The reopening of the Coquihalla Highway to regular passenger vehicle traffic has been a boon for Big White Ski Resort, but locals are also turning out in droves.
Excellent conditions allowed the resort to open the Falcon chairlift Saturday, and it was one of the busiest days in a long time.
“We have 118 runs on the mountain and I think on Saturday, which was one of the busiest days in our history, it would have been about 114 or 113 runs open. So all lifts are operating. That’s as good as it gets,” said Michael J. Ballingall, Senior Vice President of Big White Ski Resort Ltd.
He notes that most of those who showed up on the weekend are season pass holders.
“You know, a lot of season pass holders at this time of year would be down south; Mexico, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Hawaii. They’re all here.
“They’re travelling with their feet. I just wish I could convince some of them to come during mid-week because literally today, there would be 7,000 less people on the mountain than there was on Saturday.”
He said they’ve had bookings from people who were considering going to Mexico, but changed their minds because they heard about other Canadians getting stuck there because of testing positive for COVID-19.
The reopening of the Coquihalla highway has pushed up bookings from British Columbians. Interest in the B.C. Family Day weekend is up, as are reservations for before Family Day and for Spring Break.
Staffing shortages are an ongoing issue. Big White is operating with less than half of its typical workforce of around 1,100 and Ballingall said with the impact of the Omicron variant and other illnesses in recent weeks, on any given day three to four per cent of employees are off sick.
Ballingall said skiers and boarders have been understanding “People don’t mind. It’s ‘keep the lifts open’, is what they want. So there are a lot of our people multi-tasking.”