Silver Star filled to capacity for New Year's Eve

Ron Johnson of Enderby skis at Silver Star every year and says he likes the new all-inclusive day pass.

Between good snow, additions to the ski hill's amenities, and changes to the seasons and day passes, Silver Star is seeing increased revenue.

The Star opened Nov. 29, and is now neck-deep in its craziest time of the year. Everyone—the ticket sellers, the lift attendants, the servers in the restaurants—are on their toes to offer the best possible service during the busiest time of the year.

"We're at 100% occupancy for New Year's," says Silver Star's general manager, Michael Sherwood. He says the whole holiday season has been similar, with a 15% rise in occupancy at the resort's hotels compared with last year.

"I think we struck a chord with locals and visitors with the My1Pass," Sherwood says of the all-inclusive pass that provides access to the resort's alpine runs, nordic trails, Tube Town, skating rink, and snowshoe routes.

"A lot of people gravitated to it," Sherwood says. "We get people that usually (just) ski saying, 'Hey, let's go try snowshoeing."

"We've seen a healthy increase in Seasons Pass holders," Sherwood says.

The pass encourages people to try new things and explore all corners of the mountain. Sherwood says it accommodates all ages, especially the growing number of baby boomers who might want to offset the demands of downhill skiing with the gentler sport of classic cross country skiing.

Sherwood adds that skiing is a rare sport because it is so intergenerational. He says parents, or grandparents, may not be able to play basketball or soccer with their kids or grandkids, but they can have a good time out on the mountain no matter what age or skill level they are.

Last month, SIiver Star was named the number one ski resort and best family resort in the Okanagan Valley in a poll by Okanagan Life magazine. Residents from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos voted in the poll.

"It means a lot to us," Sherwood says of the local warmth.

The popularity also translates financially. With the increased traffic at Silver Star, the resort's spin-off businesses have seen a 5% increase in revenues, Sherwood says.

As much as Silver Star's tactical changes have improved business, Sherwood admits the resort owes thanks to mother nature for a generous gift of snow.

"The snow has been fantastic," Sherwood says. "It's been the best December I've seen, and I've been here for 11 years."

He says all of B.C.'s mountains were lavished with snow this year, but that Silver Star received the most.

"The hill is covered in light champagne powder," Sherwood says with relish.

Silver Star is famous not only for its skiing, but for its New Year's Eve events as well.

The mountain will host a torchlight parade at 8:00 p.m. with skiers and boarders carrying torches as they snake down the mountain. Five dollars allows you to participate in the procession, but simply viewing the event is free. Fireworks will be ignited once the last torchlight has bee extinguished. The mountain is also offering a guided snowshoe trek to the Wild Horseman's Cabin at 7:00 p.m.

"The events are all very family focused," Sherwood says, though he acknowledges the resort is always a destination for partiers.

"We've never had any really bad experiences before," Sherwood says. "No vandalism or fights."

He says the RCMP have a road check on Silver Star Road to combat drinking and driving up the windy path to the mountain.

"Most of the bars in the village sell out," Sherwood says of the profitable evening.

Three security officers will be on duty in the village to make sure the event is safe and fun for all.

Silver Star currently has a snow base of 176 c.m. on its alpine runs. The last week has dusted the slopes with 25 c.m. of new snow. The good snow cover means the resort has all but one of its 115 alpine runs open. The weather forecast calls for a cloudy Saturday with flurries and a sunny Sunday.

—Charlotte Helston

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