The voice of Western Canada's ski industry is leaving the Canada West Ski Areas Association on a high note, as the west enjoys one of the best starts to a ski season in recent memory.
David Lynn, the president and CEO of the CWSAA, who has been at the helm of the organization for the past five years, is resigning effective Jan. 17 as he moves to new opportunities in the food and beverage industry where he worked for 20 years previously.
Though he couldn't ask for a better time to leave, as snow blankets western resorts, the threat of the predicted El Niño side effects still looms.
According to the CWSAA's climate change partner, the negative side effects of the El Niño year will be felt in the coming weeks, said Lynn.
Such is the nature of life working in the heart of the ski industry.
"The resorts are doing super well right now," he said. "Fortunately for us, if there's one time of year where you want to have good conditions, it's early in the year and it's at the Christmas break. You set up a good base and you get people excited about skiing and you can generate huge skier visits right now."
The weather — whether it be global warming, or El Niño cycles, or the so-called Blob — is just one of myriad issues and opportunities facing the ski industry.
"The reality is we have a lot of positive and negative factors that we face," said Lynn, referring to a recent SWOT analysis of strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and weaknesses.
On the plus side: the natural assets and geography, being the world capital for heli and cat skiing, really impressive stats of skiable terrain and vertical drop, to name a few.
On the flip side, however, are those weaknesses: financial challenges (half of CWSAA members were unprofitable two years ago), staff turnover, historic apathy from the federal government in terms of skiing and tourism, the impact of global warming especially at lower elevations.
"It's really difficult to pick a single item," said Lynn. "In the long run, global warming is the major issue."
It has been a learning curve, to say the least, as CWSAA grew into its role over the last half-decade as an effective voice at the province, pushing for Family Day over a weekend that worked for ski resorts, advocating for relaxation of liquor laws, encouraging a thorough analysis of any proposed resorts through a new set of criteria.
"The ski industry was new for me," Lynn said of his move to the advocacy group based in Kelowna. "There are lots of very interesting and colourful characters in the industry and you create a lot of positive working relationships. It's hard to walk away from those relationships."
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