The dynamics of the ski industry in B.C. changed last week when the Schumann family, owners of Big White Ski Resort, announced an agreement in principle to purchase Silver Star Mountain Resort.
The deal, which is expected to be finalized next month, should produce joint marketing opportunities and some economies of scale for the two Okanagan ski areas. The resorts are about two hours apart by car and both are served by the Kelowna airport.
Judd Buchanan, majority owner of Silver Star, said the Australia-based Schumann family will be investing money in new lifts at the resort, 22 km northeast of Vernon. Dual-mountain passes may be offered and vacation packages involving both ski areas are likely to be developed.
Last month Big White announced that Westjet Airlines would be offering non-stop flights from Ottawa/Hamilton to Kelowna International Airport one day per week, from January through April of 2002. Big White is a 45 minute drive southeast of Kelowna.
Big White, with 3,890 acres of skiable terrain and 2,550 feet of vertical, stakes claim to the title of B.C.s second largest ski resort and the largest totally ski-in, ski-out resort village. Big White had 554,000 skier visits in 1999-2000 and was the first Canadian resort to open this season.
Silver Star has a vertical drop of 2,500 feet, 2,725 skiable acres and 340 acres of off-piste, unpatrolled terrain. Silver Star had 225,000 skier visits in 1999-2000.
Combined, the two resorts had close to 750,000 skier visits last winter.
"Together these two resorts will focus on attracting more visitors to the Okanagan Valley, which is world renowned for its dry, inland powder snow and as a friendly and safe family holiday destination," according to a release from Big White.
The two areas closest primary rivals for skiers are Sun Peaks, outside Kamloops, which had 220,000 skier visits in 1999-2000, and Apex, near Penticton, which had 105,000 skier visits in 1999-2000.
Buchanan was majority owner of Silver Star, with partners John Gow, John Hindle and Graham O'Connor. He will remain involved at Silver Star, where he owns two hotels properties and other on-mountain business interests.