Big White Ski Resort calling for Hwy 3 to be opened to non-essential travel

Big White wants hwy open

Big White Ski Resort says highway closures caused by flooding are having a “tremendous impact” on business.

Resort vice president Michael Ballingall says the hill has seen a rash of cancellations from those in the Lower Mainland.

“People have to pay in full their accommodations 30 days out, and with the uncertainty of the road being open for non-essential travel, people are opting to cancel their reservation.”

Ballingall is calling on the provincial government to reopen Highway 3 for non-essential travel.

“We have been having great conversations with a number of different government authorities. It is clear the Coquihalla Highway and Highway 1 won’t be ready to use until late January. So we are asking on behalf of those that require travel that there be a time slot for Highway 3 for non-essential travel to use that highway.”

He is hopeful a six-hour time slot from noon to 6 p.m. would be considered.

"We have to remember that this is winter and the snow conditions will be quite severe on many days at the higher elevations and so we want to give people plenty of time and opportunity to travel with space in a safe manner to use that highway."

Ballingall says flights in and out of Kelowna are only useful for some.

“For the majority of the population that are travelling, whether on vacation to visit family and friends, grandmothers with their baking, etc, air just isn’t going to be reasonable for two reasons — the cost and the amount of luggage that they will be carrying."

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association says many other businesses in the region are also feeling "extreme pressure."

“I think everyone is honestly concerned for each other and making sure that they can get through this time. I have had more people feel like this was the last straw they are mentally trying to figure out how to cope,” said Ellen Walker-Mathews, chief executive officer of TOTA.

During a press conference on Sunday, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says Highway 3 will remain available for commercial vehicles and essential travel only.

“Highway 3 has been really important right now to attach communities from the Lower Mainland to the Interior to get goods moving again. Prior to the closure on Saturday which was preemptive based on safety assessments we had a total 4,000 plus commercial vehicles move through the corridor. The priority will continue to be commercial vehicles.”

"The restrictions, we want them to be temporary, but they will be based on an assessment of what are the greatest needs right now of British Columbians," Fleming said.

Both Waker-Mathews and Ballingall are suggesting Central Okanagan residents stay close to home this holiday season.

“Perhaps if you were planning to drive to the Coast for Christmas you would visit one of the ski resorts instead," Walker-Mathews said.

“The one certainty is that it will snow at Big White Ski Resort and that there are plenty of people in the Central Okanagan that will come and visit us over the Christmas New Year’s period. If that is all there is, then we will support that. Santa will show up, we will all have smiles on our faces, candy canes in hand. We will make sure it is a special time for anyone that visits big White Ski Resort this holiday season," said Ballingall.

For the latest on highway conditions, head to drivebc.ca.

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