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Coronavirus: SilverStar to close, but it’s business as usual at other Okanagan ski resorts

Big White Ski Resort says it is open for business during spring break, though operations at Whistler Blackcomb in the Lower Mainland have been suspended due to coronavirus concerns. Global News

UPDATE: Late Saturday, SilverStar Mountain Resort announced it was shutting down its operations Sunday until March 22. This story has been updated to reflect the announcement.

British Columbia’s best-known ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb, will be suspending operations for a week because of coronavirus concerns.

In making the announcement on Saturday afternoon, the parent company of Whistler Blackcomb, Vail Resorts, said the shutdown will run March 15-22, with an update to be provided on March 20.

In the Okanagan, though, it’s business as usual at Big White Ski Resort and Apex Mountain Resort.

READ MORE: Whistler Blackcomb closed for the rest of the ski season due to coronavirus

“We take all of our cues from the provincial health authority, and/or the premier of the province,” said Big White Ski Resort senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall. “As far as we know, as of today, it’s safe to be in the great outdoors.

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“We’ve taken steps to disinfect our public gathering areas and to literally mitigate the gathering of people so we remain below the threshold of 250 people.”

Ballingall added that Saturday’s skiers were “enjoying the great outdoors and getting out and about and going for a ski.”

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Scores of events throughout the Okanagan have been cancelled because of COVID-19, and because of that, there are now few choices when it comes to entertainment options.

Skiing, though, appears to be one of them — at least in the Okanagan.

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“I think the super thing about being in the outdoor areas is that you, as an individual, have the option on how close you want to get to another [person],” said Ballingall, adding lift lineups have been relaxed. “People are still arriving at the mountain, people are still taking their holidays and there’s a lot of people having a lot of fun.
“Certainly we have the social responsibility to make sure everyone’s safe. But, at the same time, we are the custodians of the great outdoors of Big White Ski Resort, and we have people that want to come and play and relax and escape [from] what’s happening out there in the real world by getting outside.”
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Ballingall said air traffic to Big White during spring break is down, with “swift cancellations,” but that vehicle traffic is up, resulting in low 90 per cent resort occupancy.

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At Apex near Penticton, general manager James Shalman said the resort will be open, seven days a week with normal hours, until April 5.

He noted the hill has instituted social distancing, but that “being outside and outdoors is a fantastic thing.”

“It shouldn’t be stopped,” he continued. “It’s beautiful up in the mountains right now.”

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Late Saturday, SilverStar Resort announced it would suspend its operations Sunday until March 22. However, lodging and property management facilities will stay open to honour existing reservations and visitors already on site.

“This is an unusual and dynamic situation, and because we continue to believe outdoor mountain recreation provides a meaningful escape to nature, we will take this time to reassess our approach for the rest of the season,” the resort said in a statement.

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—With files from Sean Boynton

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