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Big White, Sun Peaks shut down amid coronavirus pandemic

More B.C. mountain resorts suspend operations amid pandemic
Whistler Blackcomb isn't alone in temporarily shutting down due to COVID-19 concerns. As Jordan Armstrong reports, a North Shore ski hill and Okanagan resort are also suspending operations.

The Okanagan’s largest ski resort, Big White, said it’s shutting down operations for the rest of the season as of Monday afternoon, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The last six hours have made it clear that no matter what procedures we put in place, we cannot guarantee the safety of our staff, guests and residents while adhering to the mandatory reduction of group gatherings,” said president and CEO Peter Plimmer in a statement issued at 3:30 p.m. on Monday.

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The closures includes ski lift operations, Elevation Spa, Big White Ski & Board School, The Kids Centre, The Black Forest Day Lodge, The Westridge Warming Hut and other operations by Big White Ski Resort Ltd.

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Some independently-owned food and beverage establishments, including the market, are scheduled to remain open for now.

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The resort will offer adjusted hours for rental shop returns. Returns will be accepted until Tuesday March 17, from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

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“The well-being of our guests, staff and residents is my family’s top priority. This concern extends beyond the boundaries of the home we call Big White Ski Resort and into the greater Okanagan region,” Plimmer said.

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“As a Canadian family owned and operated resort, we feel it is our duty to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 among the families and staff who share the mountain we all love. While risk level remains low for many, we want to protect those most vulnerable in these uncertain times,” he said.

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With more than 6,000 people living in the resort community, the resort said it will take some time and “incredible effort” to organize the systematic departure of guests.

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To avoid crowding and congestion, the ski resort asks that visitors follow instructions provided, and asks businesses to refer guests to www.bigwhite.com

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“Central Reservations and our customer service teams will be working tirelessly to help our resort guests adjust their travel bookings so they can return home safely,” Plimmer said.

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He said room and property divisions will remain open to serve guests who have existing reservations.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ski hills in Alberta and B.C. close temporarily

“We expect heavy call volume over the coming days as we work to accommodate travel changes, and we ask that guests exercise patience as our teams do their best to respond quickly and effectively,” Plimmer added.

The reservation teams can be reached at 250-765-8888.

Big White joins a chorus of other B.C. ski hills which have already suspended operations, due to growing concerns about the virus.

The Sun Peaks ski resort near Kamloops also announced it will cease operations for the remainder of the season, as of the end of day Wednesday.

“We will be implementing a gradual wind down of operations between now and then to help facilitate things in an orderly manner,” said a statement posted to the resort’s website.

More information about the Sun Peaks closure can be found here.

As of Monday afternoon, Apex Mountain Resort near Penticton, B.C., was still open.

B.C. has announced new measures to enhance social distancing and limit transmission, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

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There are now more than 100 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Four people have died.