Ski areas across province posting strong seasons 

Interior resorts set records as Whistler-Blackcomb set to hit 2,000,000 visitors

The snow is well above average across the province, and skiers and boarders are hitting the slopes in better than expected – and in some case record – numbers this season.

Exact numbers for the province won’t be finalized until after ski resort representatives meet in May at the Canada West Ski Areas Association annual general meeting, but some resorts are already boasting about their turnout.

Last week Silver Star Resort, outside of Vernon, announced it had broken skier visit records for a fourth year in a row, so far beating the previous year’s tally by 10 per cent.

Big White, which like Silver Star is owned by Schumann Resorts, is also claiming record numbers.

The resorts have credited several factors to the increase, not least the year’s snowfall. Heading into their last weeks of operation Silver Star has an alpine base of 230 centimetres while Big White has an alpine base of 291 cm.

Another factor is the recent expansion of the Kelowna airport to accept larger aircraft and international flights.

"Our resorts using the Kelowna International Airport as a gateway are now the closest resorts in the west to the valuable Ontario market," said Jim Loyd, director of sales for Big White and Silver Star. Hawaii has also become a good market thanks to an agreement with Harmony Airways.

"Direct flights between Honolulu and Kelowna means Hawaiians can now easily find out what it’s like to surf waves of the Okanagan’s champagne powder," said Loyd.

The increase in visitors has prompted Schumann Resorts to reinvest in development, including 49 new housing sites in the Alpine Meadows area of Silver Star, the sale of which financed a new quad chairlift from the Alpine Meadows subdivision.

Sun Peaks, located north of Kamloops, is also expecting to break records. In mid-March the resort reported that skier visits were up compared to past years, with strong bookings through spring.

"Sun Peaks Resort is having a record season due in part to the incredible snow conditions we’ve experienced so far this season and our growing reputation as a world class destination resort," said Darcy Alexander, the vice president and general manager of Sun Peaks Resort Corporation, while announcing $4 million in improvements to that resort. The improvements include a new quad chairlift on Tod Mountain, a new café at the base of Mt. Morrisey, and several new runs.

The Lower Mainland mountains are not announcing record traffic just yet, but after last season where resorts barely opened due to the warm temperatures and lack of snow, they are having outstanding years. Mount Seymour is reporting 514 cm at the summit, while Cypress is boasting a base of 451 cm at mid mountain. Grouse Mountain has a snow depth of 385 cm.

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