Wildfire smoke not so hot for tourism businesses on B.C.'s South Coast

The impacts of lingering wildfire smoke are especially felt in places along the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, where spectacular views are the main draw.

Sea-to-Sky Gondola takes big ridership hit; kiteboarding operator cancels 70% of lessons this week

Sea to Sky Kiteboarding in Squamish has been having a quiet week, owner Jason Maartense said, because of the lingering wildfire smoke. (CBC)

A dark cloud is hanging over some South Coast tourism operators as hazy skies hamper business.

The impacts of the lingering wildfire smoke are especially felt in places along the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, where spectacular views are the main draw.

Ken Bailey with the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, which takes visitors on high-altitude sightseeing trips near Squamish, said on days of poor visibility the expected daily ridership of about 3,000 could drop by almost 50 per cent.

"We need to adjust our operating hours, our labour, our offerings to the public," Bailey said. "I think what we need to do is just be honest with the guests."

Bailey said this is the second year in a row that smoke has affected operations. He said wildfire smoke could now be an annual occurrence that might require long-term adjustments to the business.

'It's frustrating'

For kitesboarding brothers Todd and Ryan Keesey, the smoke was causing different kinds of problems.

The haze hinders the temperature gradient — a measure of temperature changes — and that kills the thermal winds they need to get their boards in motion.

"It's a bit challenging. The smoke has killed a little bit of the wind for us," said Todd, who was visiting his brother from Ottawa.

"It's frustrating. We like to be active and this is really putting a damper on everything," Ryan added.

Jason Maartense, owner of Sea to Sky Kiteboarding in Squamish, said the smoke has caused him to cancel 70 per cent of the lessons booked for this week.

"Even though you can feel a light wind right now, it's not windy enough to kiteboard," Maartense said. "We just can't take people if there's no wind."

That means rescheduling and disappointed customers.

"Everybody's excited for their lessons," he said. "It's a challenge."

With files from Tanya Fletcher

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