Canadian Ski Resort Helps Those Affected by Wild Fires
1st September 2023
Last modified on September 3rd, 2023
They are some of the worst forest fires in recent memory. Big White in British Columbia has been offering shelter to thousands of people who have had to flee their homes. NEW
Big White Ski Resort is located 56 km southeast of Kelowna in the Southern Interior of British Columbia.
Kelowna is one of the areas worst affected by the fires.
In British Columbia evacuation orders cover 30,000 homes, with another 36,000 homes under ‘evacuation alert’.
The Emergency Management Minister, Bowinn Ma, said officials “cannot stress strongly enough how critical it is to follow evacuation orders”.
“They are a matter of life and death not only for the people in those properties, but also for the first responders who will often go back to try to implore people to leave,” she said.
The state of emergency has brought around 2,000 evacuated people into the Big White area, and the resort says it “remains committed to supporting evacuees and their families in challenging times such as these”.
“Instead of putting our heads down, we look after the people because this is their second home,” said the President and CEO of Big White Ski Resort, Peter Plimmer.
We have reported on the fires and the impact on ski resorts and their response in this earlier article on PlanetSKI as we monitored the situation:
Big White began closing its resort for regular operations and opening its doors to members of evacuated communities in mid-August.
It has posted about its response:
A Shelter in the Storm: As wildfires raged through the Okanagan, many families found themselves displaced from their homes, searching for safety.
Big White Ski Resort’s team and community members quickly transformed the Village into an unexpected sanctuary.
An astounding 1875 people sought refuge on the mountain Saturday night, a stark contrast to the typical three to four hundred visitors.
The resort quickly adapted to the situation, providing a safe haven for those in need.
Offering a Hand for Evacuees: Among the evacuees are many families and some who have never been to Big White.
In response, the resort staff are rallying to guide and support these newcomers, ensuring they feel welcomed and comfortable.
Their kindness and willingness to assist highlighted the true spirit of the community.
Facility Access and Limited Services: Understanding the urgent needs of evacuees, Big White Ski Resort has opened its facilities, including public washrooms.
Restaurants are operating with limited staff and are extending their hours to provide meals to the evacuees.
Although operating with limited programming, the Kids Centre is now open, aimed to keep children occupied and engaged while their parents dealt with the challenges they were facing.
A Commitment to Families and Children: Big White Ski Resort made it clear that its priority is to look after families and children displaced by these fires.
Despite limited staff, the team at Big White is committed to doing everything possible to make this difficult time a little bit easier for the affected families.
Therefore, the resort has opened the Kids Center for parents and their children from 9 am to 3 pm, seven days a week (until further notice) and will provide unsupervised free activities for children ages five to 12.
Kids must bring their water bottles and are encouraged not to bring food.
Wifi is available and free for parents to use while supervising their children.
Community Support and Fundraising: On Sunday, August 20, Big White Ski Resort hosted a complementary (or by donation) pancake breakfast attended by over 500 people.
This event raised over $1000 for Mamas for Mamas, highlighting the power of coming together in times of crisis.
Expanding Services and Hours: Big White Ski Resort expanded its operations from four to seven days a week to meet the increasing demand.
Restaurants within the resort extended their hours to accommodate the growing community’s needs.
Accommodation Options: Big White had approximately 40 RVs on Saturday night and had the capacity for several hundred more.
Accommodation partners followed the guidance of the BC Hotel Association, registering available units for evacuees and emergency personnel.
Prioritizing Safety: Due to BC’s state of emergency issued on Friday, August 18, Big White Ski Resort is not encouraging people to visit Big White.
The resort is only open to members of its community and those evacuated from residences in the Central Okanagan Region.
“Big White Ski Resort is exceptionally proud of those who have participated in its response to the local State of Emergency and is a shining example of community solidarity and compassion,” the resort said in a statement.
”Evacuees and all interested parties are encouraged to continue checking our website for operational updates.
“If fire and smoke conditions do not improve in, the resort will remain open and continue to provide a refuge for impacted members of the Okanagan Region.”