Not just a ski town any more 

Whistler smashes summer records for visitors and room nights

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE, TOURISM WHISTLER - REACH FOR THE SKY Participants in one of the Wanderlust festival's yoga sessions.
  • Photo by Mike Crane, Tourism Whistler
  • REACH FOR THE SKY Participants in one of the Wanderlust festival's yoga sessions.

After the busiest summer in almost 20 years at Slope Side Supply, it looks like summer business has officially eclipsed winter business.

It's just by a hair, said co-owner David Krasny, nonetheless he sees it as a sign of Whistler's coming of age. Whistler is no longer "just a ski town" but a viable year-round resort.

"What's significant is that's summer business; we never thought that summer business would ever beat winter business," said Krasny.

Slope Side's toilet paper sales, a cheeky way the resort measures occupancy, were up 11 per cent in May over last year, June was up eight per cent, July was up six per cent and August was up eight per cent.

"Our toilet paper sales for the first three weeks of August were busier than any three week period, other than the Olympics," said Krasny.

"Where else can you find a more accurate indicator of how many people are in town?"

The official indicator, Tourism Whistler's room night numbers, tell a similar story.

The just-released August room nights were up three per cent over last year — a small lift that comes on the heels of a 15 per cent increase in June and a seven per cent increase in July. That makes summer 2013, to date, the busiest on record.

Louise Walker, Tourism Whistler's vice president of marketing and strategic planning, put the summer numbers in context.

August is traditionally the summer's busiest month so while 2013 saw "just" a three per cent increase, that translates to 73 per cent occupancy throughout the resort.

"That's about a January," said Walker, referring to Whistler's peak winter season.

The highest occupancy summer weekend was the first weekend in August — it was the BC Day long weekend, the Wanderlust yoga festival was in town, and the weather was the icing on the cake, enticing last minute regional guests.

On Saturday August 3 Whistler was at 97 per cent occupancy — Olympic-style occupancy.

"Ninety-seven per cent — that's full. It's hard to get above that," said Walker.

The second busiest weekend was the second weekend of Crankworx; on Saturday Aug. 17 Whistler was at 96 per cent. The third biggest weekend came on Labour Day — on Saturday Aug. 31 the resort was at 95 per cent.

And that translated on the ground at O&R Entertainment, which owns La Brasserie, La Bocca, Amsterdam Café Pub, Maxx Fish, and Hot Buns Bakery into pitchers of beers poured and thousands of eggs bennies eaten.

General manager Brenton Smith confirmed that company wide August was the second busiest month on record, after February 2010 — the Olympic month — when the world was in Whistler.

"For the last several years I would say summer in the resort, as a valley food and beverage operator, is busier than winter," said Smith. "Because, primarily in the winter time, everyone is here for the skiing, and so when they're skiing they're up on the mountain establishments. I don't see them for brunch. I don't see them for lunch very often."

Business on his Village Square corner doesn't start picking up typically until après during the winter.

"But in the summer time we get them right from open all the way to close," said Smith. "That's always going to be our busy season."



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