British Columbia

B.C. ski resorts hope for another record year on the slopes

After a banner year last season, ski resort operators across B.C. are getting ready for another winter, hoping that the crowds that helped break records last year return.

'Pray for snow,' says Big White resort VP

Skiers stand at the top of Big White ski resort Feb. 2, 2005 near Kelowna, B.C. Last year, the resort saw record crowds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot (Canadian Press)

After a banner year last season, ski resort operators across B.C. are hoping that the crowds that helped break records last year return for more.

And despite the sport's reputation as a pricey winter pursuit, some ski resorts have reduced lift ticket prices this year for season passes.

At Big White resort in Kelowna, for example, early bird prices for annual passes dropped by $100 from last season to $629 this year. Whistler's annual pass dropped from $1,999 to $1,649.

However, the price of a single day on the slopes is inching closer to the $100-a-day mark at many large resorts. Most prices are just over $90 per day, but some of those prices will rise during the holiday season.

Individual lift tickets for Vancouver's North Shore mountains are generally cheaper than the larger resorts with prices around the $60 mark.

Resorts wait for snow

Meanwhile, Whistler Blackcomb opened this week, and others plan to follow suit.

Grouse Mountain, on the North Shore, has received 31 centimetres of snow in the last 48 hours. Spokeswoman Julia Grant said the slopes will open as soon as there is enough snow, but was not more specific as to a date.

Whistler Blackcomb opened this week and other B.C. ski resorts plan to follow suit as soon as the weather cooperates. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

In the B.C. Interior, Big White's senior vice-president, Michael J. Ballingall, said it appears the resort is on track for another record-breaking season.

Ballingall said accommodations for the holiday season have been sold out for three weeks, which doesn't usually happen this early.

Big White is scheduled to open Dec. 3, he said, but it will open sooner if the weather cooperates.

"Pray for snow," Ballingall said.

Doug MacFarlane, director of operations at Whistler Blackcomb said stormy weather over the last week brought enough snow to open the resort early.

"It's snowy and windy and winter," MacFarlane said. "It's powder skiing."

He said both mountains were busy. "It definitely got busier [Thursday]. People showed up in droves to get up the mountain and get their first days under their belt."