Canadian ski resorts optimistic, given early snowfall and cheap currency
Some western resorts say bookings from U.S. are up 80% over last year
Early, deep snow and a cheap currency are boosting hopes for a blizzard of profits at ski destinations across Canada this year.
Matt Mosteller, senior vice-president for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, says hotel and skiing packages booked by U.S. customers at its four Alberta and B.C. resorts are up 80 per cent over the same time last year.
"It comes down to three things right now that are really at play: snow, value and real experience," he said.
"With the deep snow and the Canadian 'peso,' it's an unbelievable recipe for success with the U.S. market."
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He said the company's Kicking Horse Mountain Resort at Golden, B.C., for instance, has experienced an early season record 3.35 metres of snow.
Packages being snapped up by American guests are typically four to seven days in length, Mosteller said, and the price for hotel rooms, lift tickets and equipment rentals typically adds up to between $500 and $1,000 per person.
He wouldn't give specific numbers but said the advance bookings by Americans are in the thousands at the four resorts.
The Canadian loonie, at par with the American greenback four years ago, is worth about 75 cents US, slightly higher than 12 months ago.
The early snow in Western Canada allowed Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort near Banff, Alta., to open on Nov. 3, its earliest opening in over 30 years.
Christopher Nicolson, president of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, said members representing about 130 large and small ski areas from B.C. to Manitoba are reporting increases in early bookings of 15 per cent or more.
"There's a high level of optimism for a really good winter," he said.
He added major resorts in Western Canada last year recorded 8.4 million skier visits, the highest number since nine million in 2007-08.
The Weather Network has predicted abundant snowfall this winter in the Rockies and normal snowfall on the Prairies. Southern Ontario and Quebec are expected to have more snow storms after a dry winter last year.
Blue Mountain ski resort in Collingwood, Ont., north of Toronto, couldn't open last year until Dec. 30, the latest start on record. This year, it started welcoming guests on Dec. 11.
"We're happy to see that winter is here," said spokeswoman Tara Lovell.
"We've had a drop in temperatures that has been pretty consistent so that's favourable for snowmaking which a lot of Ontario resorts rely on ... (and) we've had quite a bit of natural snowfall."
More U.S. interest
She said the resort is seeing more interest from American skiers this year and is fully booked over the Christmas period.
Mont-Tremblant, north of Montreal, opened Nov. 24 this year thanks to snowmaking as well as fresh snow. At Christmas last year it had yet to see any accumulation of natural snow.
In a recent study based on airline ticket sales by U.S. travel agencies, Airlines Reporting Corp. said it expects a 10 per cent increase in American air travel for ski vacations through Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal during the November-to-March ski season.
Sheila Rivers, spokeswoman for Mount Washington Ski Resort on Vancouver Island, said fewer than two per cent of its guests are from the U.S. because of its location, but local skiers have driven sales of season passes this year up by 20 per cent to about 4,800.
The resort was forced by warm weather to close early in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, but a full season with good snow conditions last year has encouraged more interest from local skiers, she said.