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BC ski areas look to move Family Day

new civic holiday set to fall on one of busiest ski weekends in february



Winter long weekends are good for ski resorts but when everyone heads for the hills over the same three days it can drive up prices and leave some people out in the cold.

That's why a number of members of Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) are quietly bending the ear of government in an effort to have the new Family Day in B.C., set for the third Monday in February beginning next year, moved.

"There have been some discussions on that subject," confirmed David Lynn, CWSAA's president and CEO, which supports the Western Canadian ski industry including members like Whistler Blackcomb.

"I wouldn't say that we've formed a specific opinion on what an alternate date would be, but there's a consensus amongst the major ski resorts that it would be in the best interests of the industry and the province overall to have it on a different day."

The new B.C. stat holiday was announced during the 2011 throne speech by premier Christy Clark. The first Family Day is set for Feb. 19, 2013.

The issue for the ski industry is that the new long weekend falls on one of the busiest ski weekends of the season. It is the same time as Presidents Day in the U.S., and three other provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario — all have long weekends on the third weekend in February.

Whistler Blackcomb is happy to have the long weekend but would be even happier if it was on a different date.

"We would love to see the day moved," said Stuart Rempel, Whistler Blackcomb's senior vice president of marketing and sales, who was on a conference call Monday with ski areas across the province where the general consensus was that Family Day would be better on another date.

"This isn't just about Whistler Blackcomb," he added, with sounds of kids breaking from ski school in the background. "We think it's about ski resorts in general, both the day ski areas and the destination areas."

The issue was highlighted over the past weekend as crowds flocked to Whistler, and other resorts, to enjoy the long weekend, and the great snow conditions.

"We had really good snow conditions over the weekend at a number of our resorts," said Lynn. "I know that some of them were basically sold out...A lot of these guys have just had a great weekend and said, 'look, I'm pretty much maxed out so if you make this a B.C. holiday that's kind of a wasted opportunity."

Rempel said while it's about providing a great guest experience on the one hand, it's also about giving more people the chance to ski.

And more people in the resorts means more money in provincial coffers.

"At the end of the day we believe it will mean more revenue for the provincial government," said Rempel.

To do his part, Whistler resident Jim Watts is planning to contact local MLA Joan McIntyre to lobby for the date change.

"Traditionally it's always been a peak part of the winter season and very difficult to get a room up here," said Watts, who owns and operates fastPark, a parking operations company.

This weekend he said the company was close to peak on Saturday, and Sunday seemed busier in terms of day traffic.

"If we just moved (Family Day) a week one way or the other we'd probably have a lot more room and we'd be giving a lot better experience to our guests," said Watts.

While CWSAA is not officially lobbying government, Lynn does not rule out the organization doing something more formal in the coming weeks.

"It's great to have another holiday," he said. "Everyone sees that as a positive but from a ski industry perspective, from a tourism perspective and from the perspective of maximizing economic activity in tax revenues, it would be better if that was a different day.

"If that holiday does get moved to another weekend, then we look at it and say 'wow that's two really strong weekends,'... and that makes a big difference for a lot of our members."