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Okanagan ski resorts to remain open despite Whistler Blackcomb closure

Click to play video: 'Okanagan ski resorts remain open, despite Whistler Blackcomb closure' Okanagan ski resorts remain open, despite Whistler Blackcomb closure
WATCH: Monday's new public health order has closed down skiing at Whistler Blackcomb until at least, mid-April. Dr. Bonny Henry cited an increase of COVID-19 cases, particularly the new P1 Brazil variant and transmission from travel to and from other communities, as the reason for the closure. Here in the Okanagan where all three ski resorts will remain open, the decision to shutter B.C.'s biggest ski resort, has come as a shock. – Mar 30, 2021
Editor’s note: On March 31, Big White announced they would be closing down for the season effective April 5 due to “unprecedented demand … from the Lower Mainland of people.”
Monday’s new public health order has closed down skiing at Whistler Blackcomb until, at least, mid-April.

The province’s top doctor cited an increase of COVID-19 cases, particularly the new P1 Brazil COVID variant, along with transmission from travel between communities, as the reasons for the closure.

“We’ve seen increasing cases in the Whistler Blackcomb area,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said during Monday’s press conference.

In the Okanagan — where the region’s three biggest ski resorts will remain open — the decision to temporarily shutter B.C.’s largest ski resort sent a wave of disbelief through the province’s ski community.

“We were as shocked as everybody else is. Whistler is the best in the world,” Big White senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall told Global News.

According to Ballingall, Whistler is simply the victim of a COVID-19 numbers game.

He said multiply 3,000 people who visit Big White Resort by five “and that is a very busy day with a lot of people. And we know that this virus likes to hang out where the people are.”

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That’s why for months now, Big White has had a specific mantra, one they had hoped would keep the mountain from a COVID closure.

“Ski in your bubble, stay in your bubble, don’t be the reason we lose the season,” Ballingall said.

While that motto has gone a long way recently to keep COVID-19 under control as much as possible at Big White, Ballingall says that it’s the apres-ski scene, that’s cause for concern.

“It’s really what happens after hours that we’re all nervous about,” Ballingall admitted.

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On Tuesday, a video of exactly what Ballingall says he’s concerned about surfaced on social media.

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The video was taken Monday night at Charley Victoria’s a privately owned bar and restaurant at Big White.  

It showed a party with a swarm of young people gathered shoulder to shoulder, dancing on tables and not showing any regard for social distancing or mask-wearing. 

The event eventually forced the resort to call the police to shut down the event and avoid a repeat of Big White’s COVID cluster that began in December.

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“We fought real hard to keep the numbers down, through December into January and through February,” said Ballingall.

“Dr. Mema declared it contained last week and we are hoping we are not going to see any new cases.”

That may be one of the reasons why Big White escaped the latest provincial health order and is planning on staying open until April 11th.

“Over 800 people received their first dose of the vaccine two weeks ago,” Ballingall said.

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