As the holiday season drifts to a close, local businesses are reaping the benefits of what many are describing as one of the busiest periods the resort has ever seen.
“Everyone is very busy, that is for sure… From the hotels’ perspective, I think certainly we are having one of the best seasons,” said Saad Hasan, chair of the Hotel Association of Whistler.
While Tourism Whistler isn’t yet able to confirm the exact number of visitors that the resort has seen this month, communications manager Patricia Westerholm said bookings were on pace to match those from last year’s Christmas and New Year’s period — keeping in mind last winter’s holiday season helped contribute to a record-breaking year for Whistler in terms of occupancy. “December 2015 was a strong month, outperforming the 10-year average,” she said, in an email.
Mother Nature may be at least in part to thank. Mountain traffic hit a peak on Friday (Dec. 30), when the rare combination of blue, sunny skies and 40 centimetres of fresh snow from the day before proved too attractive for most in town to pass up.
“It has been a fantastic holiday season…. We are enjoying some fabulous conditions on the mountain with lots of happy guests as we head into the New Year,” said Lauren Everest, Whistler Blackcomb’s public relations and communications manager.
As many grumbled on social media and throughout town, time spent enjoying sunny powder laps was limited due to the extra-long holiday-induced lift lines — not to mention highway traffic jams. One photo posted to social media displayed a queue for the Creekside Gondola stretching all the way back to the Creekside Starbucks, while another showed an even longer Whistler Village Gondola line that extended far past Black’s Pub.
But the ski hill isn’t the only local attraction that’s been booming this holiday season. Local tour companies are also seeing the effects of this year’s holiday influx, with some tour operators citing the past couple of weeks as the busiest in memory.
“We have had an outstanding holiday season. Great staff — new and old — (and) lots of snow,” said Canadian Wilderness Adventures general manager Craig Beattie. “It has been a great December. With the American dollar so strong and the snow so incredible I can only imagine what 2017 will bring.”
With the large amount of snowfall Whistler’s seen this winter and more buying power for those visiting from south of the border, the resort has become an even more popular place to celebrate this year.
“For sure there is the economic driver as well,” Hasan said. “I think the economies are doing quite well, and there is certainly this desire to do things outside; to do more adventure sports. There’s a generational shift that’s going on with that as well. Also, if you see some of the European resorts, they don’t have as good of snow as we do.”
Whatever factors are drawing visitors to Whistler, Westerholm said locals should expect this busyness to continue. “Bookings for the month of January are pacing well ahead of last year,” she said.