Season closes with nearly 400,000 skier visits

Late snow and events drive numbers

The season finished off with the yearly slush cup. Photo by Jeana Mustain.

When the lifts stopped turning on April 17, Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) had recorded 390,000 skier visits, setting a new visitation record for the ski area. Tourism Sun Peaks also reported a 12 per cent increase in room nights over last year, combining to paint a picture of another successful winter season.

Last year also saw record breaking numbers, coming in at 360,000 skier visits.

Heavy snowfall in March, more operational days in April and a busy events calendar are all cited as contributing factors for the growth.

March and April brought over 250 centimetres of snow, an 85 per cent increase over the same period the previous year. On closing day, the mid-mountain snow base was 231 cm, a full 52 cm higher than last year. However, the 2015-16 did see more snow overall at 596 cm with this season totalling 539 cm.

“No two winters are ever the same,” said Eric Meertens, director of outside operations for SPR. “November was interesting with mild temperatures and no frozen ground that challenged the operations departments once again. When winter did arrive it came in with a vengeance with cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls.”

According to Meertens, snowfalls remained around monthly averages until March, which broke through with record snowfalls and “phenomenal conditions.”

“Our robust events calendar, highlighted by the internationally acclaimed Snowbombing Canada (music) festival, went a long way to elevate our profile and broaden Sun Peaks’ appeal to new demographics,” says Arlene Schieven, president and CEO of Tourism Sun Peaks.

Around 4,000 people visited the resort for the new festival, increasing April visitation significantly.

“Our continued commitment to improving the guest experience year after year, is what allows Sun Peaks to enjoy such consistent growth,” said Aidan Kelly, chief marketing officer of SPR, in a post-season press release.

Higher visitation comes with expectations of increased investment in infrastructure.

The resort has announced almost $3 million in upgrades for two food and beverage lodges, Bento’s Day Lodge and the Sunburst Lodge. The renovations are to be completed by November 2017.      

“We are hopeful that this will be the first of numerous projects to roll out over the next handful of years that will help improve the overall experience at Sun Peaks,” said Kelly, adding they are optimistic based on the growth over the last two years.