Big White ski resort cancels non-local bookings, but Whistler leaves it up to guests to follow COVID-19 rules

B.C.’s Big White Ski Resort is cancelling all upcoming reservations for people who live outside of the Central Okanagan as it responds to a cluster of COVID-19 cases that includes dozens of people.

Scheduled guests who live outside of the region with bookings between now and Jan. 8, 2021, have received emails from the Kelowna-area ski resort informing them that their reservation cannot be honoured.

“From your address on file, we have noted that you live outside of our local area and we believe your reservation would be in breach of the provincial health order if you were to arrive at Big White Ski Resort and we were to honour your reservation,” the email reads.

The message says that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry asked Big White to review its reservations in response to a cluster of at least 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Those affected can ask for a refund or rebook on a later date.

The move brings the resort in line with a public health advisory that has been in place since Nov. 19 cautioning against all non-essential travel. For the last month, Henry has asked skiers to stick to the slopes in their local area.

The current advisory is set to expire on Jan. 8.

At B.C.’s largest ski resort, the onus on following the guidelines still lies with the guests.

In response to COVID-19 guidelines, Whistler Blackcomb has set a new threshold for the number of reservations it will accept, according to Vail Resorts, which owns Whistler Blackcomb.

The threshold is set at a number “appropriate for serving only the Sea to Sky community,” according to an email from Vail Resorts spokesperson Jennifer Smith.

However, the resort will still accept reservations from outside of the region.

“We encourage people to take personal responsibility and follow the provincial health order,” Smith said.

The operators of Whistler Blackcomb say they’re encouraging guests to take ‘personal responsibility’ to follow COVID-19 guidelines. (Eric Berger/Whistler Blackcomb)

CBC has reached out to other popular B.C. ski resorts for comment on their policies.

On Wednesday, Big White said that it has fired a number of employees for breaking its social responsibility contract in connection with the spread of COVID-19.

The contract includes clauses about reporting symptoms of illness to managers, as well as following public health orders around social gatherings, according to resort management.

The spread of COVID-19 at the resort has been linked to parties and homes with large numbers of young people living in them.

Kelowna RCMP have also said they are stepping up patrols at Big White to address community concerns that people aren’t following public health orders.

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