Highway closures cause cancellations at Thompson-Okanagan ski resorts | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Highway closures cause cancellations at Thompson-Okanagan ski resorts

FILE PHOTO - Apex Mountain Ski Resort
Image Credit: Apex Resort

With Interior highway connections to the Lower Mainland closed due to flooding and landslides, Kamloops and Okanagan ski resorts are feeling the repercussions.

At Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, 172 cancellations have been made in the last two weeks from Lower Mainland residents due to the highway closures, said senior vice-president Michael Ballingall.

The Coquihalla is expected to remain closed until January while Highway 3 and Highway 99 — the only other routes connecting the Lower Mainland to the Interior without travelling through the United States — have been temporarily closed as a precaution due to expected debris and flooding events this week. Highway 1's connection from the Lower Mainland is also closed due to flooding.

READ MORE: Next B.C. storm could be as intense as the first: Province

“As much as we know there are problems in B.C. right now, we also know it’s winter, it’s going to snow, the rain is going to stop and visiting friends and family is a concern for all of us,” Ballingall said, adding he would like the province to review Highway 3 closures and open it partially for non-essential travel.

Customers have 30 days to commit to accommodations for the holiday season and instead of paying, people are cancelling, Ballingall said.

Thompson and Okanagan ski resorts rely heavily on Lower Mainland clients, especially since the pandemic has hindered international travel and the holiday season is the resorts’ busiest time of year.

At Sun Peaks Ski Resort near Kamloops, communications director Christina Antoniak said the resort is concerned for the winter season and is waiting to see the longer-term outlook on what is happening with the main highways.

There have been upwards of 100 cancellations within the last two weeks for Dec. 1, she said.

“If we see those larger-scale impacts from the road closures hitting us over Christmas, which I think indications are pointing in that direction, we’re certainly going to feel that impact here and we’ve only got a couple of weeks to stimulate business from other markets,” Antoniak said.

The resort will have to be creative to fill the void left by ticket and accommodation cancellations in that instance, she said.

Last year, with the pandemic, the B.C. market made up roughly 90% of visitations and a large portion of that was from the Lower Mainland, she said.

“There’s going to be a very large portion of our business that’s potentially going to fall off this winter,” she said.

Near Vernon, SilverStar Mountain Resort has seen cancellations as well, said media relations manager Chantelle Deacon. “If the highways remain closed it will affect us even more going into the holiday season… normally we’re at 100% capacity over the Christmas holidays.”

Apex Mountain Resort, near Penticton, may be the only resort that benefits from a long-term Highway 5 closure.

James Shalman, general manager, said they aren’t opening for the season until Dec. 11.

If Highway 3 reopens, it may bode well for the resort as traffic will be driving directly past Apex Mountain.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation but we happen to be a little bit lucky that the only road to access the Okanagan is going to be right by our front door,” he said.

Sun Peaks and Big White have already opened for the season. SilverStar opens to alpine skiing Dec. 3.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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