Resort businesses cope with poor snowfall over holiday season 

Indoor activities and services see strong numbers, other businesses struggle during poor weather

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE/TOURISM WHISTLER - Fire and Ice New Year's Eve in Whistler saw huge crowds in the village.
  • Photo BY Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler
  • Fire and Ice New Year's Eve in Whistler saw huge crowds in the village.

While December's poor weather posed a challenge for resort operators, the lack of snow didn't deter guests, with room night bookings pacing ahead of last year, according to Tourism Whistler.

The bad weather hit some segments of the resort's business sector hard, but Tourism Whistler reported that room night bookings for the months of December, January and February have been pacing ahead of last year, while has not experienced cancellations, according to manager of communications Patricia Westerholm. Confirmed occupancy numbers for December will not be available until Jan. 20.

"Feedback from some guests has been that while we may not have the same amount of snowfall that we've had at this point in the winter in recent years, the conditions were still positive," wrote Westerholm in an email. "Certainly being out and about in the village over the holidays, it was definitely busy."

Whistler Blackcomb also had success with their early booking efforts, said president Dave Brownlie, despite one of the worst Decembers in recent memory in terms of snowfall, at 74 cm.

In the years since 2003/04 there have been five occasions other than this season when the December snowfall has been less than 200cm. A couple of years ago a 20-year average for each of our primary winter snow months (December to March), was calculated and the average for December was 180cm.

"Our strategy as a resort has been very positive in terms of creating that early book-buy opportunity and laying that business, so we were pretty full here during the Christmas holidays and I would say that our ancillary businesses performed well," he said.

Resort businesses and activity providers not solely reliant on the snow appear to have benefited tremendously from the poor weather, with some seeing significant increases in attendance compared to 2012's Christmas season.

Restaurant Association of Whistler president Edward Dangerfield said many restaurateurs reported a pickup in business this holiday season. Dangerfield, who also co-owns Alta Bistro, added that his restaurant broke last year's attendance records, although he attributed that to the recent addition of 20 seats at the Main Street eatery.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) confirmed that usage at the public skating rink at Olympic Plaza was up 25 per cent over the holiday period compared to last year, while its family-oriented New Year's Eve festivities attracted 2,500 ticketed attendees, up from 1,820 in 2012. Roughly 1,400 people a day took part in the Whistler Holiday Experience at the Conference Centre, organized by Watermark Communications. The family activities included free table games, crafts, video games and more. The RMOW earmarked $75,000 in Festival, Events and Animation funds for the Whistler Holiday Experience in 2013, a number that has been steadily increasing over the past five years. Watermark president Sue Eckersley said attendance at the Conference Centre spiked on poor weather days, and that guests stayed for longer periods than usual.


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