Big White official glad to see to see Coquihalla safety improvements

Kelowna - Michael Ballingall said it has been needed for a long time

Big White official glad to see to see Coquihalla safety improvements

A Big White Ski Resort official is happy the Coquihalla is getting safety upgrades.

“We’re incredibly encouraged. This has needed to be done for a long time,” said Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at Big White Ski Resort.

At the beginning of April, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced it would be undertaking several improvements to make highways safer. These measures include stricter vehicle chain up requirements and fines, investing $1.8 million over the next three years for additional weather stations and road condition signs, enhanced road-maintenance contractor monitoring and auditing and extending winter tire and chain regulations on select highways.

Ballingall said regular road closures have affected the resort’s clientele and he believes enforcing existing laws should go some distance to remedying current issues.

“Now that we’re making the 18 -wheelers chain up, we’re going to make them abide by the law. This will make it a much easier highway to plow, to travel on. The most important thing in our world is to give travellers the confidence that the road is safe, and that’s the problem we’re experiencing now.”

“For us, it’s been the biggest problem of the year…Vancouver/the Lower Mainland is our biggest market, and we’ve heard more caution, complaints, uncomfortable potential customers that said they’re not coming because of the conditions of the road and there’s been more cancellations this year because (people) couldn’t get through,” said Ballingall.

According to the ministry, this winter saw 830 centimetres of total snowfall at the Coquihalla summit – 114 per cent higher than the 10-year average. While the Kootenay Pass had the highest-ever recorded snowfall of 1,012 centimetres from Oct. 1, 2017, to the end of February 2018 – 148 per cent higher than the 10-year average.

It’s too late in the season to see how the highway changes will affect Big White, but “we’ll see what happens next year,” he said.

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carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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