Regional resorts adapting to increase summer crowds

Revelstoke's mountain coaster has been a big hit in the B.C. Interior. - Photo SPIN
Revelstoke’s mountain coaster has been a big hit in the B.C. Interior. – Photo SPIN

The off-season has long been a challenge for ski resorts which see visits drop once the snow begins to melt. But recently resorts in the Interior have started to develop new activities to draw guests in the summer months with varying levels of success and different challenges.

According to Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) president and CEO Christopher Nicholson, this is a trend across the country that can be attributed mostly to increased revenue.

“It gives an opportunity for more revenue year round and it’s also easier to retain staff year round,” Nicholson said.

Resorts also see a benefit from summer activities because year round staff are better trained and can provide a higher quality of service than those hired seasonally, he added.

Soft adventures like the summer activities being developed in B.C. are more popular.

“Adventure, but not as extreme, will create the drive to fill more beds,” said Nicholson, adding because resorts are trying use as much existing infrastructure as possible they need to reach the largest market they can, which softer adventures allow.

Locally, Nicholson said Sun Peaks is being regarded as a model in the ski industry because of their summer offerings. The resort has had lift-accessed hiking and mountain biking for many years and in 2015 opened the Mountain Cross Cart course, the first of its kind in North America.

Silver Star Mountain Resort, near Vernon, also offers lift-accessed hiking and mountain biking for summer guests and made headlines this summer by opening a brand new summer tubing course.

Erik Kalacis, director of sales and marketing for Silver Star Resort, said the summer tubing has had a positive impact on business. The two tubing lanes are located close to the village and Kalacis said it’s popular with a wide range of guests including seniors.

As in winter, weather is the biggest challenge. While the tubing lanes can stay open during rain, the course does shut down in the case of lightning.

According to Kalacis, Silver Star will continue focusing on summer by developing and refining their current network of bike trails, the most popular activity currently offered, alongside other summer activity offerings and events.

This summer the resort also began to rent E-Bikes which are very popular.
Another nearby resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, received attention this summer after debuting a Pipe Mountain Coaster. The 1.4 kilometre long coaster takes riders down the mountain at speeds of up to 42 km/h.

Prior to opening, interest was high with a promotional video receiving over 1.7 million views on Facebook and nearly 400,000 more on YouTube.

For a resort known for its extreme and advanced winter sports, moving into a softer adventure was new territory but marketing manager Nico Leenders said the move has paid off with a profound influx of summer visitation.

The coaster was not opened without challenges. Similar to the tubing at Silver Star, it’s restricted by weather and can’t be operated in rain or storm conditions.

Leenders said this has made employees and the resort work to communicate more clearly when there are temporary weather closures. Long wait times have also been a challenge. To combat this the resort partnered with other local activity providers such as the local golf course, a rafting company and a paragliding company to offer multiple activities in one package.

The resort has plans to add a new 18 hole disc golf course and bungee assisted trampoline this summer to entertain guests who are waiting for the coaster or to add to their trip. After the success of the coaster, Leenders said all the new initiatives the resort is currently looking at are soft adventures to appeal to larger crowds but they haven’t ruled out more extreme additions in the future.