Okanagan ski resort officials displeased with Family Day roll-out

From one peak of the Okanagan to the other, resort officials have raised concerns

If one thing was made abundantly clear this Family Day weekend, the provincial government’s decision to align B.C.’s holiday with the rest of the province is not well-loved by those running ski resorts.

From one peak of the Okanagan to the other, resort officials have raised concerns about the way it was going to roll out and they felt validated Tuesday once the powder had settled.

“I haven’t done my comparison from this BC Family Day to previous ones, but I know it was incredibly busy this weekend,” said James Shalman, general manager, of Apex Resort.

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Apex, the resort closest to Penticton, did a 50 per cent ticket sale for the Monday of the holiday to allow more people to ski affordably, but Shalman isn’t sure they’d go that route again.

The traffic was already too intense.

Over at Silver Star, near Vernon, the sentiment was the same. They also went ahead with a 50 per cent discount on the holiday Monday in an effort to “support family day,” and Chantelle Deacon said the resort ran at capacity this weekend. The old Family Day weekend, however, was less stellar.

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“Before we had two holiday weekends, B.C.’s holiday weekend and Alberta’s Family Day and President’s Day,” Deacon said. “Having everything in one weekend … it doesn’t make up for the loss (on the other weekend.)”

Michael J. Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort, said it was damaging to more than just resorts.

More than half of Big White accomodation was booked by Americans and the rest by out-of-province visitors, not giving the residents of B.C. a chance to stay at the resort for their long-weekend.

“All they did was move B.C. to a day that is busier than New Year’s Eve or Christmas on the mountain,” said Ballingall.

READ ALSO: EYEING UP RESORT HOMES

“People are used to doing this on Family Day long-weekend, now it’s moved for the first time. On top of that, the biggest problem this year is people from B.C., who started (calling) in late November, December and January to book, we couldn’t accommodate them. There’s no room.”

Ballingall said before the weekend was over they knew the resort lost between $700,000 to $800,000 from the holiday being moved.

“The big deal is that it worked really well when the days were separated from a resort perspective,” said Ballingall. “People were able to travel within province and enjoy a non-stressful Family Day long-weekend.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan called the decision the right thing to do for businesses, small and large, and for families who may be spread out across the country.

“This gives families an opportunity to schedule and spend more time with loved ones from other provinces,” Horgan said.

Tourism Kelowna supported B.C. Family Day staying on the second Monday of February as it created economic benefits for local tourism businesses.

“The staggered holidays gave tourism businesses an additional opportunity to increase visitation and generate revenue,” said a representative of the organization.

“As a result of this change, Kelowna and local tourism businesses will now compete with other destinations for visitors during this weekend.

“We will factor this change into future destination marketing plans to increase overnight visitation to Kelowna and area.”

The push to have the dates changed was influenced by several fronts. The finance industry complained about Family Day occurring when the Toronto Stock Exchange was open, then working the following Monday when the market is closed. As well, federal employees in B.C. don’t get the day off.

The United B.C. Family Day petition initially launched in 2015 boasted 20,000 signatures as of last year, and was publicly supported by Green Party leader Andrew Weaver. The switch also had the support of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

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