Big White (File photo).

Big White Ski Resort looking to domestic employees for coming winter season

Travel complications surrounding COVID-19 have made it difficult to hire international workers

Big White Ski Resort is gearing up for the ski season and with adjustments surrounding COVID-19 comes the time to hire more employees.

Pre-COVID, Big White employed upwards of 1,400 staff, both full-time and part-time, to keep the resort running smoothly-and a large portion of those employees traditionally came in on work visas.

This year, however, with the complication of limited international travel, every department at the resort will be relying heavily on local and domestic employees.

“It’s like reverting back to the 80s,” said Michael J. Ballingall, senior VP at Big White Ski Resort Ltd.

“When we would go on hiring clinics through the prairies to find groomer drivers, rental shop personnel, lift operators, and other on-mountain team members.”

In previous ski seasons, Canadian employees made up over 30 pe cent of the workforce, and, to no one’s surprise, Australian employees made up the majority, with nearly 40 per cent. Residents of the United Kingdom, typically third in numbers, sat at about 10 per cent. The remainder of employees came from two dozen different countries, from Estonia to Malaysia to South Africa.

While Big White will be hiring fewer staff this season due to COVID protocols that will limit indoor capacities and housing arrangements, the resort still needs to fill positions that are integral to opening. At the moment, Big White’s priority is to find Canadians to work in lift operations, and secondly, certified ski and snowboard instructors. That said, the resort is also looking for people to work in Food & Beverage, Rentals, Retail, Repairs, and Central Reservations.

READ MORE: Jeremy Welder appointed as new CEO for Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs

On top of this unprecedented challenge to staff the resort, Big White is also faced with finding accommodation for all of its employees. During the 2019/2020 season, the resort completed construction of new staff accommodation at Black Forest – four buildings that can house 192 staff members. With COVID-19 protocols, that number will be in half, and the max number of people per room at other staff accommodation around the mountain will be reduced to two.

For the first time in a long time, Ballingall says, the resort will need to house staff in Kelowna, or rely on Kelowna-based employees, and bus everyone back and forth for shifts.

As international travel is limited for everyone, seasonal workers from Canada who normally travel to sunny destinations for the winter months now have the opportunity to explore their home – and enjoy epic powder, countless perks, new friends and a mountain lifestyle in the process.

“Canadians will enjoy spending a winter in a resort like Big White,” Ballingall said. “Even if you have to work a few shifts a week, the skiing is awesome.”

READ MORE: Another Kelowna flight flagged as having COVID-19 aboard


Daniel Taylor
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at daniel.taylor@kelownacapnews.com
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