With new B.C. travel restrictions, Big White 'just became Kelowna's mountain' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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With new B.C. travel restrictions, Big White 'just became Kelowna's mountain'

Image Credit: Big White via Facebook
November 19, 2020 - 5:00 PM

The provincial health officer has put in a new order today and strongly discouraged anything other than essential travel, something Big White Ski Resort’s senior vice president says is “understandable.”

During Dr. Bonnie Henry’s live update Nov. 19, she put a new order in place limiting social gatherings to just households for the next two weeks as well as strongly discourage non-essential travel.

“If you are thinking about skiing, go to a local mountain,” she said.

READ MORE: BREAKING: New sweeping health orders and restrictions for B.C. starting today

Big White suspended all Lower Mainland advertising after Henry's first order came last week limiting social gatherings and encouraging residents to not travel, said senior vice president Michael Ballingall.

With Henry’s announcement “we just became Kelowna’s mountain. We always have been. There won’t be any tourists (here but) there are plenty of people in the province that own real estate in Big White, they may or may not show up,” Ballinghall said.

He said this new order is understandable and knows that if this curve is flattened, then people will be able to travel again.

Big White is trusting that those from outside of the Kelowna community will also do the right thing.

“We know that there’s people with reservations that haven’t cancelled them, and we’ll accept their cancellations,” Ballingall said, adding they will comply with provincial health orders but will not refuse services to guests who have checked into the resort.

“We also know that there will be people that could be arriving by air in the next two weeks... and we are going to assume that they will cancel,” he said.

Ballingall said he’s happy with the new indoor mask mandate, adding that on opening day today, Nov. 19, 99 per cent of customers were compliant to the mask-wearing policy at Big White, but a few had to be turned away. Masks are now mandated indoors with Henry's new order.

Just under 100 people cancelled their season’s passes before opening day, including those from the Lower Mainland and Ontario.

While Big White has a loyal season’s passholders base in Kelowna, and saw Club 65 memberships double from the snowbirds staying home from the season, it still doesn’t make up for international pass holders.

“You don’t replace those with locals,” he said.

Big White has hired staff for the winter based on people in Canada being able to come to the resort and isn't planning layoffs at this time, he said.

“We think we can still salvage a Christmas, New Years’ ski season. It’s traditionally the busiest time of year when we would need all those staff members. We are training staff, we opened a week early so our training program is ongoing. We’re in a position right now to observe and keep training,” he said.

If the resort is unable to make money, then it will have to shrink its season, he said, but the decision won’t come until the resort knows what will happen during peak season.

If you’re going to go outside your residence, put a mask on, stay six feet apart and wash your hands, he said.

Calls to Sun Peaks Resort, Apex Mountain Resort and SilverStar Mountain Resort were not returned before publication.

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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