Winter turns a corner

OSV OpeningThe 2012-13 winter season at Sun Peaks will go down as one of the more successful seasons in recent years.

Off the back of a very successful summer — which saw the largest number of visitors in one summer day, the most chairlift passengers in one summer day and growth in overnight occupancy — winter occupancy was up by seven per cent on the 2011-12 season.

“It’s been the best winter since the 2008 global economic crisis,” says Christopher Nicolson, president of Tourism Sun Peaks. “We’re encouraged by the significant growth this winter and especially by the increased awareness levels in our key markets.”

The start of winter saw an increase in the number of teams training at the Nancy Greene International Race Training Centre and after the Winter Festival of Wine, Nicolson confirmed that many events sold out faster than in previous years. The first B.C. Family Day weekend in February also led to increased occupancy numbers. All of these successes were capped by Sun Peaks being named in the top two Best Canadian Ski Destinations by Canadian Living Magazine.

Snow conditions were a clear draw-card this season, with numerous powder days and a mid-mountain snow base of 200 centimetres, a feat only achieved three times since the resort began recording mid-mountain snow depths in 1972.

“It’s not only been a great snow year,” says Anne Haight, director of sales and marketing for Sun Peaks Resort Corporation. “It’s been a great year for people to get out and enjoy it.”

And while the tourism industry at Sun Peaks may have seen healthy increases in numbers, there’s still concern from businesses in the hospitality and retail industries that the increase in foot traffic hasn’t necessarily translated into sales.

“If I compare the customer count and the average in spending per head, it’s of course not where it was in 2007 and in 2008,” said local restaurant owner Peter Ernst, adding that those years before the global financial crisis were exceptional.

“We’re on the right track . . . . But still compared to a good year at Sun Peaks, which I would consider 2006, perhaps spending is still down,” Ernst said.

Ernst agreed that awareness of Sun Peaks as a tourism destination has increased and said that local businesses need to keep focussing on producing quality products for spending to increase.

“Even in tougher times, if the product is right (even) if people have only so much disposable income, they’ll want to come to Sun Peaks,” Ernst concluded.

Following the announcement that Burton Cummings will perform at a free outdoor concert at Sun Peaks on July 13, the summer events listings have been released and acts performing at the summer concert series are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. SPIN will provide up to date coverage on our website and in our next issue.

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