There’s no shortage of snow at Big White Ski Resort, but the same can’t be said for the number of skiers and boarders enjoying the popular mountain near Kelowna.
Like all ski resorts in B.C. and across Canada, Big White has been hard hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Every resort is feeling the same pain,” said Big White’s senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall.
“It’s a financial pain for sure. It’s hard for everyone.”
With public health orders and travel restrictions in place, thousands of would-be-visitors are being kept away.
Family Day long weekend, for instance, is typically one of the resort’s busiest times of the year. But this winter, there was a big drop in visitors.
“Last year was the busiest four days in our history,” said Ballingall. “For example, on the Sunday of Family Day, we did just over 12,000 people skiing on the mountain.
“This year, we just topped out at 3,000 people, so we’re missing 9,000 people out of the mix.”
While freezing temperatures brought on by a polar vortex during the Family Day long weekend were partly to blame, the significant decrease in visitors has a huge trickle-down effect.
“That’s 9,000 people that aren’t there to buy a pink doughnut, hot chocolate or coffee, go out for dinner, have a cognac in the room, rent a ski instructor, rent equipment, buy some equipment,” said Ballingall. “So it affects the economy massively.”
The unprecedented situation has meant that for the first time ever, Big White has had to solely rely on local support — and Ballingall is hoping that the upcoming spring break in mid-March could provide a much-needed financial boost.
“The cold weather, on top of the pandemic, on top of Family Day, on top of travel restrictions … we need a break,” Ballingall said.
“We’re hoping that spring break will come and that our provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie, she’ll do her best to open up British Columbia if it’s right and the science says it’s right, then we will open up.”
Regardless of travel restrictions being lifted or not, the ski resort is preparing to make the best of the situation and is offering incentives for local residents to come and ski and stay at the mountain.
“Locals can get it for 35 per cent off right now,” Ballingall said. “That is unheard of, putting accommodation on sale at spring break.”