Motorists contend with another November snow storm Monday morning.

Another La Nina: good for tourism, bad for city budget

Another snowy La Nina winter presents challenges for city budget but should attract tourists to Revelstoke.

In case you haven’t heard, it’s official – this will be another La Nina winter, meaning colder temperatures and, most likely, lots of snow.

“It tends to mean in general that winters are one or two degrees colder than average,” said Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with Environment Canada. “If it’s colder than average, then you guys in Revelstoke will mostly get it as snow.”

“Duh!” you might say, after two Environment Canada snowfall warnings blanketed Revelstoke in snow over the past week.

For the City of Revelstoke, another winter of heavy snowfall could make for another round of budget challenges.

Last year the snow removal budget initially sat at $786,000. That number was blown through in February and surpassed $1 million by the end of winter.

The snow removal budget for 2011 was increased to $1,258,100 in the final budget. Prior to the two most recent snowfalls, the city had spent $1,086,066 of that, according to the city’s director of finance Graham Inglis.

For 2012, the the department of public works is looking at budgeting close to the same amount – about $400,000 more than the $848,100 called for in the current five-year plan, said Brian Mallett, the city’s director of engineering and public works.

“Hopefully we don’t have to spend it and we can put that excess into our reserve fund,” he said.

For Mayor David Raven, the city has no choice but to spend the money on snow removal.

“The health and safety of the community require we do that, and to a higher level because of the tourism base that we’ve got now,” he said. “You have to look like a professional town.”

For tourism operators, the prospect of another snowy winter is nothing but a good thing – even though it caused numerous highway closures as a result of avalanche control last winter.

“All you can do is try and anticipate,” said Thom Tischik, the director of the Revelstoke Accommodation Association. “I think the hotel and business owners in town, we’re used to it. We know January can have those issues and you can never completely prepare but you do the best you can.”

Brydon Roe, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, said La Nina is good for business.

“One of the reasons I think we have a really good year coming is because of La Nina last year, so I think it’s really good for business.”

Access challenges can be avoided by flying into Kelowna rather than Calgary, he added.

Added Thom Tischik: “The more snow the better, that’s what we want. We’ve been to trade shows in Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle and Saskatoon, and people are talking about Revelstoke like crazy. They all want to come here.”