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The success of Big White Ski Resort

“What makes Big White special is we have taken what Mother Nature has given us to work with”

This is part of a series of stories celebrating the 60th anniversary of Big White Ski Resort

The recipe for ski resort success seems simple: combine old-fashioned Canadian hospitality with a memorable family holiday experience.

But as successful as Big White Ski Resort has been in the past 20 years to evolve into one of the top ski resorts across Canada, the buildout future for the resort continues to showcase a long-term vision that continues to encapsulate that recipe for success.

“What makes Big White special is we have taken what Mother Nature has given us to work with to create that magical experience for families who come here,” said Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort.

“When we look at creating new ski lifts and developing runs, we follow the undulating pathway offered by the mountain and don’t fight against it. We go with the flow of what the mountain offers, and we are doing that in the same way we’ve done with ski runs now in developing our mountain biking in the summer.”

He says making that personal connection is reflected in how he is seeing third-generation families now coming to Big White.

Dating back to Big White’s inception under the founders Cliff Serwa and Doug Mervyn, the ski resort’s philosophy has been to be able to slide on snow in accessible terrain and share a family experience outdoors.

“If you look at the sport, only about 11 per cent of Canadians ski and snowboard, so the audience is small in that regard but passionate as they enjoy sliding on the snow and enjoy everything else that goes with it,” he said.

That ‘everything else’ relates to outdoor activities that Big White has developed over the past two decades to enhance the winter vacation experience – outdoor skating rink, tube run, climbing wall, mini ski-doing.

Currently, alpine skiing at Big White consists of 15 ski lifts servicing 108 designated trails over an area of about 607 skiable hectares.

These facilities have a Comfortable Carrying Capacity (CCC) of about 9,390 skiers/boarders per day, considered the optimum number of skiers who can utilize the resort over a day while being guaranteed a pleasant recreational experience and without causing a decline in the quality of the environment.

The Balanced Resort Capacity (BRC) reflects the total number of people the resort’s facilities can accommodate per day, including both CCC and other complementary activities. The BRC currently stands at 11,488 guests.

Ballingall says since the Schumann family from Australia bought the resort in 1985, the goal has been to build a world-class ski resort focusing on customer convenience and service while increasing skier capacity and offering new ski terrain.

He says the family has never wavered since from adopting a long-term vision, having the patience to see it through and investing in the highest quality of infrastructure, from ski lifts to groom machines to water/sewer facilities.

At the core of Big White’s success has been and always will be bringing skiers to the mountain, offering them a vacation experience unlike any other and seeing them return year after year.

While skiing is the magnet, the growth of complementary outdoor activities is what keeps families outdoors and enjoying a shared experience not only among family members but with the like-minded winter vacation-seeking people you meet along the way, reflects Ballingall.

“Skiing is a sport where people can participate with each other. That is the magic of it,” he said, noting that interaction and the memories generated from it remain one of the measuring sticks for Big White’s success.

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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