Closure will result in the loss of some 200 jobs
One of B.C.’s leading heli-skiing operations will not operate this season, citing the extension of provincial recommendations against non-essential travel.
With a storied history that dates back to 1970, Mike Wiegele Heli-Skiing helped pioneer the industry in B.C. They typically employ some 250 people in Blue River, B.C. including regular staff and contractors.
This season it will operate on a skeleton crew of between 20 and 35 people, said general manager Matic Vecko.
Vecko added the decision to not open up this winter was made over the weekend, following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Jan. 7 announcement that current provincial orders and recommendations will be extended until Feb. 5.
“We were hoping and planning to possibly host a limited number of Canadian guests this winter,” said Vecko. “But given the national and international travel advisories and, above all, our commitment to safety, we made the decision not to open for the remainder of the season.”
Vecko said the company has been in touch with staff regarding the decision.
“We’ve been keeping in touch with our staff throughout the summer on a regular basis, so this has not come as a surprise,” he said. “We all see what’s happening out there in the world.”
In the lead up to this season, Wiegele’s (as it’s more commonly known) focused its marketing efforts on the domestic market, offering specials for Canadians.
The exclusive resort has been hard-hit by the far-reaching implications of the COVID-19 crisis. In a typical season, the majority of its clientele (around 70 to 80 per cent, according to Matic) hail from abroad.
Like ski resorts across the province, Wiegele’s was forced to shut its doors in March of last year. The resort was, however, able to operate in a limited capacity over this summer, offering accommodation to domestic tourists and pipeline workers at two motels it owns and operates in Blue River.
Going forward, Vecko said he’s focusing on the future, and anticipated plenty of demand for the Wiegele experience next year.
“There’s a huge pent up demand that’s building up with people who are not able to travel this year,” he said, speaking about the outlook for the tourism industry at large.
“We’re lucky to have a very loyal guest base, around 70 to 80 per cent of our guests are returning guests. They come every year. We’re their ‘happy place,’ so to speak.”
Vecko added that he has been impressed with how the ski industry at large has worked together throughout this unprecedented crisis.
He specifically shouted out the team at Sun Peaks Resort LLP for being great team players.
“This whole thing has been really, really impactful for our entire industry,” he said. “The amount of work that’s been done in the background between different resorts and industry associations has been phenomenal.”