Big White Ski Resort’s village centre, Saturday afternoon. (Big White Ski Resort)

Big White Ski Resort’s village centre, Saturday afternoon. (Big White Ski Resort)

‘Don’t wear your mask, we’ll pull your pass’; Big White reflects on new health guidelines

“This is as serious as skiing out of bounds, if not more so,” says Big White Ski Resort official

Don’t wear a mask? They’ll take away your pass; Big White Ski Resort officials have been taking new health orders seriously.

Just Saturday morning (Nov. 21), they revoked three ski passes from individuals who refused to wear masks at the resort.

Days before, opening day Thursday (Nov. 19) coincided with the day the province announced new province-wide health guidelines requiring the use of masks.

READ MORE: Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Those who refuse to wear them are having their resort passes suspended for at least a week to start. If there’s a second occurrence, their passes are being pulled for a month, and so on.

“It’s just like when you break the alpine responsibility code, you ski out of bounds… everyone is trying to keep everybody else safe, and this is as serious as skiing out of bounds, if not more so,” said Michael Ballingall, senior vice president of Big White Ski Resort.

However Ballingall said he’s encouraged by the large majority of people who are following the rules. By mid-day Saturday, the resort had given out just seven masks to those who didn’t have them.

“(We had a) good response, I would say about 95 per cent of people complied with wearing your mask in line. We had a few anti-maskers. It’s pretty simple, if they don’t wear their mask, we pull their pass,” he said.

“Once we told them they lose their skiing privileges, the argument stopped pretty quick.”

READ MORE: New vintage-style restaurant coming to Big White Ski Resort

For several hours each morning since opening, Ballingall has visited every ski lift and, using a megaphone, reminded people of the rules; keep your mask on and stay six feet apart.

“I’m happy that people are showing their frustration on Facebook and Instagram, and not in the lineup,” he said.

And many were around to hear him, as well. The senior vice president couldn’t recall a busier opening day. Parking lots filled up quickly, some in less than 20 minutes. This energy, he said, continued into the weekend as well.

“The parking lots were as full as they are at Christmas time,” said Ballingall.

New regulations put in place across the province have affected many things, including how places like Big White Ski Resort operate. Ballingall explained he and his staff are focused on keeping everyone safe.

New rules include stricter indoor capacities, and outdoor lineups only, to pick up passes. He said keeping your distance and wearing your mask while skiing or snowboarding is the easy part; it’s going to the washroom, and other things that require indoor facilities that’s requiring the most work.

As a result, Big White is erecting two more outdoor washroom facilities, to add to their one already in place. They have also been encouraging patrons to use their vehicle as their locker, and their tailgates as their lunch stations.

“This is brand new for everybody, nobody’s been through this,” Ballingall explained.

Going forward, he’s feeling positive.

“The good people, the 99.9 per cent of people complying, are frustrated with the ones that aren’t, because they could ruin it for everybody,” said Ballingall. “Our pass holders are doing a great job of policing each other.”

Conditions at the resort are good. By Saturday afternoon temperatures had dropped to -7C, with scattered clouds, and a 116 cm alpine snow base.

READ MORE: West Kelowna winery temporarily closes after guest tests positive for COVID-19

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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