file photo of fernie alpine resort sign (Scott Tibballs/The Free Press)

FAR looks ahead to 2021 summer season

The resort is facing a second year operating under COVID-guidelines

The summer experience at Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) will be similar to last year, complete with COVID-protocols, a focus on outdoor-only activities – and no Timber chair.

Matt Mosteller, of FAR parent company Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) said that the broader tourism environment was “not exactly where we wanted to be at this time.

“We had no idea we’d be having another summer on our doorstep in the same situation (as last year) or worse,” he said.

Mosteller said as a result the goal of the resort was to stay the course, and will offer the same level of services as last year.

As a result, the Timber chair will stay closed for the third year in a row.

“We have a plan in place to operate the Elk Chair for summer season. We’re going to go forward with that intent.”

A petition circulating online has drawn in a little over 1,200 signatures at time of writing, with signatories saying they were missing out on the high alpine hiking and bike trails on that side of the mountain.

Timber chair has not operated in summer since 2019, when it was shut for upgrades. In 2020, the resort operators did not start the chair in summer due to uncertainty over the pandemic and the impact on tourism.

Mosteller said that same uncertainty in 2021 meant the situation was unchanged.

“We’re trying to make the best decision based on business levels and we’re unsure about the tourism economy from the pandemic. So with that uncertainty, we’re really only in a position to say we’re going to operate the Elk.”

He left the door open for the Timber chair to be operational over summer in future years, saying that the increased interest in mountain biking around the world was being closely monitored.

“(Last year) there were lots of people outside for the first time, trying new sports like mountain biking.

“We are hopeful, and looking at the future with the intent of seeing how the sport plays out this summer … I’m hopeful it’s not a COVID fad that people are taking to the outside in numbers that have never been seen before.”

Besides Timber chair, the experience on the rest of the mountain will also be similar to that of 2020, with no mention of guided hikes or a return to indoor dining. A summer 2021 COVID plan is still in the works, and will be released in coming weeks.

Opening day for the summer 2021 season is tentatively June 26.

Mosteller said the resort would be following all public health orders as they came down over the next few weeks and months, and commended the employees at the resort as they had managed a successful 2020-2021 winter season with the meticulous COVID-plan that was developed. The resort was not closed at any point in the last season due to the pandemic.

READ MORE: Meet the team: Fernie’s avalanche rescue dogs
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