Special to the Valley Echo
The skiing right now in the Columbia Valley is fabulous and it has been since the season first started way back in December. As a result, both Panorama Mountain Resort and the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Area are experiencing a boost in skier visits, and revenue.
The same can largely be said about ski resorts across all of western Canada. The Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA), a not-for-profit trade association that represents the ski areas of western Canada, released a statement noting “[skier visits and revenues] are up dramatically” at most ski resorts across western Canada, adding this is particularly great news for ski areas that suffered during last season’s warm weather. All are reporting plenty of snow and record visits.
Going into the year, few knew what to predict. “We really didn’t know what to except from the weather,” says Fairmont’s Ski Area Manager Peter Harding. “As most weather stations and Meteorologists were saying that we’re in for a super El Nino and it was looking like another warm and dry winter again.”
Harding noted that the ski hill’s revenue and visits already are above their expectations so far for this season. “We expect this growth to continue, if not increase, as the conditions are significantly better than last year as we head into our busier months.”
With early November snowfalls, many ski areas opened weeks ahead of schedule. Mt. Norquay was the first Canadian ski resort to welcome skiers and boarders this season, opening in the first week of November. The first resort to open in B.C. was Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna, with its earliest start since 1997 on November 13th. Panorama also opened earlier than expected. “There was so much snow that we opened a weekend earlier than planned for our guests who were very eager to make some tracks in all the powder,” commented Panorama’s marketing and media specialist Jamie Hurschler.
“Last winter, we fared much better than many other western resorts due to our incredible snowmaking system,” adds Hurschler. “[But] this winter, our snowmaking system helped build a deep base and all the natural snow that we have received has truly made conditions phenomenal.”
The soft Canadian dollar is also having a positive impact on visits to western Canada’s ski resorts. “U.S. overnight tourist visits to Canada increased eight per cent during the first ten months of 2015 (compared with 2014),” read the CWSAA release.
Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns Fernie, Kicking Horse, and Kimberley Ski Resorts, report that U.S. business to their resorts is up 200 per cent compared with last year.
“The strength of the US dollar has helped,” said Hurschler.
“As we are seeing some increased traffic coming up from south of the border, but even more so, we feel Canadians are travelling more to Canadian destinations as vacations and visits to the States have quite quickly become a whole lot more expensive.”