This is part of a series of stories celebrating the 60th anniversary of Big White Ski Resort
Big White Ski Resort was opened by co-owners Cliff Serwa and Doug Mervyn in 1963 with one main T-Bar.
Sixty years later, the resort is still only halfway towards building out its completed vision, a winter and summer recreation playground complemented by supportive real estate development.
“It has taken us 60 years to get to here from where we started out with only a rope tow, and it will take another 60 years to complete our master plan vision,” said Paul Plocktis, vice-president, of real estate and development for Big White.
He credits the visionary leadership of the Schumann family, from Australia who purchased the resort in 1985, for not losing sight of their long-term vision for the resort.
Plocktis said that philosophy began in the 1990s with the decision by Desmond Schumann - the Australian man who bought Big White in 1985 for $4.5 million - to upgrade the water and sewer infrastructure utilities, an investment that has since shaped the resort to take on the rapid real estate development that has followed.
That has been coupled with the benefit of being attached to the Central Okanagan region, which has also seen dynamic infrastructure growth such as an extended airport runway to service flights from back east, an expanded hospital, the Bennett Bridge addition, regional government service centre, and the new UBC Okanagan campus.
When Plocktis came to work for Big White 26 years ago, he says Peter Schumann, the son of Desmond, recognized the potential for Big White land development to provide the need for more beds at the resort.
More beds mean accommodating more skiers, which has been and continues to be the ultimate business goal for Big White.
“Michael Ballingall (senior vice-president, marketing and sales at Big White) is tremendous at finding customers to come to Big White but we needed to have more beds to accommodate that growth,” Plocktis recalled, as it became his assignment to go out and find the developers to expand the resort’s hospitality option numbers.
Plocktis said the process was tough slogging at first, but has since built up a roster of five developers who each eventually saw the benefits of developing condo projects at the resort as a building boom took off between 2003 and 2008.
He said that was aligned with what was called Project 2000, which brought the gondolas to the village and opened up the Happy Valley link to what was an expanded parking lot, outdoor skating rink, tube rides, sleigh rides, snowmobiling and dog sledding.
Moving the parking further down the hill, opened up land that could be developed, a viable option to add more accommodation beds to the resort.
Plocktis said condos at Big White have increased in value over the last two decades, with high-end ones topping out now at over $2 million.
And while the economy can go through cycles of boom and downturn, he says interest in buying condos has not shown any signs of subsiding anytime soon.
He feels the reason behind that is the family experience that Big White offers, thinking which extends from the ski run accessibility to other recreational activity options and business service support.
“Primarily, people buy a home here to ski at Big White. Everyone asks about our movement to summer activities on the mountain for the appeal of being able to use their real estate investment on a year-round basis…that will be another step for us moving forward,” said Plocktis.