New York Border City Welcomes Canadians as Travel Restrictions Are Lifted | The Canadian News

There are signs all over the city: “Welcome, friends!”

Canadian flags also hang from poles greeting visitors as they arrive. In the New York state village of Ellicottville, a three-hour drive southeast of Toronto, the reopening of the United States border to Canadians this week is a big deal.

“This is the most exciting day we’ve had in a long time,” said Brian McFadden, executive director of the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce.

“These Canadians who come here are our friends, we really miss them.”

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McFadden is also Canadian. He moved to the village permanently in 1998 after “getting lost in a snowstorm” nearly 20 years earlier, built a house, and then married a woman he knew locally.

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For nearly 20 months, Canadian visitors were not allowed to make the routine tour across nearby border bridges at Buffalo, Niagara Falls, or Lewiston, NY, due to pandemic restrictions that blocked the border.

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Canadian snowbirds eager to cross the US land border

Canadian snowbirds eager to cross the US land border

Under normal circumstances, hundreds of Canadian travelers would cross each week with their sights set on Ellicottville, especially in the ski season, but also for mountain biking, golf, and social events in other months.

“We definitely missed our Canadians and they missed us,” said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing for Holiday Valley Resort, the leading local destination for skiers. The complex also has a golf course.

“Typically, our Canadian visitors make up as much as 25 percent of visitors during the year, and last year, we had virtually nothing,” he said in an interview with Global News.

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Canadians are so coveted that the resort accepts Canadian dollars at par for elevator tickets for a week each January.

Many Canadians own houses or rent condo units in the village. Some spend practically all winter weekends or longer periods at the same time. But the restrictions kept most at bay for the past year and a half.

Eshbaugh notes that Canadians missed a great ski season in 2020-2021 because the weather was consistently cool and snow conditions were deemed excellent.

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The Travel Lady: What You Need to Know Before Crossing the US Border

The Travel Lady: What You Need to Know Before Crossing the US Border

In October, Holiday Valley was ranked the number two ski resort in eastern North America by SKI Magazine readers. Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont came first.

Downtown businesses, nearly all locally owned due to requirements that make it difficult for chains to operate in the village, also value Canadian travelers.

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“We missed the families and the customers, the people we grew up with here,” said Laura Solly, owner of Daff Dry Goods, a clothing retailer with a Western theme.

Solly says seeing familiar Canadians in her store and on the street will be welcome.

“I think there will be a lot of celebration,” Solly told Global News.

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But even though Canadians were legally prevented from crossing the border in the way they and the people were used to for decades, the local economy suffered no losses. The opposite is true.

“A lot of people came to rent condos and work from home from here,” McFadden said, noting that New York state residents, as well as visitors from Pennsylvania and Ohio, filled the economic gap.

“We have had record sales,” he said, explaining that in the absence of Canadians, other travelers experienced the community for the first time.

“We let people know that we were following the (COVID-19) rules. If you came here, you were following them, and suddenly people started coming and spending time here. We had all these new people, we were pleasantly surprised from the summer of 2020, ”said McFadden.

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Health Insurance Expert Shares Next Steps for Canadians After US Border Reopens

Health Insurance Expert Shares Next Steps For Canadians After US Border Reopens – Oct 30, 2021

But the Canadian contingent, who missed the village’s 200th birthday last year, will soon begin to return to claim their seats on chair lifts and stools.

The only problem that remains: While the US border has finally been reopened to travelers at land crossings, Canadians must still obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test before they are allowed to return home.

Some commercial operators and many travelers find the requirement, which is not expected of Canadians entering the United States, to be a cumbersome and costly deterrent.

“We’re not going to host the hikers because you can’t get the results the same day,” McFadden said, expressing disappointment.

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Border PCR testing policy ‘is being actively scrutinized,’ says Tam

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Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s director of public health, said Friday that the testing requirements are being reviewed.

“We’re looking at that pretty carefully,” Tam said.

“I think all of this should be reexamined, as we are doing with all the border measures that are advancing,” he added.

In a move to appeal to Canadians right now, the town just announced a program that will allow anyone to get free PCR tests at Holimont, the private ski club also located in Ellicottville. By statute, 50 percent of the club’s members are Canadian.

That means someone can ski for the weekend anywhere in the community and get tested without looking for a healthcare provider or pulling out their wallet to pay.

“It’s free every Thursday, Friday and Saturday … it’s for everyone who comes to Ellicottville,” McFadden said.

With less than a month to go to the Holiday Valley’s first day of skiing, the border’s reopening comes at an opportune time.

McFadden says it will be easy to identify those coming from across the border.

“We know it from his accents,” he laughs.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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