Meet the Americans with properties in Sun Peaks they can no longer visit

COVID-19 has shut down the border for the foreseeable future 

With summer coming to a close, skiers and boarders are turning their sights to winter. Yet with the pandemic far from under control, travel restrictions are likely to remain in place for some time—especially when it comes to COVID-19 hot-spots like the U.S. 

For Americans who own vacation homes in B.C. mountain towns, the situation is adding another layer of difficulty to a profoundly distressing situation. 

Mike Hablewitz, who lives in the Seattle area and has owned a condo in Crystal Forest for the past 21 years, said he considered staying in Sun Peaks for the lockdown, but ultimately chose to “ride it out” with his family in the U.S. 

“I  was expecting that the world was going to go through this in somewhat the same manner, and that we would all get through it,” he said. 

Things, of course, haven’t gone as he expected. Indeed, the U.S. is leading the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths, with a half million cases and over 160,000 deaths. 

“When I looked at the map yesterday, of where an American passport holders are now allowed to go, it’s like less than five countries, whereas before the pandemic, it was over 180,” said Hablewitz. “That just shows how poorly our country has managed this.”

Asked about the border closure, Hablewitz said that he understands the rationale, though he is hopeful that a system can eventually be developed that will allow homeowners to return to Canada. This could potentially involve testing at the border and mandatory quarantining upon arrival, he said.  

“I mean, we love Sun Peaks. That’s why we’ve been there for 21 years,” he said.  

When does he think he might be able to return? Hablewitz said he has no idea, but said he would be surprised if it is before January. 

In any event, he plans on buying an early-bird season pass, grateful for the new Sun Peaks Resort LLP pass insurance policy. 

New for the 2020-21 season, a passholder is entitled to early termination of their season pass if they are unable to use it because of a government-prohibition of entry into Canada.  

The Alpine Season Pass Refund and Termination Option is available for $30 per person or $75 per family, and must be purchased concurrently with your Alpine Season Pass. 

American Kathy MacKay-Heneghan is also longoing to return to Sun Peaks. 

A retired airline pilot who has owned a townhouse in Forest Trails since 2001, she has lived full-time in the community for the winter for the past five years. 

MacKay-Heneghan said that she is alarmed by some of the suspicion that Americans are being met with in Canada. An friend with dual citizenship who happens to have a place in Sun Peaks recently said she was afraid she would be considered an “ignorant Trump supporter” who doesn’t care about COVID-19 protocols if she were to return. 

MacKay-Heneghan added that she and other U.S. friends with property in Sun Peaks are planning a meet up (south of the border). 

Border closures are updated monthly, with the most recent one banning non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S. until September 21. There are exemptions, including for temporary workers working on critical infrastructure and supply chains, dual citizens, and Americans with immediate family members who are Canadian. 

A recent Nanos survey found about 81 per cent of Canadians think the border should remain closed. 

While both MacKay-Heneghan and Hablewitz are hopeful they will be able to return to their properties in Sun Peaks soon, without a clear path for when that will be selling is not outside of the realm of possibility. 

“I mean, I would be heartbroken to sell it. I really would,” said Hablewitz. “[But] if this goes into next year—and it doesn’t look like anything’s going to change—then we’ll probably start to consider it.”