COVID constraints change backcountry ski huts

Remote backcountry ski huts around the province will have increased restrictions, cleaning protocols and may be more difficult and expensive to book this year because of the pandemic.

The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) and more regionally, Wells Gray Adventures (WGA), have released restrictions and tighter guidelines for backcountry hut bookings as well as increased sanitization protocols. 

Backcountry ski huts in B.C. are typically a gathering place where like-minded winter enthusiasts from different walks of life can gather, share stories about the day’s adventures, refuel and rest in the common cooking and sleeping areas before earning the next day’s turns.

For the 2020/21 ski season, the ACC and WGA are implementing restrictions in line with federal and provincial guidelines so huts will not be shared with anyone outside of immediate social bubbles so the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus will be reduced.

The ACC operates 23 backcountry ski huts around the province and WGA, an adventure tourism operator in Wells Gray Provincial Park, operates three remote huts in the park. Ski huts are usually available to individuals, private and guided parties throughout the winter season. 

This season both groups have stated on their websites that their hut booking policy has been adjusted so huts can only be booked on a “per hut” basis due to the pandemic. This means users need to rent the entire hut if they wish to use the backcountry accommodation.

Normally, ACC huts can be booked on a “per bed, per night” basis to the public when spots become available on the ACC website. WGA huts can typically be booked individually, privately or guided and catered by the adventure tourism operator.

Group sizes have also been reduced by the ACC to a maximum of 15 people based on the recommended group sizes and will be enforced by ACC hut custodians. WGA has instituted a policy that only allows families and groups from the same social bubble to use the huts. Each group must also be domestic and can only have travelled by car.

Bookings for popular ACC huts will be structured around a two, three or six night system for each week with a one day gap so user groups will not cross paths while entering or leaving the hut. For less popular huts, a minimum two night stay is required.

All booking parties will also be required to submit the names and health of each member of their party and are required to complete and submit and pre-screening health questionnaires as well as contact tracing information.

Along with expanded cleaning and sanitization protocols required of arriving groups, hand washing stations have also been installed in the backcountry huts.

If COVID-19 symptoms occur during a stay, the ACC and WGA require users to immediately vacate the hut, travel directly to place of origin, follow up with the local health authorities for testing and contact the ACC or WGA to inform them of the situation as soon as possible.

Certain items have also been removed from ACC huts such as extra cooking supplies, games and books to reduce the spread of the virus.

To check hut availability, learn about hut etiquette, or to learn more about the ACC’s new COVID-19 policies, visit their website.

To find out more about WGA and their COVID-19 policies or cleaning protocols and to book a private or guided ski trip to one of the huts, visit their website.

The Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association has not yet updated its website with new booking and safety policies. 

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