News » Whistler

Christmas cheer gives way to January blues



Holiday numbers have been solid but some businesses worried about new year

If you’ve felt that there’s been more room to carve your turns on the mountains, more room to strut your stuff in the village, and a better chance of getting a room at the last minute in one of the resort’s posh hotels you’re right on the money.

However, those lamentable facts mean that others are not in the money and some businesses in the resort are worried about what the next few weeks will mean for Whistler.

"We are very, very nervous about January," said Sandy Black of the Affinity Group, which owns Affinity Sports Rentals and several other retail and service outlets in Whistler.

"We think that come Jan. 5 th it is going to be like somebody flipped a switch. Typically the first two to three weeks of January are slow for us anyway, now add to that the (strong Canadian) dollar, our competition situation, and all the other things and we could be in for a tough three or four weeks."

Black believes the high cost of the resort and the amenities it offers, international events, the strong dollar, strong competition from other local and regional ski hills, and a falling number of destination travellers are amounting to some serious challenges for Whistler.

Sun Peaks in the Interior announced that it broke its visitors-per-day record on Dec 28 th hosting 5,300 guests. Tickets there are just $55 a day for an adult. One package deal offers one night’s accommodation and a lift ticket for $89.

"We just all need to pay attention to the value of this place and pay attention to balance," said Black.

"We need to pay attention to the regional guest. I think we need to spend more time on the Vancouver guest and I think we also need to continue to cater to the destination guest.

"We have a great experience here, probably one of the best in North America. But a $71 lift ticket is expensive. You go to dinner and it’s tough to find an entrée for under $25. I had an $8 beer the other day. We all collectively need to look at this and rentals the same.

"The world has changed. It is a different place. We had orange security alerts in the U.S. through Christmas, SARS, mad cow, the strong dollar, and we are expensive, and we are hard to get to and there are fewer destination travellers out there.

"Add all that together and we’ve got a problem."