With Big White’s winter season fast approaching, some visitors are finding it difficult to hunker down on the mountain.
Luke Brown is living at the Kelowna International Hostel and has been for the past three months. He stayed at the hostel after moving from Australia and worked at a local hotel for the summer.
Now, he’s ready to get out of his current living quarters with a change for the winter. Brown and five of his friends have been searching for housing at Big White since he arrived. He said he has been combing through various websites, searching for places on Kijiji, Facebook, among others.
So far, he has applied for roughly 40 places, he said, and after completing a few rental agreements, he heard nothing back from the would-be landlords.
“We’ve been mucked around by a few owners,” he said. “I didn’t think it’s anything to do with our lack of references, and we all have money. I don’t know. It seemed strange.”
They’re hoping to find jobs at Big White for the winter and enjoy their days off on the mountain.
Should they come up short, there’s a few options Brown will take. He said he could live in a hostel at Big White, commute from his current hostel, or move to another ski hill in Nelson.
“We really just want a roof over our head for the winter,” he said.
Before moving to Kelowna, Brown was unaware of the difficult housing situation in Kelowna and at Big White.
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“There’s a lot of horror stories, like people being scammed. I haven’t experienced any of that,” he said, but he assumed when people told him it was difficult to find a place, it wouldn’t be this difficult.
Big White Ski Resort is in the middle of building new staff accommodations in the Black Forest area, the resort said in a release.
It’s the first of four which will be located on Black Forest Road. The first will be ready for the upcoming ski season, said Big White communications manager Natalia Jastrzab.
She said the resort noticed the issue last season from employees and “$3.5 million will go towards this new building, which will contain five four-bedroom units, each with a common area and kitchen, in addition to four studios with washrooms and cooking facilities.”
Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort, said in the release, “with private citizens switching their accommodation availability out of staff accommodation and into Air BnB, we’re running short of hundreds of beds.”
“We’re building the first set of units this year, and it’s on the books to do it every season for the next three years, unless the economy changes again and more accommodation becomes available,” said Ballingall.
According to Air BnB’s Lindsay Scully, “Kelowna is the home of many responsible Airbnb hosts who share their primary residence for a few nights each month in order to make ends meet.
“Airbnb welcomes debate about our role in Kelowna—in fact, we believe that municipalities should regulate our industry. We have always advocated for fair, sensible regulations that balance the concerns of housing availability with the right of everyday people to share their homes.”
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For Brown and his friends, they’re just hoping to find something suitable at the resort, hopeful they don’t have to move elsewhere.