News » Whistler

Weathering the weather

Hours cut, but businesses working to keep employees on, guests coming back

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"We’re still fighting the good fight," said Cougar Mountain general manager Eric Sinclair. "Some of the things we’re doing are weather related, but right now our biggest challenge is to get the word out that we’re still running.

"We run into the same kind of problems in the springtime, too."

Because of the location of their tenure in the Soo Valley, Sinclair says the dogsled trails are still in good shape, with seven teams available. In addition, they are running two snowmobile tours – one for experienced sledders that starts with a Hummer ride to the higher elevations, and a beginner tour on a trail lower in the valley.

Cougar is also renting a snowmaking machine to patch up pockets of snow that have been hit by the rain, after asking Whistler-Blackcomb for advice.

Business is down slightly in recent days, but with a few changes Sinclair says he is happy with the amount of business.

Staff hours have been cut, and some staff members have had to get part-time jobs, but nobody has been laid off. "A small percentage of our workforce is job-sharing… but we’re holding onto everyone. As conditions improve with colder temperatures, we expect things to get busier," said Sinclair.

Bringing people back to Whistler will be a challenge, he continued.

"We’re paddling upstream, and the more effort we put in now the better off we’re going to be," he said. "There’s a perception out there that the conditions can’t be that good, but if you talk to the guests you hear a different story.

"One of our partners, Yes Tours, said that even when it was raining, the guests said it was still better skiing than where they came from. We have to get out of this black hole we dig for ourselves when it rains or the conditions aren’t good, and see things from the customer’s point of view. The snow is better than in most places, we’ve got great restaurants, a great nightlife, great hotels, and everyone is offering policies that people are very appreciative of. Perception is everything."

Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb are doing more to ensure that people see the conditions up top, and don’t make decisions based on the conditions at the bottom. The snow phone now mentions snowfall in the alpine, as well as the conditions in the sub-alpine around the weather stations, and they have included recent pictures on their websites.

"It’s important to be honest, and show people that this isn’t a normal season for us. At the same time, being completely honest, things are better than most people probably realize. That’s what we’re trying to get across," said Comeau Thompson.