December was a record-breaking month here both on the ski hills and at the airport.
A total of 150,491 passengers passed through the terminal at Kelowna International Airport last month, a 3.5 per cent increase over the number that used YLW in December 2014.
Coupled with reports that ski resorts in the Thompson Okanagan are also experiencing record-breaking numbers due to weather, exceptional snow conditions and a low Canadian dollar, the latest airport numbers have local tourism officials smiling.
Thanks to temperatures dropping in early November and a plenty of snow, many ski resorts in the B.C. southern Interior opened ahead of schedule at the end of 2015, according to the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association. Big White opened its lifts nearly two weeks earlier than expected on Nov.13.
“It’s always been the (owners) policy to open a lift as soon as snow permits and it’s safe to do so, and that’s what we (did) again this year” said Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort Ltd.
Other ski hills in the Interior also opened early, including Sun Peaks near Kamloops, SilverStar near Vernon and Apex Mountain Resort near Penticton, said TOTA.
The good snow conditions, recent holiday celebrations and a Canadian dollar that has dropped substantially in value compared with the U.S. dollar have combined to make the start of the 2015-2016 winter season one of the best for tourism in many years, added the tourism association.
As a result, B.C. Ski resorts are currently on a roll thanks to the record-breaking snowfall, higher revenues and increased visits from U.S. visitors.
Christopher Nicolson, president of Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops said his resort has seen a 16 per cent increase in bookings for February.