Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)

Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Health advisories against non-essential travel have prompted Big White Ski Resort to cancel more than $7.3 million in accommodation and lift ticket reservations since November.

That number, current as of Jan. 21, doesn’t take into account lost opportunities for other revenue departments on the mountain, such as lessons, food services, equipment rental, retail and events, nor the financial impact on the other businesses that operate on the mountain.

“As challenging as it has been, we know that we are doing the right thing to bend the curve. And this has been confirmed by many of our local season pass holders and those who wish to visit but cancelled on their own,” said Peter Plimmer, president and CEO of Big White Ski Resort.

Hundreds of people have reached out to the resort expressing disappointment with the decision to cancel reservations for those who don’t live nearby, which has been the case since early December. Plimmer said the subject is “not debatable” given provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s clear message to avoid non-essential travel, even if it means a substantial financial hit for the resort.

“It will always snow at Big White, and eventually, COVID-19 will be gone. But, while it’s here, our focus is day-to-day.”

On Jan. 21, 2020, the resort’s occupancy was at 87.5 per cent. On the same day this year, the resort saw just 14.7 per cent occupancy. Mid-week skier visits are down by 84 per cent, classes by 96 per cent, and other businesses are down more than 80 per cent.

Adding to these struggles, Big White has been the location of a COVID-19 cluster, with more than 200 cases identified. Health officials said the spread on the mountain has not been easy to control.

“It’s difficult for us to control because it’s mostly in younger people living and working on the hill. There are some other cases as well, but that’s probably the bulk of it,” said Interior Health’s chief medical health officer Albert de Villiers on Jan. 20.

“We’re trying to keep up with it. If everybody follows the rules, and everybody does what they’re supposed to be doing, we should be able to control it. But it’s not an easy one.”

READ MORE: 28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

READ MORE: COVID-19 moving out of southern Interior and into the north: IH

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


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