While the ski season doesn’t kick into full gear until November 28, Big White Ski Resort has been bustling with activity over the past few weeks. Cast and crew for both a commercial and a Hallmark movie have been staying, eating and drinking on-mountain while they use Big White’s beauty as a backdrop for filming…
A large crew, taking up 65 rooms for a total of 138 room nights, visited the resort earlier in the month to shoot a commercial. And, another commercial is set to be filmed at the resort in early December.
Beginning on Tuesday, November 15, Hallmark was back at the resort for the second fall in a row shooting a film for its 2020 Winterfest line-up.
“This is obviously great pre-season business to have,” says Trevor Hanna, Vice President of Hospitality at Big White Ski Resort. “It’s helping orient our staff in a way that we couldn’t do without real customers before the resort officially opens. We get the opportunity to host guests, and practice before we open to the world, and economically, it’s been a boom.”
Plus, Hanna adds, it can be difficult to generate this kind of incremental revenue during the season because the resort is usually too full to accommodate that many people.
Last fall, over 80 people spent 15 days filming on the mountain for Hallmark’s “A Winter Princess.” The crew from this year’s film – “Alice in Winterland” – is currently using 76 rooms, and are on track for a total of 850 room nights, says Big White Central Reservations.
The off-season business isn’t just benefitting hotels – on-mountain restaurants, such as Snowshoe Sam’s, Globe Cafe & Tapas Bar, and Sessions Taphouse & Grill, are also seeing an influx of preseason guests.
“Snowshoe Sam’s is always grateful and happy to receive any business when we are open,” says Juliette Weaver, co-owner of the restaurant. “This time of year can be a little slower, so it is good to have the extra business for our staff to get used to our POS system and serving procedures.”
Jon Summerland, Film Commissioner at the Okanagan Film Commission, says filming in the Okanagan area was slow this summer due to the worry of smoke – a worry triggered by the fires in the summer of 2018. But, business has bounced back with two full features, the Hallmark movie, and three commercials filming in the region – all before the new year.
“When a show is looking for something specific like snow in November, there are only a few places that they can go in BC and Big White is a no-brainer,” Summerland says, adding that while the Okanagan region is stunning, that’s not the only reason film crews are drawn there.
“Yes, we are beautiful. Yes, our lighting is amazing. Yes we have four seasons and we can match various international locations ie Northern California, Mexico or Italy. But, what makes the area such an attractive place to film is our people. We are helpful. We are open to filming. We are skilled.”
Summerland says it’s hard to guess the exact economic impact of a film or commercial, but a TV movie like “Alice in Winterland” would require around $85,000 per day for filming and a commercial $100,000.
“The biggest value is that if we continue to do a good job and charge realistic rates we will have a sustainable industry for time to come,” he says.