One can safely assume Canadian ski operators will have plenty to talk about this week, as they meet virtually for the Canada West Ski Area Association’s (CWSAA) annual spring conference from April 26 to 29.
The conference will kick off with a keynote from Greg Klassen, a highly regarded tourism professional who previously served as president, chief executive officer and chief marketing officer of Destination Canada.
Klassen’s presentation will focus on marketing domestic and international travel in the post-COVID area.
Another session will focus on how ski resorts can attract new skiers to the sport—a priority for stakeholders, especially in recent years.
“Some people may have never even seen snow, certainly may not have slid on snow, as skiers and snowboarders,” noted Christopher Nicolson, president and chief executive officer of CWSAA.
“We intuitively understand what a day lodge might be or what the word rentals refer to. If you’re a first time skier or snowboarder, those are all unknown.”
The session will focus on how resorts can create a welcoming environment to people who are new to the sport, explained Nicolson.
The spring conference, which is typically held in either Whistler or Lake Louise, will feature four sessions each day. Other sessions will focus on safety and risk, human resources, and business and operations maintenance.
There will be 15 sessions in total, which is down from the typical 50 for the traditional in-person events.
Nicolson said having to go online has forced the CWSAA to adapt and resulted in more frequent meetings for members.
“We have 92 ski areas and over 200 different kinds of supplier members that are spread all across the continent, and they are able to participate and and be part of Canada West’s meetings virtually,” said Nicolson.
Asked about the federal government’s recent budget and its implications on the ski industry, Nicolson said the wage subsidy program has been an important resource for resorts and benefited the country at large.
“One of the most important learnings of the past year has been to find and support ways to keep people, workers and residents within communities on the payroll, and the federal government’s wage subsidy program has done that,” said Nicolson.
All registration fee proceeds from event go towards the Small Ski Areas Fund, which are defined as alpine or Nordic ski areas with annual skier visits of less than 20,000, or a helicopter or cat skiing operation with annual skier visits of less than 1,000.