Big White Ski Resort has set a tentative opening date of June 25, 2020. (Andrew Jay - Big White Ski Resort)

Big White prepares for big summer, still set to open amid pandemic

Michael Ballingall, resort VP, said he expects the ski resort’s summer season to be a good one

Big White is ready to open for its summer season, full of physically distant biking and hiking.

Well, as soon as the snow melts, that is.

Despite warm weather across the Okanagan Valley, the resort’s vice-president Michael Ballingall, said the popular ski resort is still getting fresh powder, well into May.

“The resort could be open today and you could be enjoying skiing on many, many runs,” he said. “People down in the valley are going golfing and putting their boats in the water and we’re still dealing with fresh snow.”

Ballingall estimates the snow base is still at around 150 cm around most of the resort, but the “big melt” at Big White is anticipated within the next week.

And with that, the mountain bikes and boots come out at the resort.

The pandemic has not shifted Big White’s planned summer opening, nor have the eased restrictions planned for mid-May. That date is still tentatively set for June 25, in line with the time it would open under regular circumstances.

“When you hear Dr. Henry say things like ‘its better outside than inside’: we’re all about outside and physical distancing,” said Ballingall. “What we’ve been looking at is how do we get you on a mountain bike, with a touchless ticket system and physical separation.”

Ballingall said the outdoor activities offered at the resort make it relatively easy to follow physical distancing protocols and restaurants are currently operating on a take-out system.

“It’s not hard,” he said.

Rather than four people to a chair on lifts to the higher-elevation trails, Ballingall said they’ll be limited to two.

While a lot of businesses have been hit hard through the pandemic, Ballingall said he anticipates a relatively similar —if not increased — patronage this summer.

“We’re the opposite. We think people will want to go to the mountain,” he said. “The beach can get crowded, a walk around the lake can get crowded, bike paths in Kelowna can get crowded. When you go 45 minutes out of town and you’ve got 2,700 acres to go walk around, it’s pretty easy to get out of everybody’s way.”

Not only does Ballingall anticipate locals from Kelowna will be hiking and biking around Big White all summer, he expects a more local crowd come next winter as ‘staycations’ remain the best option.

“This will be the first time in at least 10 years the locals will have the pick of the best accommodations on the mountain,” he said. “Usually, the best of the best is booked up by the Kiwis, the Australians and the Europeans — well, they can’t come this Christmas season.”

READ MORE: Kelowna residents frustrated after Mill Creek floods homes

READ MORE: Okanagan-Shuswap weather heating up as restrictions ease

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