A ski resort in B.C.’s Okanagan region is forecasting a major financial hit stemming from last week’s flooding.
With the Coquihalla Highway closed for an indefinite period of time because of multiple washouts, travellers from the Lower Mainland are now facing longer routes to the Southern Interior.
And that’s assuming current travel restrictions on severely damaged highways in B.C. — like the Trans-Canada Highway in the Fraser Valley — will be lifted in the near future.
“It’s a disaster,” Michael J. Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, said of the Coquihalla being closed.
“It’s millions of dollars of cancellations. It is the worst thing that we could possibly face this time of year. And the big thing is the uncertainty: People don’t know.
“They’ve been told do not travel and they’re phoning (to cancel reservations at Big White).”
Ballingall said for Interior mountains, like Big White, SilverStar, Apex, Sun Peaks and Revelstoke, “our lifeline is Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. That’s our No. 1 market in the world.”
According to Ballingall, to date, there have been more than 70 Christmas and New Year’s Eve cancellations due to highway closures.
Ballingall says he’s encouraged by news regarding the Trans-Canada Highway in the Fraser Valley, “but the Coquihalla really is the freeway to get here.”
The Coquihalla is closed between Hope and Merritt, which means Lower Mainland residents will likely use Highway 3 — which is currently open for essential travel after being previously closed.
“We’re waiting on the (provincial) government to give us an indication when is it going to be safe to travel,” said Ballingall.
He said what happened in summer during wildfire season, when local hotels faced cancellations, is now happening to ski resorts.
“It’s terrible,” he said.
A spokesperson for SilverStar Mountain Resort near Vernon agreed that Vancouver is a massive draw.
“We do rely on a lot of our guests coming from there, especially over the Christmas holidays,” said Chantelle Deacon, SilverStar media relations manager.
Deacon said the resort is usually at full capacity during Christmas, but that the resort hasn’t seen a lot of cancellations yet.
“But that could definitely be a possibility, if the Coquihalla and other highways were to remain closed,” said Deacon.
In the South Okanagan, Apex Mountain Resort near Penticton won’t be affected as much by the Coquihalla closure.
“The Lower Mainland is definitely a high-traffic area for the resort,” said Apex general manager James Shalman.
“But we have Highway 3 that goes past Penticton and Apex Mountain Resort, so it’s actually a faster way to go than the Coquihalla.”
Shalman added “is it going to affect us? Yeah, but not as negatively as some other resorts that are further north of us. I’m thinking it will have a negative affect, but I’m hoping not that great.”
For the latest highway conditions, including which roads are closed, visit DriveBC.