Far fewer snowmobilers than expected showed up at the grand opening of the Boulder Mountain cabin in January as a result of highway closures. The closures helped offset the boom that could have been expected from this year’s high snowfall totals.

The good, the bad and the snowy of winter tourism

The bountiful snowfall Revelstoke received this winter was both a boon and a plague on Revelstoke’s tourism industry. While it meant for great skiing and sledding conditions, numerous avalanche closures resulted in slower business and, on top of that, conditions elsewhere were great, meaning people weren’t travelling all the way to Revelstoke to get their fix of snow.

“I think we had a pretty good winter even considering the highway closures. That did impact a lot of the accommodations and restaurants,” said Greg Lister, the tourism marketing coordinator.

(Note: The Times Review is aware winter isn’t over in the mountains – Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) is open for two more weekends and there’s still plenty of snow up high for snowmobiling and backcountry skiing but the peak of the winter tourism season is passed.)

What do the numbers look like?

Skier visits at Revelstoke Mountain Resort as of last week were even with last year’s numbers, with the resort expecting to surpass them in the last three weekends of the season. The resort didn’t provide hard figures.

“There were three road closures that had a significant impact on the community and resort businesses,” wrote Rod Kessler, the resort’s vice president and chief operating officer, in an e-mail.

The main source of decline was in the number of snowmobilers coming to town. According to Angela Threatful, the executive director of the Snowmobile Revelstoke Society, the numbers are down, though she said final numbers would not be available until a month after the season ended.

She attributed the decline to the struggling American economy, the high dollar and huge snowfalls elsewhere.

“If there is lots of snow everywhere, sledders don’t have to travel quite as far,” she said. “They ride areas that they haven’t ridden as often.  Golden has noticed lower than usual snowmobiling numbers as well.”

At the visitor centre on Campbell Avenue, 1,142 people stopped in for information between Dec. 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011 – down from 1,468 in the same period a year ago.

According to the statistics, the biggest decline was in overseas visitors – the number of Europeans, Asians and Australians stopping in dropped to 228 this winter from 311 last winter. The number of North Americans stopping by the visitor centre dropped to 222 from 248.

Lister said the numbers can’t be taken as a proper gauge of how many people are in town because a lot of tourists don’t visit the centre, but that it can give an idea of demographics of who’s coming.

On the plus side, Thom Tischik, the head of the Revelstoke Accommodation Association, said that revenue from the hotel tax was up by 10 per cent in January 2011 over January 2010, despite multiple closures on the Trans-Canada through the Kicking Horse, Rogers and Eagle Passes.

He said the increase could be attributed to a combination of higher prices, more visitors, events like the Freeskiing World Tour and huge snow falls that month.

“It’s pretty spectacular to be up even though the roads were closed for four or five days that month,” Tischik said. That certainly shows we can recover.”

As well, hotel room revenue was up in December 2010 compared to December 2009, rising to $1.43 million from $1.27 million, according to BC Stats. Numbers for the rest of the winter are not available.

Of course, there’s still lots of snow out there and RMR is open for two more weekends.

“For our association we’ll be focusing on getting those snowmobilers because the snow is still awesome up there,” said Tischik.

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