Holiday season presents full house to Whistler
Records set on mountains, hotels packed
By Chris Woodall
Christmas may be two weeks ago, but hoteliers and Whistler/Blackcomb managers are still saying "ho, ho, ho" when they look back at how the peak holiday season shaped up for the resort.
Whistler/Blackcomb set two records during the holidays: most number of visitors in one day, and most visits for the holiday period.
More than 26,500 skiers and snowboarders took to the slopes of the twin peaks Friday, Jan. 2, says David Perry, Whistler/Blackcomb’s vice-president marketing and sales.
"That was one day where everything came together: fresh snow, blue skies, a vacation period and a full town," Perry says.
That number is for both mountains and reflects the most visitors Blackcomb has ever seen, combined with the second-largest number of sliders Whistler Mountain has seen, says Val Sharp, corporate communications director.
"The record day showed us some stress points in the valley," Perry says. "Uploading was slower than people would like and parking outflows were slower. But it was an excellent day over all."
Other Intrawest outposts were cookin', too, Sharp says. Tremblant in Quebec had its best day ever over the holidays, Stratton in Vermont had its second busiest day, and Colorado's Copper Mountain set a December record for accommodation.
Over the course of the Dec. 20-Jan. 4 peak period, Intrawest resorts attracted 874,000 skier/boarder visits, up 95,000 (12 per cent) from last year, Sharp says.
Whistler/Blackcomb's total for the two weeks is 262,000, up significantly from last year when the resort was beset by blizzard and deep cold over the holidays, but still 5 per cent busier than the mountains’ previous record, set over the 1994-'95 holiday season.
And they came from away.
"We saw fewer day visitors and more destination visitors," Perry says.
"It's definitely a trend," Perry says.
Whatever the trend, the more the merrier, at least for hoteliers.
Despite the much-higher number of hotel rooms available compared to last year, there was no room at the inns.
"As expected we were full throughout the Christmas season, especially from Boxing Day onwards," says Chateau Whistler general manager Dave Roberts.
The Chateau has nearly doubled its size from last year, adding 221 rooms — some of them on the tréz chi-chi Entrée Gold floors — to the 342 it already had.
Cracking open its Portobello restaurant — the former La Fiesta — helped take the pressure off feeding all those ravenous guests. Portobello re-opens today after a three-day shutdown to finish the facility.
Across town at the Delta Whistler Resort, Whistler's second-largest hotel did sardine business (that is, they packed 'em in), too, says Dan Desantis, executive assistant general manager.
Being in the heart of Whistler had one side effect, however. "From a food and beverage perspective, we didn't seem to be as busy as last year," Desantis says, noting the many new restaurants that may have drained patrons from the hotel.
Of the new kids on the block, the Delta Whistler Village Suites followed suit with other hotels, filling its 207 rooms between Dec. 26 and the New Year’s weekend.
"For our first year we've been busy ever since we opened," says general manager Peter Borrowdale. "Although we didn't have a level of expectation because we had no prior year to go on, we were on track for what we wanted."
In total numbers of rooms, although spread over a dozen sites, Powder Resort Properties is the resort’s biggest entity, controlling 1,100 suites.
"Everyone was scrambling for rooms," says Co-general manager Dale Pruden. "We're feeling really good about the results."
A fine finish to 1997 is leading into a promising winter and spring, Pruden says. "January, February and the spring look very strong."
The mountains also see it that way.
"We're feeling extremely optimistic," Perry says. "At the present rate, we're 4 per cent ahead of last year and that was a record year."
Complacency should not be in the cards, however.
"The whole village has a job to do to keep demand up," Pruden says.