Winter visitation a ‘tale of two seasons,’ but busier summer expected

After years of obstacles, Sun Peaks tourism looks to be on an upward trend

The mountain may have had a slow start this winter, but a Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) official says a busy summer season could be ahead.

Aidan Kelly, SPR’s chief marketing officer, said this winter was a “tale of two seasons.” In the first couple of months the resort was open, many complications slowed business. Road closures to the Lower Mainland, the Omicron variant and a Christmastime cold snap meant less visitors than usual were on the mountain.

“The first half of our season was about as tough as it could get without being fully shut down,” Kelly said. “Having all three of those things sort of happen in close proximity had a real impact.”

Kelly said downswing carried through to January, when SPR would typically see a lot of international travelers. However, by the Family Day weekend in February, visitation was strong again for the remainder of the season.

Kelly said visitation this winter was about 10 per cent lower than where SPR would have liked to be, but added it was much better than SPR saw the past two years during the pandemic. He added season pass numbers were especially strong.

“It was primarily rubber tire traffic — not a ton of people flying in,” Kelly said. “But many of those folks were first time visitors, so I think that bodes well for the future. The story of Sun Peaks, the brand that we hang our hat on and the word of mouth continues to grow.”

Arlene Schieven, CEO of Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP), had similar comments on how accommodations filled up over the winter. TSP had a lot of cancellations in the early season, but Schieven said the number of March bookings were close to pre-pandemic times.

“That was definitely a positive note and a sign of things to come,” Schieven said. “If we don’t have any natural disasters or unexpected events happen, then certainly the demand is there.”

Looking forward to summer, Schieven said it’s still early to tell how busy Sun Peaks will be. So far bookings are much higher than last year, but still lower than pre-pandemic.

Schieven said she thinks once summer gets closer and TSP pushes more marketing, bookings will pick up.

“We’ve got a lot of things coming up on the event side, and hopefully that will help,” Schieven said. “A lot of it is focused around music, but we’ll have some of the other events that we’ve had in the past returning.”

Kelly also said he hopes momentum from the end of winter season will carry through to summer, especially with the announcement of the bike park expansion and new trails. He said there seems to be excitement for the bike park opening earlier than usual this year, which is a good sign.

In addition, Kelly said SPR has already been receiving a number of tee time bookings and inquiries about golfing this summer.

“When you combine the good news stories of mountain biking and golf here at the resort with the return of events and gatherings, which we’re hopeful rolls through this summer, then I think we should see a good season overall.”

Kelly said they are being “cautiously optimistic,” adding it’s nice to have some positivity for the season ahead. 

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the last few years, but we feel we’re on a bit of an upward trend now,” he said. “We’ll see how it all comes together.”

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