Big White Ski Resort to close early, cites tourism demand from Lower Mainland

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In a surprising announcement, Big White Ski Resort says it will be closing a week earlier than normal.

The resort will close for the 2020-21 ski season on Monday, April 5, at 4 p.m. – a week earlier than its planned closure of April 11.

According to resort senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall, the new shutdown date isn’t because of COVID-19 concerns following a large party at a restaurant there earlier this week.

Rather, he said it has to do with the province’s decision this week to temporarily close Whistler Blackcomb, resulting in Lower Mainland residents instead wanting to ski in the Okanagan.

Read more: Apology issued in aftermath of ‘raging’ party at B.C. ski resort restaurant

“We have decided to close the resort on Monday, April 5, Easter Monday, due to the unprecedented demand that we are seeing from the Lower Mainland of people that are inquiring about accommodations and tickets,” Ballingall told Global News.

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“We would be the only resort west of Revelstoke open in British Columbia that week, and we know that Big White is a magnet for people that want to spring ski and snowboard.

“And we just decided that this is not the right time to travel. This is not the right time for Airbnbs and couchsurfing and people visiting friends up at the resort. We know that if we turn off the lifts that we will be able to stop people from travelling to our resort, and, hopefully, other parts of B.C. when it is just not safe to do so.”

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Ballingall noted the resort made the decision last June to stay open until April 11.

“It was a much different province and COVID-19 was much different back in June,” he said.

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“Now that we have the number of cases increasing in the province of British Columbia, that we have variants that seem to be spreading through the province, we’re scared and our staff are scared and our customers are scared.

“And we just don’t need to stay open an extra six days, and we think that by closing, we can curtail the spread of COVID-19.”

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Ballingall said he believes the resort’s action is twofold.

“It’s obvious that there are some people who just will not abide by the provincial health officer‘s rules. We saw that with the incident at Charley Victoria’s on Monday night,” he said.

That party happened Monday, just hours after the province announced that it was temporarily closing all indoor dining at bars and restaurants following a spike in COVID cases.

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It was a packed gathering at the restaurant, resulting in condemnation from the resort and an apology from the restaurant owner on Wednesday morning.

“We’ve also seen an unprecedented amount of people from the Lower Mainland going to our website calling our 1-800 number, looking for accommodation and lift-ticket deals for the week after Easter.

“And we just made it is clear that it’s not safe to travel and with the amount of calls that we were getting, we decided to close the resort.”

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