.

The Ontario Snow Resorts Association (OSRA) strongly recommends that operators implement a required face covering policy for guests while at facilities. This includes the wearing of face coverings while both indoor and outdoor spaces including lift lines, lifts and gathering places.

OSRA has also confirmed that there are no specific capacity limits for ski lifts (i.e. 4 persons on a quad chair etc.), provided all guests and staff are wearing face coverings while lining up and riding the lifts in their cohorts.

Washrooms, change areas, and similar amenities made available to the public must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. Staff will be limiting access to indoor spaces and creating outdoor warming areas for guests. 

The city is set to begin the early stages of getting their two ski hills, Adanac and Lively, up and running for the season by bringing back roughly 100 staff members.

To support operations at Adanac and Lively Ski Hills, the following staff for limited or seasonal positions will be recalled/hired, beginning this week:

  • Up to six Ski Hill Utility Persons (limited positions)
  • Up to 35 Ski Lift Attendants (part-time seasonal positions)
  • One Ski Hill Program Supervisor (seasonal position)
  • One Ski Patrol Leader (part time seasonal position)
  • Up to 40 Instructors for ski and snowboard lessons (part-time seasonal positions)
  • Up to 20 Program and Service staff for ticket and rental operations (part-time seasonal positions)

According to the report, city staff are anticipating that additional cleaning and disinfection protocols will be manageable within existing staffing levels. There are incremental costs, projected at around $5,500, associated with additional PPE for staff and cleaning products that will be funded from existing approved funds.

City staff are also working with Public Health Sudbury & Districts on finalizing their plans for reopening outdoor rinks and skating facilities for the upcoming season. At this time there are no capacity limits associated with the use of outdoor rinks and other skating areas, such as the Ramsey Lake Skating Path and Queen's Athletic Skating Oval.

"To support operations for outdoor rink, Ramsey Lake Skate Path and Queen's Skating Oval operations, the recall/hiring of up to 80 Outdoor Rink Staff (seasonal part time positions) will begin this week," said the staff report.  

"Individuals are responsible for site supervision, facility cleaning and disinfecting and support volunteers in the maintenance of ice surfaces at outdoor rinks. Outdoor rink staff are seasonal, part-time staff, with no guarantee with respect to the amount of weeks or hours employees would work during a given season."

Capacity restrictions will be in place for field houses and other similar buildings supporting outdoor skating locations. Washrooms, change areas, and similar amenities available to the public must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. 

Field houses and support facilities would only be accessed during supervised hours to ensure there are controls on facility capacities and proper disinfection is completed. 

"Staff are exploring creating outdoor warming areas due to limited space available for changing," said the report. "Trailers that are traditionally used for change areas will not be deployed this season."

Parks Services has conducted required building inspections throughout the year and any required repairs and disinfection required prior to reopening will be completed using existing staff resources. 

You can find the full report here.