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Happy skiers equal happy businesses in snowy February

John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
By John Boivin Local Journalism Initiative
March 8th, 2017

Bill Stewart says when he and his wife, Rosemary Plaskett, arrived in Nelson in early February, they thought they had “died and gone to ski heaven”.

“We had heard the legend of the snow you get in the valley, and that’s what drew us here in the first place,” said Stewart, who’s visiting from the Yukon. “Then the snow started falling and it didn’t quit. Now we’re hip-deep in powder.”

The retired couple arrived on the eve of the massive dump of snow that saw nearly 50 cm of the white stuff fall over a single weekend. They have been skiing almost every day since arriving, and are happy there’s no sign of the snow slowing down.

“It’s been the best day of skiing we’ve ever had, one day after another,” he says.

Stewart and his wife aren’t the only ones flocking to the area to make the best of the weather. Ski industry officials say it’s been an awesome season.

“We’re having a really strong winter, and snow conditions are really helping us out,” says Rebeckah Hornung, the marketing manager for Whitewater Ski Resort. “We’re going out of this season with a bang.”

Hornung says the ski resort estimates visits are up 14 per cent from last year. The hill gets an average of 115,000 visitors annually.

And all those skiers have to sleep somewhere.

“We have a lot of skiers coming in and out the door,” says Ryan Martin, the general manager of the Hume Hotel. “February has become one of the busiest months of the year for us, the busiest after the summer peak season.”

Martin says the hotel is seeing double-digit growth again this year, the fifth year in a row. And he says that is not only because of the resort and back-country skiing available- Nelson offers a lot more besides.

“This town is really putting its best foot forward with all the thing that are going on, the options available for people even in February,” he says. “There are hockey games, theatre, great new restaurants- it’s pretty amazing the show we can put on for our guests.”

Martin says an important part of the success has been more American tourism, which has grown steadily since bottoming out in 2010.

“Some of it depends on the US exchange rates, and part of it on snow conditions,” explains Chamber of Commerce manager Tom Thomson. “Nelson always gets its share [of snow tourism], but it has been an amazing year.”

Thomson says winter’s not usually a traditionally busy time of year for the Chamber’s Visitor Information Centre, but even it’s seeing more business.

 “We have seen traffic to our new centre up 15 per cent in December, 15 per cent in January, and perhaps as high as 17 per cent in February,” he says.

The region may not get one person back as a visitor though. Back after another day of glorious powder skiing, Bill Stewart says he and his wife are considering staying for good.

“I got home from the hill a half hour ago, and the first thing I did was hit the real estate sites online,” he says.

Categories: General

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