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Ski industry greets the changing face of Canada

One of every five Canadians was born outside the country

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“This is an important thing for us. These numbers will continue to grow, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to try to induce these communities to get into these sports.”

Although it’s challenging to get foreign-born residents with no experience skiing or snowboarding onto the slopes, the CWSAA members are having better luck selling winter sports to their children.

Spencer says the Grade 5 Snowpass program, which is good for up to three free lift tickets at each ski resort, has already been a huge success. In 2006-07 more than 35,000 kids across Canada took part, up from roughly 10,000 participants 10 years ago.

“It’s a very popular program, and it’s great to get kids into the sport at virtually no cost to them,” said Spencer. “At the same time a lot of operators are also offering their own programs to get kids to learn to ski and snowboard, like an extension of one free ticket for kids going into Grade 6, ski school programs, and programs to get the schools out.”

Spencer says the demographic shift for younger kids has been noticeable, but that operators still have a long way to go to attract Canada’s growing foreign-born populations.

“We’re all aware of it, and through groups like the Canadian Ski Council we’re working together to a degree to get more youth into the sport — not just foreign-born, but youth in general. That’s the future of the industry,” he said.

Whistler-Blackcomb is one resort that has taken steps recently to encourage more participation and introduce the sport to growing communities in the Vancouver area that are not typically into skiing and snowboarding.

“We’re definitely looking at ways to make sure skiing and snowboarding are inclusive, and is representative of the demographics of our country and how they’re shifting,” said Meredith Kemp, brand and destination marketing manager for Whistler-Blackcomb.

“For example, we’re making sure our photography represents the demographics of the country more and more to reflect the diversity we already have. We’re also getting the word out about our Learn to Ski and Snowboard week in January, and our Discover Days to introduce new people to the sport of skiing and snowboarding. We’re targeting some of our ads to different ethnic markets as a way to bring new people into the fold, and get them involved.”

According to Kemp, the “Learn To” program will run from Jan. 12 to 20 with special deals for residents on rentals and lessons. As well, Whistler-Blackcomb is again backing Discover Whistler Days from Jan. 14 to Feb. 11, offering 50 per cent off learn to ski and ride programs, and providing discounts for kids programs. The Grade 5 Snowpass program has also been successful.