Businesses break records to cap off 2011 

From dog sledding, to après, to skiing, Whistler businesses came out tops

click to enlarge Skating success The new outdoor ice rink was put to good use in its first few weeks of operations — it was among many Whistler businesses seeing high, if not record-breaking, business levels in December.
  • Skating success The new outdoor ice rink was put to good use in its first few weeks of operations — it was among many Whistler businesses seeing high, if not record-breaking, business levels in December.

Whistler capped off 2011 with holiday business numbers that could shake up the record books, making this winter a season to remember.

At Black's Pub, at the base of the mountains, an admittedly tired but pleased Lawrence Black reported he had the busiest December ever in his 26 years operating in Whistler — up 13 per cent over December 2004, his busiest 'til now.

Over at Canadian Snowmobile Adventures, general manager Craig Beattie, confirmed it was a record-breaking December too with New Year's Eve day "our biggest day ever" in the company's 17 year history.

Whistler Blackcomb, while keeping its numbers close to its chest, had a Christmas season on par with some of its busiest on the books.

Stuart Rempel, WB's senior vice president of marketing and sales, said there were a number of factors at play last month, and the stars aligned for a successful Christmas period.

While the resort partners had done a lot of work laying the groundwork in the summer and fall with early booking offers, the holidays were capped off by Mother Nature, blessing Whistler with its snowy bounty while leaving other North American resorts desperate for more. Colorado, Utah and California were, and still are, unseasonably warm and dry.

"The big thing was the metre of snow that we had in the week from Christmas through last week... and we've got a base of over (195) centimetres at the moment," Rempel explained. "The fact is that we have a snow advantage over most of North America .... So we had a lot of people hunting for snow."

That jives with what Black noticed in his restaurant.

"I saw a lot of American dollars coming through," he said.

Out in the field, Beattie, try as he might to gauge his visitors on the snowmobile and dog sledding tours, couldn't pinpoint if the guests were coming from any particular place over another.

"We had some Aussies," he said. "We had some Germans. We had people from Ontario, people from Washington, from California, Texas... and I still saw a ton of people from Vancouver."

The dog sledding operations were sold out from Dec. 22-30, barring the odd cancellation or two. The fondue dinner on New Year's Eve was sold out. And the snowmobiling operations were flat out.

"All in all for the numbers we ran — more than excited," said Beattie, of beating his targets.

According to Rempel, however, based on WB's customer surveys, there was a rebound in the destination markets due, in no small part, to the efforts early on by the resort partners.

Europeans, Brits and Aussies were all in Whistler over the holidays.

"We had really strong success in the destination markets in our early booking offers that we did in collaboration between ourselves, Tourism Whistler, the major hotels and even some of the airlines like Air Canada and WestJet," said Rempel.

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