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Interior ski resorts bullish on 2010-2011 season

Skier numbers expected to rise as economy recovers

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However, holding the attention of locals through the winter is a bit of a challenge.

"One thing you might not know is that we have 13 flights a week out of Kelowna heading to Mexico," he said. "Our pass holders might ski 20 or 30 times, and when spring break rolls around they leave for the sun."

Something else that makes Big White and Silver Star unique is the fact that much of the accommodation, food service and retail is managed by the resort rather than separate companies. Ballingall says that allows those resorts to better craft packages for guests - something he says guests have noticed.

"They know that we can look after them from airport to airport, and on our side we can easily understand any glitches with a holiday and get on it pretty quick," said Ballingall.

"We're the little boutique resort up the road, and we're a little bit different. You have to see it and experience it... and I think when you come to us you can relax more. We send ski school instructors to your condo to pick up your kids for ski school lessons, which is just one example - when you're smaller you can really do things like that. Our ski school runs carnivals every Thursday and Saturday. We have mascot races, bingo nights, Wii nights - Whistler lets the rest of the resort take care of the entertainment, but we have to be that entertainment. Your ski instructor from the day may be holding your kids' hand at the tube park or on the skating rink. It's more like a Club Med approach."

Both Nicolson and Ballingall are adamant that they're supportive of Whistler Blackcomb even though they are in competition, and believe that having a premiere ski resort in the province helps their cause.

For example, Ballingall says Whistler Blackcomb's marketing machine has paved the way for their own marketing programs. They've followed Whistler into several markets, from the U.K. to Mexico, understanding that people will come to ski Whistler but may visit their resorts on the same trip or a future trip to the province.

"We're proud to be the little brother," he said. "We never thought we could compete directly against Whistler just because of the resort's magnitude and size, but we do think we offer a different product."

Overall, he says that resorts need to work together and be supportive of one another, as the industry depends on bringing new skiers and boarders to the slopes.

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