Skip to content

Okanagan region gearing up for strong winter tourism season

'A lot of the snowbirds that ... used to maybe go to the United States are seeing this as a better value.'
The Falcon chairlift at Big White Ski Resort

Despite many Canadians living simpler lives due to sky-high inflation rates, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) anticipates a strong winter season.

"A lot of the snowbirds that come to this part of the world and used to maybe go to the United States are seeing this as a better value," said Ellen Walker-Mathews, chief executive officer of TOTA.

"So we are seeing some good numbers starting to percolate out of many of our destinations with domestic market individuals."

Walker-Mathews says Pacific Coastal Airlines has also increased the number of flights into the region.

"We have got new flights in Kamloops, Kelowna, and starting in January, new flights into Penticton," she said.

Although Big White Ski Resort has yet to open, bookings have started to roll in.

Big White Ski Resort senior vice-president and TOTA board chair Michael J. Ballingall says all that is needed now is snow.

"We need some more storms. We are very nervous about opening day. We are hoping that this weekend...the storms that are coming from the Pacific will deliver 30 to 40 centimetres, and if that is the case, we will be in a much better condition than we are right now," Ballingall said.

Big White has a current snow base of 35 centimetres. Ballingall says about 65 to 75 centimetres is needed to open.

Currently, Big White is scheduled to open on Nov. 23.

Sun Peaks Ski Resort outside Kamloops is going ahead with its opening day on Nov. 18 with a mid-mountain base of just 30 cm. Only two runs will be open to start.

At Big White, Ballingall says bookings for Christmas and New Years "are incredibly positive."

"We are going to introduce a special ticket...Black Friday to Cyber Monday. It will be the cheapest ticket that we have ever offered in the market for Christmas and New Years, so people should stay tuned for that. Prices of groceries, mortgages... that concerns all of us too. So we are going to give a break for the local audience and those visiting," he said.

An announcement on the Big White deal will be made public in the coming weeks.