Big White Ski Resort made multi-million-dollar history with its off-season developments. But that's just the start of a major expansion kick.
"This year, we've taken significant strides to address new resort upgrades and areas that need further development,” said senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall as he prepared for a Nov. 23 season launch. “According to the Kootenay Boundary Regional District, $100 million is being invested around the mountain in vital infrastructure, road upgrades, staff accommodation and private homes and condominium development.”
He added 2023 has seen some of the biggest construction starts in the history of the resort, from “future proofing” infrastructure builds to environmental and safety upgrades.
“We are excited and proud to facilitate private investments in accommodation across the resort. Plans are also in place to add more lifts and more terrain down the road."
The numerous improvements and changes during the off-season include:
• Work has started on two new staff accommodation apartment buildings with 68 beds that will cost $12 million. During the past four years, the resort purchased or built 575 new bed units for its staff.
• The Big White water utility is building a $2.5-million, 2.8-million-litre concrete drinking water reservoir to ensure a reliable and ample water supply for guests and staff throughout the year.
• Construction began on the first phase of a $600,000 upper parking lot in the Black Forest area, enough for an additional 250 vehicles this season. Rock blasting next summer will add another 200 spaces for a total of 450 parking spots. Parking has always been an issue at the resort, said Ballingall, and the new lot should ease that.
"There's a few things in my world that excite me,” he said. “This is one of them.
“Black Forest is a really unique area with one of the busiest chairlifts on the mountain. Those runs over there are really popular with beginners, intermediates and seniors. So it means people can start their day a little bit easier. If you're not there at 8:30 in the morning, you can't find a parking spot to get access to your locker. So, it's the one area that we've had the most trouble with. We've been trying to do this for over two years. As soon as it freezes, it's ready to go."
• The new POWder Card means guests can access three-day and five-day flexible lift passes designed to provide the freedom to hit the slopes any three or five days of the season. Not only does this grant unparalleled flexibility with absolutely no blackout dates, but it also provides impressive savings of up to 15% and 20%. The POWder Card is also a key player in bolstering Protect Our Winters Canada (POW) memberships (advocating for policy solutions to climate change), thanks to Big White's co-branded marketing initiatives. POWder Cards will be available in early January 2024.
• New digital lift status signage boards will provide real-time information about lift status, trail conditions, weather updates, events and other important announcements.
• A new $550,000 groomer with advanced technology will increase efficiency in snow-grooming operations, reducing fuel consumption and maintenance costs.
• A new software ticketing system will provide a seamless and efficient process for guests to purchase lift tickets and access resort amenities while streamlining the resort's payroll system to improve workforce management and payroll processing. Additionally, the new accommodation reservations system with e-commerce improvements will enable guests to book lodging and other services online resulting in a more convenient and user-friendly booking experience.
• New 100kW, 200A rapid-charging electric vehicle stations are now in full operation at the new Big White Central Reservations building in the Happy Valley parking lot. Provincial funding was provided through the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation's CleanBC Go Electric Public Charger Program.
• Gondola controls were upgraded with advanced safety features, improved monitoring and reduced downtime.
• The resort's rental shop got a $200,000 facelift with a new Wintersteiger compactor racking system to enhance the shop's aesthetics and significantly improve operational efficiency by making it easier for staff to access and retrieve gear, ultimately streamlining the guest experience by reducing wait times and ensuring a smoother, more seamless rental process.
• A new luxurious and relaxing Spa at Stonebridge Lodge will offer uniquely-designed body and facial treatments, curated escapes, specialized massages, foot and nail treatments, hair services and local and organic product lines designed to rebalance and rejuvenate the mind and body.
The return of former Big White executive chef Boddie Macklin-Shaw means an overhaul of menus at key eateries. Food and beverage services are returning to a renovated Ridge Day Lodge. Happy Valley Day Lodge has a series of menu upgrades including specialty coffees. Black Forest Day Lodge will include more international flavours.
The Ridge Day Lodge had a complete makeover from the back of the house to the customer interface. The kitchen was completely gutted and retrofitted with a fresh design to accommodate its exciting new concept, Spuds, centred on quick-serve options and ski hill favourites, like a poutine bar, baked potatoes, perogies and daily soups. Many items are gluten-free and vegan-friendly. Breakfast sandwiches will be available starting at 8 a.m. for those looking for a quick chairlift brekkie.
The Happy Valley Day Lodge's main cafeteria upstairs was not only updated but split into two concepts. Alpine Express features an expanded grab-and-go section of house-made salads, sandwiches, breakfast items and pre-packaged snacks, plus a specialty coffee bar serving espresso-based hot and cold beverages.The Alpine Burger Co. will operate out of the adjacent space, with deluxe gourmet burgers and sides along with a selection of popular appetizers.
Vista at Black Forest Day Lodge, Big White's sunniest bistro and situated at the base of the Black Forest Express, has a refreshed menu, including beef stroganoff, international-inspired noodle bowls and a delicious beef dip.
Clocktower Coffee Co., the ski-in, ski-out coffee shop in the Village Centre Mall, has new digital menu screens displaying an updated selection of pastries and hot sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. Upgraded barista equipment will streamline ordering and delivery of its high-quality coffee.
The Woods, which boasts a traditional chalet feel with exposed timber beams, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Easy Street ski run and a vibrant outdoor patio space, has completely revamped lunch and dinner menus, a hand-crafted cocktail list and a B.C.-centric wine list. Between three and five p.m., it has an apres-ski menu that you can pair with a cocktail or featured bottle of wine at 50 per cent off Monday-Thursday.
"The focus of our off-season efforts this year has been to add individual personality and distinctive offerings to each of our food service outlets," said Trevor Hanna, vice-president of hospitality. "In the increasingly competitive market for the consumer's attention, we felt it was important to ensure that Big White Ski Resort continues to offer a wide variety of menus that will be attractive across a wide array of palates and budgets."
Kelowna's beloved seafood institution, Broken Anchor Seafood, has expanded to the Globe restaurant with family deals such as its crispy fish and chips, and succulent shrimp.
The Friends of Mission Creek Society will hold its annul general meeting at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday (Nov. 16) at the RH-EECO (the log building) in Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna with refreshments from 6:45 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. There will be a short presentation by students of the Better World Club, followed by guest speaker, Bob Hrasko, administrator of the Black Mountain Irrigation District, addressing a range of issues that relate to Mission Creek with a focus on hydrology.
This is the second in a multi-part series on what is new and different at the 12 downhill ski resorts and cross-country ski areas in the Southern Interior. Columns on SilverStar, Sun Peaks and Nickel Plate are already in the lineup.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.