By Annie Ellison
Published: Feb. 06, 2014
The sunny winter may feel like a boon, but not everyone is looking at the skies with gratitude.
Less rain and snow and more sun have taken a toll on the bottom line of many local businesses, even as it has helped a select few.
According to Environment Canada, the average monthly rainfall for January is 336 mm.
But this hasn’t been the average January: As of January 23, only 130 mm has fallen and Whistler’s snow base stands at 134 cm.
It’s not the kind of snow year that sends people on buying sprees for winter sports equipment.
Karen MacDonald of Out West Gear Exchange estimates sales this season are at 60 per cent of what they were last year.
“Generally by this time of year, you’re outfitting people with complete packages,” she said. “That’s not happening.”
On the up side, she said, the store is selling more ‘rock skis’ — older, used skis, generally picked up at bargain prices — as skiers embrace the spring snow conditions and the odd patch of dirt or pebbles.
MacDonald wonders whether the spring-like conditions will stay throughout the rest of the season.
Because of less snow on the runs at Whistler Blackcomb, many skiers and boarders have taken to the backcountry, which has meant an increase in sales for backcountry boots and transceivers, said MacDonald.
Snowboarders are particularly reluctant to update their equipment this season, said Sequence Sports Supply owner Mahmoud Haghighi, who has sold more skateboards than snowboards in the last year.
Haghighi estimates his business is down 15-20 per cent this year. One of his snowboards is selling for $175, which is 30 per cent below cost.
“I try to reduce the price as much as I can, but still no one is coming,” he said.
The sun is shining on some businesses, however.
Eagles typically brings a surge of tourists to the dike, but it’s the sun that keeps them sipping and eating on the deck of the Watershed Bar and Grill.
“Compared to last year, it’s way better,” said manager and co-owner Brandy Wilmot
She estimates business is up at least ten per cent, with the restaurant busier in the day than at night.
It has also meant more hours for workers through the winter, she said.
Typically, the staff takes second jobs to make it through the winter, but this year many have stayed at Watershed.
“To be honest, I hope this continues,” Wilmot said, pointing to a patio brimming with people.