Adventure tour operators are optimistic heading into this season, despite the concerns about snowpack and the economy. Many are already open, and a few are ahead of where they were at this time last year.
Alan Crawford of Canadian Snowmobile Adventure said last week they are now open for snowmobile tours, and are expecting to start their second season of dogsled tours this week.
“It did take a little while to get going because of the lack of snow, but (guest numbers over) the last few days have been up to par with previous years,” he said. “All of our tours are open, except for our most advanced backcountry tours, where we’re waiting to get a bit more snow. We also have a new base about six and a half kilometres up the Callaghan Road, which is a little higher in elevation, and the Callaghan generally gets a lot more snow than we do in the Whistler Valley. The bottom is a bit bony in places, but last time I checked we had a metre of snow on our trails around Sproatt, and on our upper trails.”
They have been running trails on snowmobile-groomed tracks, but cat grooming started on Saturday — mainly to prepare the road for the snow in the forecast this week.
As well, Crawford says the company is eager to start dogsledding tours this week, a new adventure offering by the company since last February. They would already be running, says Crawford, but they needed a little more time to finish the kennels and train the dogs.
“We’re already getting calls every day about those tours, so there’s a fair amount of interest,” he said. “We may have to run on some higher trails if we don’t get more snow, but the forecast is looking pretty good for us.”
Both CSA and Blackcomb Snowmobile Adventures signed new tenure agreements with the province as a result of the Olympic Games. The plans overlapped their tenure areas, but they were compensated by being given new tenures as well as the ability to operate base areas higher up the Callaghan Valley, where snow is less of a problem.
Kim Wilson, who owns and operates Blackcomb Snowmobiles with her husband Shawn, said their snowmobile tours bookings are on par with last year, which was a good one for the operator. Their dogsled tours are ahead of last year at this point, despite the fact they opened a little later.
“For us, we don’t need a tonne of snow to operate,” she said. “I think the mountains like to have new snow for skiing, but it doesn’t make that big a difference except in the alpine and our extreme tours, which aren’t running right now. But most guests that come out want to ride the trails. The upside is that the views have been great — it’s cold, we tell them, but it’s been clear and the views are breathtaking.”