Big White Ski Resort bigger than ever
Whether you are the longterm VP, the relatively new guy at Big White Ski Resort or someone who just bought a season pass, everyone is eagerly looking forward to the ski and snowboard season.
Michael J. Ballingall started his first season at Big White in December 1985 as the manager of Snowshoe Sam's for Jim Nixon, who was just taking over the lease from Mr. Sherman.
At that time, Nixon also owned McCulloch Station Pub in Kelowna and Whiskey Jacks at Big White, now called Sessions.
Ballingall then joined the resort operation and is now the senior vice-president of sales and marketing. In spite of all those winter seasons at Big White, does he still look forward to each new ski year?
“It certainly is an interesting question because I was just going to a ski shop in Toronto (during a break from a ski show), and the smell of new leather gloves and new equipment gets me very excited,” he said.
“Ski season to me has always been, ‘what’s the latest and greatest? Can I get a pair? And, how fast can I go? The mountain has remained consistent, although the lifts get more technical and faster, but it’s the people that make all the difference,” he said.
“The vibe in the village is created by the new team members that we hire and train every year, so nothing is ever the same. And yet, Big White comes out on top, always, as Canadians’ favourite family ski resort. This is what I get excited about every year. New faces, same smiles. Family and friends making memories.”
Nights are getting cooler, the days shorter and the first snowfalls have arrived, he said.
“The Big White team has been busy preparing for this season, including our new Powder Chair and new skier tunnel from the village. We’ve also been working with the Easter Bunny and are delighted to announce we will be extending our winter season to now include Easter.”
Mason Buettner is the relatively new guy who is the Big White communications manager.
“Coming from Whistler-Blackcomb to a family-owned and operated resort (in 2017), I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
“But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is it a great place to work, but it’s an even better place to live and play. I remember being shocked on the first powder day last season that I could ride run after run of fresh snow and get right back on the lift without waiting in line at all,” he said.
“I was used to racing thousands of other skiers and boarders to get to the fresh snow before it was tracked out. But now, I can relax knowing I’ll be riding fresh snow days after a snowfall.
“My wife and I also enjoyed the summer season on the mountain. Sure, it has a slower pace than the winter, but it allowed us to get to know the community better and really find our place. Looking forward to round two this winter.”
Among the many reasons to look forward to the season are:
NEW POWDER CHAIR A four-passenger fixed grip Leitner Poma lift will replace Canada’s oldest and “most popular” triple chairlift at a cost of $3.9 million. The new lift will increase upload capacity to 2,400 passengers per hour, allowing more skiers and snowboarders to enjoy the amazing terrain on the Powder Chair. The chair is nearing completion and will be ready to ride by the start of the season.
“Since we moved the Powder Chair lift line with the new lift, it created a new run called The General. It’s going to be some of the best fall-line skiing on the mountain,” said Buettner.
“I know the old Powder Chair lift line was a very popular run for many people and now, it’s going to be so much better with those pesky towers out of the way. Our new run total is now 119.”
NEW SKIER TUNNEL Big White has invested $1.5 million to expand the skier tunnel on the Hummingbird Run to 60 feet from 25. SUMMER GROOMING, GLADING Crews spent the summer performing $70,000 worth of summer grooming and glading on the existing ski runs, creating more of the wonderful terrain that makes Big White such a great place to ski and snowboard. This includes the area around the new Powder Chair, bottom of the Ridge and the runs associated with the area, and over in the Black Forest area.
NEW PISTENBULLY GROOMER A new $450,000 new groomer offers the most modern alpine technology for precise grooming work and will be a helpful addition to Big White’s extensive fleet of groomers.
NEW INVESTMENTS ACROSS THE MOUNTAIN More than $1.1 million in annual lift and machinery maintenance; $500,000 in building maintenance; $750,000 in water and sewer upgrades; and $150,000 for a new on-mountain shuttle bus.
NEW EXTENDED SEASON Big White will now be open until April 22, 2019, for Easter. NEW CHRISTMAS EVE FESTIVAL The Village will come alive with Christmas magic to celebrate everyone’s favourite time of year. The inaugural Christmas Eve Festival will include a Merry Christmas from Around the World photo booth, a decoration station, letters to home station, a rainbow bonfire and a scents of Christmas booth, all with fun things to keep the whole family engaged and inspired.
Along the way, you can enjoy carol singers, stilt walkers and jugglers as they roam around the Village, or join Santa in the Village Centre Mall for readings of all your favourite classic Christmas stories. But watch out for the Grinch.
NEW STAFF HOUSING It’s ready for staff to move in for the 2018-19 winter season. This is the first of four buildings around Gondola Way and will start a new subdivision in the Black Forest area. Staff living in the building will have excellent access to the Black Forest Express Quad and Lara’s Gondola in Happy Valley.
GOURMET SKI WEEK The ultimate ski holiday for foodies from March 4-7. It’s four nights and three days of exhilarating on-hill action coupled with delectable events that will not only quench your thirst for Okanagan champagne powder, but refuel your soul with mouthwatering culinary experiences. There is something to do every day including optional First Tracks Breakfasts, group ski lessons, wine lunches, apres cocktails and chef-hosted dinners. Choose to do as few or as many group functions as you like. NEW MENU ITEMS AT THE WOODS This popular restaurant is back for another year with delicious menu items to tempt you such as the brand new 14-ounce Pork Tomahawk: flamegrilled, Applewood-spice-rubbed and served on the bone with smoked paprika butter and parsley shallot chimichurri. Or the Moroccan chickpea-and-pumpkin stew with harissacharred grilled chicken breast. The much-loved fondue for two is also back for another year, featuring a threecheese blend with orchard fruits, nugget potato and baguette.
NEW MENU ITEMS At Happy Valley, Clocktower Coffee Co. and Gem Lake: When you’re feeling the cold outside, come in to sample one of the beautifully warm meals newly available at these Big White food-andbeverage outlets, including tasty new Pho to Go at Clocktower Coffee Co., mini donuts with cinnamon sugar at Sk8ers, Popkum B.C. farmed prosciutto-crusted rabbit with an apple-stuffed loin at Kettle Valley Steakhouse, and five-spiced chicken lettuce wraps at Moose Lounge. Plus, you can enjoy a variety of new vegetarian options at all those locations, including vegan tuna at The Woods.
NEW COFFEE PROGRAM Big White is proud to introduce a collaboration with Tug 6 Craft Coffee Roasters in Kelowna, Its specially-created Yard Sale blend, a medium roast that is Okanagan-made, will be featured across Big White food and beverage establishments, including Gem Lake, Happy Valley Day Lodge, Black Forest Day Lodge and The Woods. WASTE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
AT HAPPY VALLEY DAY LODGE In an effort to be more environmentally conscious and engage in socially responsible waste management procedures, Big White is introducing a new program at Happy Valley Day Lodge to streamline all waste production. Big White will also limit use of plastic straws with straws only available on request. Keep an eye out for new systems coming into place this season. WATER BOTTLE FILLING STATIONS Three new bottle-filling stations will focus on reducing the use of single-use plastic water bottles. These stations will be located in the Village Centre Mall, Happy Valley Day Lodge and Black Forest Day Lodge, and will dispense the resort’s famously fresh and clean water straight to your reusable water bottle.
SWEET ENDINGS Award-wining pastry chef Leigh Holuboff has created a range of new desserts at Big White. Desserts use Big White’s own commissioned chocolates, the 68.4 per cent Alpine Noir and the 43.2 per cent Monashee Milk, both designed in Meulan, France, at the Cacao Barry O’R Noir laboratory by chef Rob Walker.
Desserts include the Alpine Noir cream puff, the lemon raspberry tart and the tiramisu cheesecake bar.
J.P. Squire is a retired reporter, but an active outdoors enthusiast. His column appears Saturdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crews work on a new four-passenger, fixed-grip Leitner Poma ski lift to replace Canada’s oldest triple chairlift — the Powder Chair — at a cost of $3.9 million. The new lift at Big White Ski Resort will be ready to ride by the start of the 2018-19 winter season and will increase upload capacity to 2,400 passengers per hour. Below, Big White has invested $1.5 million to expand the skier tunnel on Hummingbird Run.
J.P. SQUIRE Making Tracks