Efforts to showcase the winter wonders of the Upper Columbia Valley and entice more visitors here continue to bring provincial and even national attention.
Destination BC’s latest press release on the best snow-centric fun to be had in the province lists Panorama Mountain Resort’s multiple rustic on-mountain huts as one of the top experiences in B.C. this winter.
Calgary-based travel writer Sarah Deveau placed the valley’s Winter In Motion festival as one of the top 12 winter festivals in Canada in a recent Flight Network story. Last but not least, a recent provincial Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training press release touting the benefits of staycations for B.C. residents has pegged the Radium Hot Springs as one of the ultimate stay-at-home ways to unwind.
The Flight Network story not only places the valley’s season-long Winter In Motion festival on the same list as Quebec’s City iconic Carnaval, but also gives it a shout out as perhaps Canada’s longest-running (in terms of how long it lasts each year) winter festival.
“The story was on 12 of my personal favourite winter festivals, and I happen to love Invermere. The valley just has so much to offer in winter,” Deveau told The Echo. “With Winter In Motion running all season, you can come on several different weekends and always do something different.”
On her most recent visit earlier this month, Deveau went ice-fishing with her family (“it was awesome and the kids loved it”) and winter paragliding (“I didn’t even know that was something you could do in the winter”). On previous visits, she has participated in pond hockey; gone Nordic skiing on the Whiteway; played snow golf; and taken in the Bonspiel on the Lake.
The Destination BC press release expounded on the Mile One Hut, the Elkhorn Cabin and Summit Hut at Panorama, describing how they were “each built to resemble shelters that peppered the landscape during the fur trade era.” It then went on to describe, in enticing detail, a gooey cheese fondue next to the blazing outdoor firepit at the Mile One Hut; the indulgent melting cornucopia of Swiss Raclette at the Elkhorn Cabin; and the ultimate high altitude private cheese and chocolate evening fondue at the Summit Hut, which can be done by helicopter, or — if guests are so inclined — can be followed by the unforgettable experience of a post-meal ski down in the night.
“We are thrilled to have such a variety of on-mountain dining experiences, each offering its own unique style and flavour, “ said Panorama Mountain Resort marketing and media specialist Jamie Hurschler. “The guests love the huts. They are really different than dining in the village and not many ski resorts in Canada have different dining options scattered across the mountain as we do.”
“They are certainly unique. They’re all small and intimate, even though they are each slightly different,” said Mile One Hut, Elkhorn Cabin and Summit Hut operator Ray Schnerch. “You don’t find these anywhere else and we’ve really put a lot of effort into having creative menus well-suited to the environments each hut is in. We also use locally-sourced and locally-produced food and ingredients as much as possible.”
The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training press release pointed out that, this past summer, the pools at Radium Hot Springs had seen an eight per cent increase in visitors compared with the summer of 2014. It also noted that, with many businesses and tourism organizations in the province promoting staycations, winter visits this season should also likely increase.
“We had a busy season with staff seeing higher visitation levels. From the May long weekend to the September Labour Day weekend, our attendance records show that approximately 140,538 visitors came to the hot springs. The staff at the visitor centre were busy this summer and noticed a lot more regional visitation,” said Parks Canada hot springs marketing co-ordinator Donna Cook in the press release. “Tourism is important to the area and it’s great to see so many visitors enjoying Kootenay National Park, the hot springs and the Columbia Valley. Visitors help sustain so many of the small businesses and restaurants that make this area unique.
“It’s a wonderful place to escape the crowds and enjoy some winter fun with the family or get away for a girls’ spa and ski weekend in the mountains,” added Cook. “There are always opportunities to view wildlife such as bighorn sheep and deer, and an outing in the park to go snowshoeing or ski touring are also options.”
According to the Ministry press release, staycations help boost domestic tourism revenues and local economies by supporting more than 19,000 businesses and 132,000 jobs in the tourism industry in B.C.