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Big White embraces spring break as virus pandemic sparks international cancellations

Big White Ski Resort is making up the difference with local skiers as international visitors decline during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Image Credit: Big White Ski Resort
March 13, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Spring break is looking good at Big White Ski Resort, in spite of daily economic shocks throughout the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Big White senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall says he’s been fielding cancellations from international guests but local tourist traffic is quickly filling the void.

“We’ve had cancellations from Italy, one from the Canary Islands, two from Australia. We deal in a world-wide market this time of year,” he says.

“The simple matter is people are telling us they are finding one or more members of their party has a medical circumstance they aren’t comfortable with,”  Ballingall says. “How can you help but let that person out of their commitment to come and play on your mountain?”

Fortunately the cancellations are being absorbed by B.C. skiers and snowboarders, at least for now.

“We’re so busy at spring break, the minute I cancel these reservations they go back into the system and 20 minutes later they are re-sold, because there are people in British Columbia cancelling Hawaii, Phoenix, Mexico and Europe, and they want to go somewhere,” he says. “They feel very safe coming to the mountain and are buying what accommodation we have."

He says the resort is busy on two fronts as management works to keep the 1,300 staff members, many of whom are from Australia, informed and aware.

“We’re going through hand sanitizers like it's going out of style, and we’re going through the day lodges on a daily basis wiping them down. We finish and go back and start over,” he says. “We believe people are staying close to home. We should actually see a spike in visitors as people find it more difficult to travel beyond the country’s borders."

Ballingall says checks of seasons' pass members reveal a number of them are spending two weeks on the mountain rather than the usual single week’s holidays at the ski area, and another week spent in other places.

“What I think you’ll see in the British Columbia Interior is those from the Lower Mainland will stay in B.C. this summer and come to the Interior to play. I think summer activities will be starting early this year. The convention business might dry up, and we are concerned about our summer air service to Toronto,” Ballingall, who is also vice-chair of the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association, says.

“We’re not bulletproof, but I think you’ll find Alberta and B.C. residents will vacation in the Okanagan. It will keep people employed and I think everyone will be happy"

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