Third Revelstoke heliskiing company reports COVID-19 positive case

A US visitor who skied with Eagle Pass Heliskiing from Mar. 9-12 has since tested positive for COVID-19, the heliskiing company reports.

In this file photo, a helicopter is used in a mountain rescue in the Revelstoke area. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

A third Revelstoke heli-skiing company is reporting a guest who skied with them in the first half of March has since tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home.

Eagle Pass Heliskiing president Ian Tomm phoned the Mountaineer on the morning of Saturday, Mar. 21 to report the details of the case, which he said was confirmed late the night before.

The man from the US skied with Eagle Pass from Mar. 9-12 and stayed at Bighorn Lodge at Revelstoke Mountain Resort during that time.

The client returned to the US after the trip and has since tested positive. It’s been eight days since he left the Revelstoke area.

Tomm said Eagle Pass is working with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on the case, as the provincial health organization works through the contact tracing process. Tomm said he’d report back with any information.

Eagle Pass shut down operations on March 17. Tomm said that staff had been informed and self-isolating since the 17th.

“It’s important to the community to know,” Tomm said. “We feel the community of Revelstoke goes need to take this more seriously and do need to take the advice offered by [provincial authorities including Dr. Bonnie Henry.]”

This is the third case in Revelstoke in the past several days with the same profile: a heliskier visits here, returns home, then tests positive for COVID-19. The first involved a skier with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing. The second was a guest with Canadian Mountain Holidays.

The trend highlights a unique characteristic of the outbreak in Revelstoke, an international skiing and outdoors destination that attracts visitors of all types, from ski bums to the ultra wealthy who fly in from around the globe for a quick powder vacation.

Based on our past reporting this week, the Public Health Services Authority told the Mountaineer that cases that are diagnosed and confirmed outside of B.C., even though the individual may have been contagious while visiting here, do not show up on official provincial statistics that report out cases by the region.

In a response to a Mountaineer question about whether these individuals would show up on official statistics reported out each day at the provincial press briefings, a Public Health Services Authority spokesperson said, “the Province of British Columbia provides information about confirmed cases of COVID-19 within B.C. only.”

There has only been one case officially diagnosed and confirmed in Revelstoke, but there are now three cases of visitors who were infected and possibly infectious while here and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving.

Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, its asymptomatic spread, the scary reality of the math behind exponential growth, and the lag time of up to 14 days (average is about five days) between when someone is infected and when they start showing symptoms, it’s an important reminder that Revelstoke is clearly dealing with multiple different potential infection starting points, and an increase in the likelihood of more spread.

It’s a clear sign that Revelstoke needs to take COVID-19 prevention steps very seriously as we await to find out how bad it already is here.