Skip to content

A bright side to less snow for Squamish businesses

Bad skiing conditions in Whistler have increased visitors to Squamish businesses in some cases, but may have reduced traffic in others.
At the Britannia Mine Museum, visitation numbers from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2 increased by 67% compared with the previous season.

Whistler's pain, in some cases, could be Squamish's gain.

While this season's El Nino winter is resulting in poorer-than-average ski conditions, some Squamish organizations are benefitting from the milder weather.

Perhaps the clearest case is the nonprofit Britannia Mine Museum. 

Tamsyn Jenkins, the museum's sales and marketing manager, said visitation numbers from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2 increased by 67% compared with the previous season. 

"I think it's fantastic," said Jenkins.

She noted the lower numbers during the previous 2022 to 2023 winter holidays were partly due to four days of closures. 

Last season, the mine closed for two days over the Christmas break. On top of that, there were additional closures on Dec. 22 and 26 for a snowstorm and a power outage, respectively.

But while last season's closures certainly played a part, Jenkins said the lack of snow and ice on the highway this winter made it easier to access Britannia.

"The 27th, 28th, 29th and the 30th were record-breaking days for us for sure, for this time of year," said Jenkins on Jan. 3.

Aside from a snow-free highway and fewer ski options, Jenkins theorized another factor driving visitors to Britannia is the general comfort level around COVID-19.

People are more comfortable in public places, as vaccination rates have increased. 

The Downtown Squamish Business Improvement Association's executive director also said she believed a less snowy year could have a potential upside for local businesses.

Kerry Neil said her observation from talking to some local entrepreneurs was that the holiday season started slow at the beginning of December, but there appeared to be an increase in business as time went on.

"Things certainly ramped up in the last couple of weeks. Leading up to Christmas, it was much busier."

She suspects that the lack of snow in Squamish this year has made parking much easier, so shoppers have been less hesitant to venture downtown.

Neil also noted that Squamish may have an advantage over Whistler for this kind of weather. For example, she's noticed some people are choosing to go mountain biking in Squamish instead of skiing further up north.

Some downtown businesses, such as Pearl's Value and Vintage, said the lack of snow and skiing conditions in Whistler hasn't affected them at all. 

"We've been super busy," said Valerie Nagy, the assistant manager at Pearl's. Her observation was that there hasn't been any effect from the milder weather.

Not far down the street, the owner of another downtown business, Billies Flower House, said that it was too early to tell. However, a warm winter could have a negative impact.

Janine Reynolds said that business during the Christmas season was unchanged, as the shop doesn't generally draw Whistler skiers. It relies mainly on local traffic during that time.

However, after Christmas is when there could be a noticeable difference, Reynolds said.

"It's definitely something that affects us," she said. "Skiers coming up and down … stop here either on the way up because they're bringing gifts to the people that they're staying with...or they're just going for a shop on the way back down to Vancouver."

On Jan. 3, Reynolds said her store has only had a handful of people coming from Whistler so far.

Another business noted the potential impact of a lack of skiers in the early season, but said other customers were helping to make up the difference.

"Sure, the lack of skier and snowboarder good vibes in the corridor is palpable, but holiday gatherings, family outings and even muddy mountain bikers are making up for it," wrote Brad Skerrett, the director of operations for Howe Sound Brewing, on Dec. 30.

Finally, Mark Enright, general manager of the Sandman Hotel, said poorer skier conditions have had an effect, but not a large one.

On Jan. 2, Enright noted some people opted to cut their stay short once experiencing the sub-par Whistler conditions.

However, the other side of it is that the milder weather has also helped improve attendance, he said.

In previous years, when snow and ice surrounded the hotel, many guests and workers had difficulty getting to the Sandman, with some abandoning their trips altogether. 

The lack of snow this year has prevented this issue from happening, he said.

Aside from that, there is still demand from non-tourist clients for lodging at the Sandman.

"Our numbers are pretty healthy right now just because we have so much construction here in Squamish," Enright said.

The Squamish Chief tried to reach the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Squamish for comment, but representatives were away.


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks