Don’t stop skiing just yet.
That’s the message to Kelowna skiers from Big White Ski Resort vice-president Michael Ballingall.
Ballingall says the early start to spring, dating back to the latter part of February, has encouraged local residents to put away their skis in favour of their golf clubs, road bikes, water sports activities and backyard gardening tools.
The first weekend registered half as many local skiers as the weekend before, and last weekend saw those numbers fall off again.
“There is still four weeks of great skiing left to go. We just had fresh snow on Sunday, 11 centimetres, so the ski conditions are great for us,” he said, noting that Red Mountain at Rossland closed last weekend, Whistler has had a tough go of it this spring and the Lower Mainland ski hills are dry.
While Big White has felt the impact of the warmer weather with a snow base that is about 100 centimetres below normal for this time of year, he said the ski resort still sports the best snow conditions in western North America.
“Now is not the time to stop skiing. Don’t start golfing yet. We have four weeks of great skiing left in the season to go and then you play as much golf as you want.”
The tourist numbers for spring break had 1,608 ski visitors from Ontario and Hawaii, with accommodation at the rest sold out for the first five days of spring break.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Jim Loyd, sales director at Big White. “I’ve spent the last few days helping eager skiers and snowboarders collect their luggage, get on the buses at the airport and get up to the resort.”
Ballingall said he’s hearing from skiers now about how they ski in the morning and then go golfing in the afternoon, something he says is unique to Kelowna.
“For our tourists coming here from Ontario, Hawaii, other parts of B.C. and the northwest U.S., road biking is becoming more popular than golf,” added Ballingall, who applauded the efforts of Air Canada and WestJet to accommodate the demands of Ontario passengers in particular who wanr to bring their ski equipment and road bikes with them to Big White.
“I’ve even talked to our young ski club racers who ski on a Saturday morning and then head down to Okanagan Lake to do some wake boarding. There are not many places where you can do that.”
Ballingall said the ski season for Big White will end April 12.