As Sea to Sky bears prepare to go into hibernation for the winter, so, too, are all of the golf courses in the Whistler-Pemberton area.
Thanksgiving weekend is the traditional closing time for the five clubs located in the two communities. Though the final day of operations varied from course to course, the superintendent for each facility is now busy getting the grounds ready for the first snowfall.
In Whistler, the sunny weather that lasted through until mid-August helped keep tee sheets full for most of the season. Alan Kristmanson, general manager at the Whistler Golf Club, said his course had its busiest June since 2008 and that players were treated to outstanding conditions for the majority of the season.
"Up until probably the third week of August it was really good," said Kristmanson. "We had one of the wettest Septembers we've ever had, which hurt golf rounds in the resort for sure, but the rest of the season, playability and weather-wise, was amazing."
Kristmanson said the fact that the club was able to open a week ahead of schedule this season was a big highlight for his staff. The course has now had two full seasons since new, bent-grass greens were installed and Kristmanson said the putting surfaces are holding up tremendously.
"The greens project has made a huge difference in the guest experience," he said. "They've been absolutely perfect. I played in a bunch of pro events this year in Vancouver and a lot of times the feedback I got from a lot of guys was that they were the best greens they'd putted on all year ... so it was great to hear that."
The season was similar over at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course, which saw a steady stream of guests throughout the summer. Golf operations manager Nick Droulis said the number of rounds was up in 2013, while the club's membership also noticed an increase this year.
"We had a fantastic season," said Droulis. "The course was in amazing shape all summer long ... and there was a lot of great play for both visitors and locals.
"We want to keep building on that for next year."
Droulis said offseason preparations at the Chateau got started last week before closing, but greens crews are now fully focused on putting the course to bed.
"We started a lot of the winterization today," he said Tuesday, Oct. 15. "We're blowing out the irrigation lines and working at aerating around the golf course to make sure that it opens up in great shape again in the spring."
Up in Pemberton, Big Sky Golf and Country Club still had members strolling the fairways on Tuesday for their final rounds of the season. The Spud Valley had its share of sunshine this summer as well — perhaps too much at times, said Big Sky general manager Chris Wallace.
"With that long, hot stretch, sometimes it was a little too hot for golf," laughed Wallace. "I left there one night and it was still 34 degrees at eight o'clock. That was one of the longest hot stretches I've ever seen since I've been up there, and I've been there since Day 1.
"Other than that, we had a really good spring, good fall and the summer wasn't bad."
Big Sky superintendent Mark Drain was following behind players on Tuesday aerating greens as the course looks ahead to a big 2014. The Robert Cupp-designed course will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, and Wallace said his team plans to mark the milestone appropriately.
"There are a few things we're working on (for 2014) and by the end of November we'll probably finalize a lot of the things we're working on," he said. "We're looking forward to next year and our 20-year anniversary."