British Columbia

Fentanyl on the slopes a concern for B.C. ski resort

With over 1,500 new hires and thousands of visitors hitting the slopes in B.C.'s ski communities, resort administrators are taking extra precautions to prevent fentanyl overdoses this season.

Administrators taking measures to ensure staff members and resort-goers stay safe in the resort community

Ski resorts like Big White, southeast of Kelowna, are taking precautionary measures to prevent fentanyl overdoses on the hill this season. (Jacques Boissinot/CP)

A Ski resort in B.C.'s interior is taking some unprecedented measures in response to the fentanyl crisis.

Michael J. Ballingall, who represents Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, said many of the resort's nearly 1,500-member staff are new and not local to the area, and many are not aware of the fentanyl crisis.

"It's up to us to really get the message out there that there's a really dangerous drug."

The B.C. Coroners Service has recorded 27 deaths in Kelowna this year due to drug overdoses. Last week, a man died of a fentanyl-related overdose after using cocaine at a wedding in Kelowna.

Though the resort has a no-drug policy, staff will undergo a drug awareness session and senior members will be trained in overdose-response protocol.

Ballingal added that some younger staff members will also receive special training with the Big White Fire Department.

"These new staff travel in packs. They work together, eat dinner together, live together. You just look for the people who are influencers and make a mark on them and drive home the message day-after-day."

Preparing for fentanyl emergencies

In addition to helping train resort staff, the Big White Fire Department is also preparing to respond to potential fentanyl-related emergencies on the hill.

Fire Chief Jamie Svendsen said his crew will be outfitted with naloxone kits, and emergency responders will be trained in how to administer the fentanyl antidote.

"We're hoping everyone makes good choices and we won't have to respond, but we will be ready for it," he said.

As for visitors to the resort, Ballingall will be doing more targeted campaigns for those visitors who might engage in recreational drug use while at the resort.

"We will be demographic-specific. We know when the buses from Vancouver arrive on Friday night. It might be a good idea to have a leaflet or pamphlet in their rooms."

He said the resort will also be running announcements on its television channel, like it would during an avalanche emergency.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, 488 British Columbians died of drug-overdose deaths from January to August 2016.

With files from Daybreak South

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Fentanyl on the ski hill?