Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow.
That was the anthem Whistler business owners seemed to be singing this week as they went through their receipts and counted up the dollars made over the Christmas season.
While business in the resort municipality didn't break records, revenue was generally up from last year's slow Christmas holidays.
Businesses of all types - restaurants, hotels and mountain operator Whistler Blackcomb - reported high levels of activity, with most companies coming in at least 10 per cent higher than last year's holiday period, when the economic recession was in full swing and the snow base was low.
As to what lured visitors to Whistler this Christmas despite the fact the 2010 Winter Olympic Games are just six weeks away? Almost everyone had the same answer: snow.
"I don't care what anyone says, it all comes down to snow, snow, and snow," said Wayne Katz, owner of Zog's, Moguls and Gone Bakery.
"It (business) was unexpected. I thought it would be less. I had budgeted for us to do less for the month of December in all locations, so it was surprising and exciting because we had snow."
Business volumes at Zog's and Moguls were on par with last year, and Gone Bakery saw one of its best business levels ever, said Katz.
Over in the Upper Village, the owner of Quinny's Café said his business this year was double what it was last year, when the café first opened.
"It was awesome. It crushed last year," said Chris Quinlan. "It was great to see snow back on the hill and people were so happy to be here. I think there was a pent up demand for holiday time from people."
Executives with Whistler Blackcomb also attributed their 8.5 per cent increase in business over last year to snow and weather.
Dave Brownlie, Whistler Blackcomb's president and chief operating officer, called the snow conditions "phenomenal" and went on to say that the experience people had skiing and snowboarding over the Christmas period was probably one of the best in the world.
"I don't recall having so many positive comments from guests when I was up there on the hill about our staff, our grooming and our food," said Brownlie, who said he always makes sure to talk to guests on the mountains to find out what their experiences have been.
"As a resort, we didn't hit the peaks like we did in the past - which maybe was not as positive in some respects in terms of volumes of people - but the experience people had in Whistler was probably second to none in the world."
It's too early for Whistler Blackcomb to say where most visitors to the mountains came from, but Brownlie suspects a large number of people were from the Lower Mainland and Washington State.
"The word of mouth has been great," said Brownlie. "Generally, on the final weekend it starts to drop off, but what we saw Saturday (Jan. 3) was our busiest day of the holiday season because everyone in Vancouver heard about what great conditions we had here."
Brownlie said the Christmas experience bodes well for the rest of the ski season.
He predicted that January and February will be busier than he initially thought and that Whistler Blackcomb will see a "very strong" finish to the season after the Olympic Games wrap up at the end of February.
"I think there will be pent-up demand for people who didn't come to Whistler and they will have heard about it and seen it on TV and all the great snow and all the great stories," said Brownlie. "They will work hard to get here."
Meanwhile, hotels in Whistler saw a large number of last minute bookings.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler reported picking up 187 extra room nights over the holiday period - up from last year's 78 - as well as 20 per cent more business than what was scheduled for their food and beverage outlets.
Lynn Gervais, director of public relations for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, said the last minute pick up allowed the hotel to actually break several personal business records.
"On the food and beverage side, we ended up serving 1,000 meals a day through the festival season, which was incredible," said Gervais. "Mallard Lounge had its biggest revenue day ever at New Year's Eve and The Chalet, where we do our fondue dinner, was sold out every single day."
Unlike the Chateau, the Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa didn't break any records, but Andrew Glass, director of sales and marketing, said his hotel was sold out from Dec. 27 through Dec. 31.
"I would say in terms of occupancy, we were 10 per cent up from last year," said Glass.
Sundial Boutique hotel also shared a similar story of last minute bookings as a result of weather.
"The trend since last year at this time has been for late bookings, so we were feeling that would continue," said Glen Iles. "I think everything about Whistler right now is very positive, with the Olympics, the early snow, and the recession ending. We are very positive on the way the outlook is."
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