COVID19 Update and Response

Sorcerer Lodge is committed to health and safety of our guests and staff, and recognize that we need to re-imagine some elements of of what we do in order to operate safely during the coming winter. Some of the changes we are making will be permanent elements of our “new normal”; other aspects of our response will be dynamic depending on the current level of risk posed by the pandemic, and prescribed by Public Health Guidance and Orders concerning operations like ours.

Despite the changes, you can rest assured that the hospitality and great skiing you’re accustomed to at Sorcerer will remain!

In addition to health and safety, we’re also committed to fair business practices. We do need to adjust our pricing to reflect the realities of operating with fewer guests, smaller ratios, partially loaded helicopters and physical distancing. We recognize that the product we are offering has changed from the time you made your original booking, and that some of you may not be comfortable with the idea of a lodge-based ski trip in the current environment. It is important to us that each of you have the opportunity to consider the changes we’re making, and actively opt-into the revised trip formats we are able to offer.

What follows outlines what you can expect during the 2021 winter season; we realize that questions will likely remain after reviewing this information, and will be reaching out to the primary contact for each group booking over the coming weeks. As with everything we do, safe successful trips are a team effort, and our guests are part of that team! We welcome any comments, suggestions or questions you may have.

2020 Pandemic Response and Resources

2020 Season Recap

We opened the 2020 season on December 15th, and were treated to relentless storms, deep powder skiing, and some spectacular early season avalanche cycles. The storms continued through January and February, with great skiing throughout. By the time what would up being our final trip started, we had only gone 7 days without measurable snowfall!

The pandemic was declared March  13th and shortly after that various parts of society started to close down with dizzying speed. Initially, we were hopeful that we might run some small group trips with local skiers through the spring, but as the situation progressed it became apparent that our usual emergency response resources were becoming unavailable and that Public Health measures to contain COVID precluded us from operating. We made the tough decision to cancel the remainder of the season on March 19th, and flew our last group out on the 20th.

When all was said and done, we cancelled and refunded the final 8 weeks of our winter season.

The lodge has remained closed through the summer season as we’ve prioritized putting time and energy into determining how we can adjust our practices in order to operate safely, and in compliance with Public Health guidelines next winter.

COVID 19 Resources

If you are interested in understanding the basis of our response and plans for the 2021 season, we encourage you to check out the following resources.

BC COVID19 Self-Assessment Tool

Province of British Columbia: Restart Plan

BC Office of the Provincial Health Officer: COVID19 – Orders, Notices & Guidance

BC Centre for Disease Control: Travel Recommendations

BC Centre for Disease Control: Self-Isolation

Worksafe BC: Accommodation, Protocols for Returning to Operation

Re-booking Policies

Guests with existing bookings (in either 2021 or 2022) have priority on available dates for the 2021 season until the Labour Day Weekend. General bookings will re-open on a first-come first-served basis September 8th.

If you’re interested in joining us this winter please reach out ASAP – we won’t confirm dates until the 8th, but can let you know what looks likely ahead of that.

Group Size Limits

For the 2021 season, we are only able to offer bookings for up to 8 guests. All trips will be staffed by 2 guides and 1 cook (we will not have a custodian or practicum this season). Unfortunately we cannot accommodate greater numbers due to ongoing physical distancing requirements.

We recognize that many of you originally booked as groups of 14, and realize that it may be challenging to split or otherwise reduce the size of your group. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help customize the trip, find adjacent dates, or otherwise figure out some way to make it work for you and your group.

Please ensure that your entire group has read through the changes we’re making, and let us know if any group members have questions. If a portion of your group is ready to opt-in, please contact us and we’ll work out how we can accommodate everyone in the schedule. We have a few weeks open now, and anticipate more spaces / weeks becoming available in the coming weeks.

Key Dates and Revised Pricing

All winter 2021 bookings that were made before July 1st 2020 are fully refundable, for any reason, until September 7th, 2020.

For guests with existing bookings who are ready to opt-in to returning in 2021, there are two options:

  1. Maintain your booking for a full week (Sunday to Sunday) at a price of $3,400 CAD per person;
  2. Maintain your booking price of $2,800 CAD per person with the trip duration reduced to 5 days.

Bookings for the 2022 winter season will remain fully refundable for any reason until August 31st 2021. Pricing for the 2022 season will be set in summer 2021.

As groups opt-in (or out), and dates are confirmed, we will attempt to keep the bookings page up to date.

Our pricing is built around efficient use of helicopters for lodge transfers, and we will need to ensure that we consolidate our operating schedule into a single block of weeks. Depending how re-bookings and cancellations unfold, this may mean that we will need to propose alternate trip dates, particularly for very early or late season weeks.

Cancellation & Refund Policy

Our cancellation and refund policy remains unchanged. Once you commit to a trip, all payments made are non-refundable, unless we are able to re-sell your space. Any refund offered will be based on the price at which we are able to re-sell your space.

Our standard cancellation policy does not provide for refunds in circumstances where guests are unable to travel, or unable to attend the trip for other reasons (injury, illness, family emergency, etc). We strongly encourage guests to obtain a suitable trip cancellation insurance policy that covers circumstances that include symptoms of or self-isolation due to COVID exposure.

For Canadian guests, we will be offering a “Refund Option” which will considerably soften our refund policy if purchased.

If Sorcerer Lodge cancels the trip you are booked on for any reason we will offer you the option of a full value credit or refund. This includes circumstances where we close the lodge due to tightening of restrictions imposed by BC’s Public Health authorities, or a circumstance where we propose an alternate trip date as outlined above.

Refund Option

The “Refund Option” will be available only for bookings by Canadian residents at this time.

The Refund Option will cost $450 and is available at the time you confirm your booking. Purchasing the Refund Option will make your trip price fully refundable or creditable if you decide to cancel for any reason until 2 weeks before the trip start date. If you have to cancel less than 2 weeks ahead of the trip departure date (until the day before the trip start date), and have purchased the Refund Option, 75% of your trip price will be refunded or credited.

The purchase cost of the Refund Option will only be refunded if Sorcerer Lodge cancels your trip.

International Bookings

We are unable to accept new bookings from American or other International guests for the coming season. We will be happy to transfer your booking to your preferred dates in 2022 or 2023, or provide you with a full refund.

Right now, the Canadian border is closed to International Travel for discretionary purposes, and a 14 day quarantine period is in effect for essential visitors. The BC Restart Plan indicates that the border will remain closed, or that the quarantine-on-entry requirement will remain in effect until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed.

If you are an international visitor and wish to maintain your 2021 season booking please be aware that we will require that visiting guests adhere to Canadian and British Columbian regulations, and would not be able to provide a refund under any circumstance if travel regulations prevent you from attending. Please contact us to discuss.

Trip Preparations

Packing & Travel

We will be revising our guest information package and packing list in the coming months. The information package previously sent with your original booking still contains useful information, but some of the details are now out of date.

You can expect that we will suggest you bring additional spare clothing and personal items, in particular you may wish to bring:

  • Winter boots and an extra jacket (campfire friendly) for socializing outdoors on days that the weather cooperates;
  • Games, cards, etc. that can be used by yourself and members of your household;
  • A book or two, or a tablet with downloaded movies for extended periods with non-cooperative weather;
  • Your favorite re-usable non-medical mask for use on the helicopter and while socializing in the common areas of the lodge.

All guests will be asked to drive their personal vehicles to our staging area. Please plan to travel only with members of your own household in the vehicle to minimize risk of transmission.

We are considering adjusting our scheduled flight times for lodge-transfers to allow those who live within ~4 hours drive of Rogers Pass the option of driving directly to staging from their home (and to allow additional time for end-of-trip cleaning up at the lodge).

Pre-Trip Screening & Contact Information

Operating safely requires that all of our guests or staff fully commit to staying home if they are feeling sick. No exceptions. This is our primary line of defense. If we all arrive healthy, we have the best chance of staying healthy. We respectfully ask that all guests and staff consider reducing their social contacts during the 10 days ahead of the trip to minimize the chances we bring the virus into the lodge.

To ensure that everyone has taken the time to consider whether they might be sick or had potential exposure, we will be requiring all of our guests and staff members to complete an electronic “COVID Declaration” form immediately prior to the trip. This form will ask questions about whether you have experienced any symptoms or have had potential exposure to COVID in the past 10 days, whether you have been advised to self-isolate, and whether you have traveled internationally in the previous 14 days.

The form will also require that you submit detailed personal contact information in-case we need to provide this information to Public Health authorities for contact tracing purposes.

Submission of a completed “COVID Declaration” form will be mandatory for all guests and staff coming to the lodge.

Waiver Updates

The waiver signing process will be electronic this year in order to eliminate a shared touch point and close gathering. We’re still finalizing the details of this process, but you can expect to be asked to complete and electronically sign the waiver on your own computer, tablet, or phone well before the trip departure date.

Please be aware that some updates to the Backcountry Lodges of BC wavier program were made earlier this summer. A sample of the revised waiver is available on our website and will be attached to your invoice when you commit to a trip. Specifically, changes were made to the waiver to address “infectious diseases” and “future wilderness activities”. Please review the revised sample waiver carefully before committing to a trip.

 

Isolation and Evacuation

Should a guest or a staff member become ill while up at the lodge, we will ask them to complete the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool and will assist the individual in following any recommendations made by the self-assessment tool. Should the self-assessment tool recommend self-isolation and testing, the guests’ roommate will be immediately re-located to a spare room in the staff quarters of the lodge, and the symptomatic guest will be isolated in their original room. Staff members supporting the individual in isolation will wear personal protective equipment, and follow procedures as outlined in the Public Health Guidelines for hotels supporting individuals in self-isolation.

COVID-19 has potential to become a severe condition in some cases, and it is our policy that any symptomatic individual be evacuated to a location where they can be tested and have easy access to a higher level of care if required. This is necessary both for the health of the symptomatic individual should their condition deteriorate, and also for the safety of the others in the lodge. Helicopters used to access Sorcerer Lodge cannot fly at night, and occasionally cannot fly due to poor weather, necessitating that we take advantage of the first possible evacuation window for any condition with the potential to become life threatening.

That said, COVID is not the only possible cause of coughing, runny noses, etc. If you have a pre-existing medical condition that causes minor symptoms that may be confused with COVID (ie. allergies, asthma, etc.) please ensure that you note this on your medical information form, and communicate it to our staff prior to the trip. We may require confirmation from your doctor.

The helicopter evacuation flight from Sorcerer Lodge to Golden will cost upwards of $1400. We continue to strongly encourage guests to obtain evacuation insurance, but note that at present the providers we are aware of do not consider symptoms consistent with COVID, or a requirement for testing, to be adequate to trigger an evacuation. Evacuation costs are the guests responsibility.

Facility & Lodge Operation Changes

We are making some substantial changes to the lodge to make physical distancing easier, to reduce the number of common touch points, and generally reduce the risk of transmission at the lodge. Many of these changes will be permanent, and will form the basis of our accommodations as we look towards future seasons.

Food Service

Our cook will continue to prepare great meals daily. Breakfasts, dinners, appetizers and desserts will be plated and served by staff.

Unfortunately we won’t be able to have our traditional full group family style meals this season, but we are looking forward to the time when they can safely return! In the meantime, we will be employing a few different strategies to ensure that we’re able to maintain physical distancing during mealtimes. We will be installing transparent dividers on each dining room table, making the space suitable for ~4 individuals or households to be seated in the dining room at one time. This means that meal service may be split into two sittings depending on group composition to ensure that we can maintain safe physical distancing.

The lunch buffet will be closed this year, and in it’s place your cook will prepare bagged lunches daily. Quantities can be adjusted according to your appetite, and we’ll make sure you have an opportunity to indicate what you like to eat.

For the duration of the pandemic, all food handling, dish-washing, kitchen clean-up, etc. will be done by staff. We appreciate the help so many of you have provided in the past, but for now only staff will be permitted in the kitchen area.

Accommodation

Each guest room on the second floor of the lodge will be restricted to dual occupancy. If possible, we encourage you to book with your partner, or with a close friend whom you feel comfortable sharing an accommodation space. Each guest bedroom has two beds, arranged so that there are about 3 metres between the heads of the beds.

We are installing heat recovery fans in each of the bedrooms. These fans pull and vent air directly to the outside of the building, and will replace the air in each room about once every 40 minutes.

Guests will be asked to dry their personal gear in their own rooms instead of a communal drying room. Propane heaters and enough hooks to hang all of your gear will be installed in each room too!

Common Spaces

Physical distancing by members of different households is our primary line of defense against transmission of COVID19, and is an essential part of our lodge program for the 2021 ski season.

New for 2021, we will shifting apres-ski socializing outdoors as weather permits in order to take advantage of natural ventilation and greater space. We plan to provide heat sources to keep it comfortable (fire pit, deck heaters, etc) and are excited to take advantage of this option when possible! Make sure you pack a suitable warm jacket – we wouldn’t want anyone to end up with a spark hole in their gore-tex!

The living room area on the main floor of the lodge can comfortably accommodate up to 5 individuals while maintaining 2 metres spacing. Depending on group composition, it would be possible to comfortably seat up to 8 people from 4 households in the living room. Other common spaces (ie. sun room, dining area) provide adequate space for all individuals in the lodge to be present in the common space and physically distanced if the weather requires we stay indoors.

Use of non-medical masks use will be encouraged as a general practice when socializing indoors, and will be required in situations where guests or staff cannot maintain 2m between members of different households.

The shared books, games, etc. that we have traditionally provided will all be in storage this coming season.

We will ask that everyone avoid leaving any personal items (clothing, water bottles, your book, cameras & other electronic items, etc) in the common areas of the lodge. Books with key information, like our run-photos and avalanche records, will be available online – we encourage you to download a copy before your trip.

Hygiene Facilities

As part of our response we’re upgrading our hygiene facilities to make them more accessible, reduce the amount of sharing, and the reduce the risk of transmission. This fall we will be installing wash basins in each guest bedroom – these will provide a place where you can wash hands upon return to or exiting your personal space, brush your teeth, etc.

Unfortunately our sauna will be closed this year due to concerns around timely disinfection and physical distancing; instead we are installing a bucket shower inside the lodge.

To facilitate the upgraded hygiene facilities we are also installing a pump and plumbed water supply system. Hot water will now be available from taps instead of requiring the use of dippers from stove-top pots.

As an added comfort, we will also be installing an indoor pee toilet. Midnight trips outdoors will still be worth it for the stargazing though!

Outdoor Program Changes

Fortunately ski-touring as a recreational activity is pretty much perfectly matched to the concept of fewer faces in bigger spaces! Our day-to-day won’t change much, apart from skiing with smaller groups.

There will be some elements of our outdoor program that will be adjusted to reduce the risks of COVID transmission, or on account of the expected impacts on our forecasting data flow.

Helicopter Transfers

During the coming winter we will be reducing the number of people we transport in each helicopter flight in accordance with Provincial Health Guidelines. The front (copilot) seat in the helicopter will be left empty, and we will be leaving an empty seat between members of different households. When we’re flying with a 407, capacity will be 3 individuals, or 2 couples.

All guests and staff will be required to wear a mask and gloves while in or around the helicopter. Eye protection is also required – your goggles are adequate.

As is normal practice, we will ask that everyone wear their ski-boots and helmets during the helicopter transfer. All baggage and gear handling activities to load and unload the machine will be done by staff members

Skiing Program

With the reduced numbers in the lodge, we’ll be skiing in smaller groups. Groups will have 1 guide for every 4 skiers. As with past seasons, expect to ski as a larger group some days (glaciers, etc) and to break up into smaller teams when we’re in the trees, etc.

Smaller groups tend to move faster through the terrain, meaning more turns for everybody! On top of that, and especially in the trees, small groups open up some additional lines which we just can’t ski in a group of 8 or 9.

Physical distancing will still be a key principle when we’re out skiing – expect your guides to remind you to maintain spacing during regroups, etc. Generally this won’t change much – nobody appreciates having someone in their personal bubble while transitioning anyway!

Another challenge we anticipate this winter is reduced availability of quality weather and snowpack observations from neighbouring operations. This doesn’t mean we’ll assess risk or forecast avalanche hazard differently, but it does mean that it may take longer for us to gain confidence in the snowpack.

First Aid

If you are injured while out skiing our guides will provide first aid and ensure you are taken care of. First aid procedures are modified slightly this season as recommended by WorkSafeBC.

In the event of a minor injury, guides will help you self-treat if possible and will provide necessary first-aid supplies and instructions on how to use them.

If a more severe injury requires close proximity medical attention and/or packaging for evacuation, our guides will be carrying extra Personal Protective Equipment for themselves and helpers.