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Coronavirus: Big White Ski Resort seeking Canadians for winter workforce

Click to play video 'Big White needs workers' Big White needs workers
For Big White Ski Resort, not only is finding workers during a world wide pandemic proving to be difficult but so is housing them safely.

Though it’s still summer, Big White Ski Resort in B.C.’s Southern Interior is already looking ahead, and working hard, for the upcoming winter ski season.

Normally, the resort is loaded with out-of-country employees, including a few hundred from Australia.

But during the coronavirus pandemic, finding workers from outside of Canada is proving to be problematic, as is safely housing them to lower infection risks to resort guests.

Click to play video 'Social distancing in nature at Big White Ski Resort' Social distancing in nature at Big White Ski Resort
Social distancing in nature at Big White Ski Resort

Big White senior vice president Michael Ballingall told Global News on Friday that it hires 2,400 seasonal staff, and that trying to replace them “has not been easy.”

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“This is really the first time in my career that we have had weekly meetings about staff recruitment,” said Ballingall.

Traditionally, Big White heavily relies on foreign nationals as part of its workforce.

Click to play video 'Whistler Blackcomb reopens after COVID-19 shutdown' Whistler Blackcomb reopens after COVID-19 shutdown
Whistler Blackcomb reopens after COVID-19 shutdown

“The magic of working in the mountains is you get to ski and ride for free,” said Ballingall, noting more than 600 Aussies staffed the resort last year.

“This year, they just can’t come,” Ballingall said.

And that’s left Big White scrambling to find some crazy Canucks who like to ski and snowboard – but also understand that healthy staff equals health guests.

“We are focusing on recruiting right now and getting staff members that understand that,” said Ballingall.

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Click to play video 'Alberta ski hills looking for local workers' Alberta ski hills looking for local workers
Alberta ski hills looking for local workers

The other daunting task at hand right now is safely housing workers.

“People are going to have to travel, our staff members are going to have to travel because we just don’t have the beds to house 800 to 900 workers and socially separate them,” said Ballingall, who is confident the resort will open as usual.

“We are doing everything we can to make everybody feel secure and be safe.”

Click to play video 'Montreal urban ski hill won’t be returning this winter' Montreal urban ski hill won’t be returning this winter
Montreal urban ski hill won’t be returning this winter

When the snow does fly, there will be some changes because of coronavirus, including day-ticket holders having to make a reservation. Making a reservation will allow the resort to use contact tracing if necessary.

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Another change: Skiers and snowboarders will be required to wear a mask with no exceptions.

Lastly, Ballingall also said if provincial regulations remain the same, Big White won’t have to limit the number of guests at the resort, but wouldn’t hesitate to do so if needed.