Snow is thrilling however Huge White wants extra beds for employees – Kelowna Information
Photo: Big White
Recent snow at higher elevations in British Columbia has skiers excited for the season.
“It’s excellent. It gets everybody excited about getting their equipment out. The first snowfall triggers everything, the retail stores are going crazy, it means a lot,” said Big White Ski Resort senior vice-president Michael Ballingall.
But as winter looms, the resort is having challenges when it comes to finding accommodations for workers. Big White has built hundreds of beds worth of staff accommodations in recent years, but it has not been enough.
The staff housing crunch coincided with COVID-19 and Ballingall says the days of a bunch of employees renting a large house on the mountain appear to be over.
“You know what the kids were used to — the four- and five-bedroom houses, that 12 to 16 people lived in with the outdoor hot tub and the pool table, the big screen TV, 10 couches in the lounge room. You know, they’re like a big frat house, those don’t exist anymore,” Ballingall said.
“Through COVID-19 the owners of those houses sold them and the people that bought them have turned them into their private-use accommodation.”
That turnover of ownership on the hill has resulted in many of those accommodations being listed on Airbnb rather than being rented out seasonally.
“That’s the biggest issue. I mean, it didn’t exist in our world four years ago,” Ballingall said, explaining that before the pandemic there were “less than 10” Airbnb listings on the hill. Now there are over 400.
“So the consumer has many more choices, which is a good thing. The unfortunate part is we lose those staff beds.”
In an effort to counter the growth of Airbnb on the hill, Big White is running an advertising campaign offering guaranteed income to property owners who rent to resort workers. Since launching the campaign they’ve attracted two more units, but there is much more work to do.
Ballingall says the solution is to build more staff housing, “we will build more. We’re looking at our options right now and what the footprint look like post COVID. We know the locations and there’s a whole team working on that right now. So it’s moving ahead.”
But it won’t be ready for this season.
The resort is still targeting a Nov. 24 opening day for this season and with the extensive grooming the resort did this summer there is a chance the runs can safely open with a 70-75 cm snow base.
“As soon as snow permits we’ll open,” Ballingall says.
As exciting as the recent snow so too is a recent ranking in Condé Nast magazines 2022 reader’s choice awards which ranked Big White number four on the list of best ski resorts in North America
“More importantly, when someone like MSN pushes it out like that, you know, the numbers on that particular website are ginormous, especially for the American market. This will help our Pacific Northwest and California market and it’s an unbiased opinion of us,” said Ballingall.
Photo: Andrew Braff
Tire tracks at Big White village, Tuesday Oct, 25, 2022