The 2015-16 ski season was the best ever in Sun Peaks, surpassing record totals of skier visits and occupancy set in the 2007-08 season, according to Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) and Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP).
For the first time the resort surpassed 350,000 skier visits and it also marked nearly a 20 per cent increase over the 2014-15 season.
SPR’s marketing director Aidan Kelly accounted pent up demand from a less than ideal season last year, the state of the Canadian dollar and fantastic ski conditions since opening weekend for the season’s strong results.
“It’s obviously great. To surpass the 2007-2008 numbers was big for us, something that has been circled on a lot of people’s walls for a long time,” Kelly said. “To get that feels really good and now it’s about sitting down and figuring out how we make sure that’s not a blip on the radar. How do we make sure that’s the new standard moving forward?”
Nightly accommodation also set record numbers throughout the resort this season. Room nights in Sun Peaks at the end of March were up 13.4 per cent over last season and 3.6 per cent over the previous record year in 2007-08.
“That 07-08 year we all had bullseyes on it for a number of years and so the opportunity to surpass that was a significant milestone for Sun Peaks and all the businesses,” said TSP president Christopher Nicolson.
It’s obviously great. To surpass the 2007-2008 numbers was big for us, something that has been circled on a lot of people’s walls for a long time
Sun Peaks is nearing a tipping point, which once a certain number of visitors is hit there will be momentum in the marketplace to help attract people, according to Nicolson.
“It’s a little bit of an intangible concept but it’s very true at every single successful destination on the globe in that once you achieve that critical mass there’s a momentum that comes from that. Wintertime is getting there, the word of mouth and people talking and recommending Sun Peaks is key,” Nicolson said.
It was a strong ski season across Western Canada, reflected in investments such as the $345 million expansion plan announced at Whistler Blackcomb. Although nothing is imminent in Sun Peaks, Kelly said a season such as this gives renewed optimism.
“When the recession hit in 2008 it was really hard times for people in the tourism industry and it was just about how do you maintain your business rather than how do you grow your business,” Kelly said. “Now with the economy picking up and visitation picking up, it’s back to the conversations about how do we grow the business, how do we make the place better and how do we continue to develop.”
Nicolson also echoed Kelly’s assessment of the impact of the low Canadian dollar attracting more guests to Sun Peaks, not only from the U.S., but also Canadians opting to stay north of the border.
“The U.S. dollar not just attracted U.S. guests up but also had a positive benefit to the business at Sun Peaks because it also kept Canadians in Canada,”Nicolson said.
The expansion of terrain to 4,270 skiable acres in 2014 to become Canada’s second largest ski area also helped market the resort to attract first time visitors.
“The second largest positioning really helped make people understand the significance in terms of the size and diversity of the terrain and quite frankly it surprised a lot of people,” Nicolson said. “The mountain’s opening of that new terrain was a big, big catalyst in pushing us over the top.”