Whitewater fared better than most ski hills last year

Whitewater weathering El Nino

While season pass sales have stalled, there’s potential for increased visitors to the ski hill near Nelson and Ymir.

Last year’s lackluster snow season and forecasts that this winter will be similar are having a predictable effect on season pass sales at ski resorts.

Whitewater marketing director Rebeckah Hornung said this is the first year there has been no growth in season pass sales since the Glory Chair opened in 2010.

But she said when there is a less than stellar ski season, it’s a historical trend in the industry for season pass sales to be affected the following year.

Knowing this, she said they have been proactive.

“That’s why we joined the Powder Alliance,” said Hornung, explaining that it gives Whitewater pass holders three free day passes at 13 resorts which equals 39 potential free ski days. The closest participating resorts are Vernon’s Silver Star and Schweitzer Mountain near Sandpoint, Idaho (there are blackout dates typically focused around holidays).

She said the alliance benefits work two-fold as it can drive more clientele to our region as other hill pass holders may visit, which can benefit local businesses as well.

Whitewater also left their early bird rates at the same price as the 2014/15 season.

They also are working  to improve the overall skier experience on the mountain, Hornung said. They acted on people’s request for brushing, done each year in the late summer into the fall to be the most effective.

Whitewater is building a yurt for the community youth mountain education centre, which is used by the Whitewater Ski Team and avalanche awareness program Beyond the Boundaries for youth 13 to 18. And they continue to improve the lodge siding, and the Silver King chair off ramp to make it easier for beginners to off load.

Whitewater celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with some special events as well.

Whitewater fared far better than many resorts last winter, Hornung said, which could be attributed to their higher elevation which at the lodge base is 1,626 m.

“Whitewater had one of the highest snow packs in the northwest last season,” Hornung said, and that is without any snow making.  “Twenty five ski resorts in the northwest last year did not open at all or closed early. We were open for 100 days.”

The strong American dollar means skiers and boarders from south of the border will be looking at Canadian resorts, and Whitewater could be just the place.

“We’re definitely working our marketing into the Pacific Northwest,” said Hornung, who just returned from touring the region and a consumer show in Toronto.

“Winter will come,” said Hornung, who in a blog post noted that the 1997 El Nino brought  one of the largest snow seasons on record at Whitewater, when it accumulated 596 cm.

Opening day is set for Dec. 4, conditions permitting. Prior to that, the Whitewater Ski Team will hold its annual ski swap Nov. 8 at Hume School.

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