Big White Ski Resort had a record number of guests during over Christmas and New YearÃs. A series of winter storms meant all 118 runs and all 16 lifts were open which reduced the time waiting in lineups as crowds dispersed over the entire downhill area.
OK, the Sheriff, CCC and CCC's brother skated and everyone else watched. However, her relatives from Victoria, Alberta and Australia were suitably impressed by the skating rink, the park and Kelowna's panoramic waterfront promenade.
The Sheriff remembers when city councillors weren't sure they wanted to pay the big bucks for the rink cooling system and Zamboni in the interests of saving taxpayers' money. Without the rink, one has to wonder what would have attracted anyone there during the cold weather months. Virtually nothing except that grizzly bear skeleton.
And what a hit the rink turned out to be. It was crowded with kids learning to skate, adults re-learning how to skate and Central Okanagan Hiking Club members who coincidentally showed up at the same time as us.
Now, you have to wonder what will happen when the Water Street Senior Centre is torn down, the new HQ for the Kelowna Yacht Club is built there, the old clubhouse is torn down and Stuart Park is expanded. Lots of those at the rink over the holidays want a larger ice skating surface.
One challenge is renting skates. We couldn't find a place in Kelowna that offered rentals. However, Mission Sports on Kirchner Road offers excellent sharpening and repair for those older models like the Sheriff's.
Rentals aren't a problem at Big White Ski Resort east of Kelowna and Silver Star Mountain Resort east of Vernon which both offer rentals and free ice skating as part of the season pass package.
BTW, Big White just experienced a record number of guests over Christmas/New Year's. Its 177-centimetre base meant opening all 118 runs and all 16 lifts, including six high-speed chairs and a gondola. The holidays always mean lineups, but they were shorter this winter as crowds dispersed over the entire downhill area.
"Average wait time on our busiest days was under 15 minutes on most chairs," said senior VP Michael J. Ballingall.
"With the addition of the six-passenger Snow Ghost chairlift, Big White moves 10 people every seven seconds out of the Ridge Rocket pod."
It sounds disgusting, but the most accurate measure of visitors to the mountain is through the Big White water and sewer company, which experienced between 12 and 30 per cent greater volume compared to the same period last year.
During the three-day period between Dec. 30. and Jan. 1, the resort used more than 620,000 gallons of water a day, peaking at 642,000 gallons on New Year's Eve day. No figures were released on the volume of sewage. The water source is Rhonda Lake, at the bottom of the Cliff, some of the purest drinking water in the world.
Big White estimates the New Year's Eve midnight fireworks attracted more than 8,000 people to the Village Centre. Kelowna RCMP reported no unusual problems from the record crowds.
Big White Central Reservations, which accommodates the majority of visitors, had a record number of check-ins, with the majority of guests arriving from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, Toronto, Winnipeg, Seattle and Australia.
Here are some other statistics:
* Most cars parked at the resort on Sunday, Dec. 30 (2,300 vehicles).
* Most cases of French fries sold through Happy Valley Daylodge.
* Most student day passes sold over Christmas.
* Most child ski/snowboard lessons.
* Most visits from local season pass holders recorded on Sunday, Dec. 30.
* Largest beer and wine order ever received by Big White Market.
* Largest skier visit day recorded on Sunday, Dec. 30.
Back on the ground, trails director Larry Krar at Telemark Nordic Ski Club is leading a snowshoe excursion on the Crystal Mountain Trail every Saturday, starting today, for the next six weeks.
"No one has been on it yet, so this first time will be more of a work-out since we will be breaking fresh trail," he warned this week.
"Depending on how many people show up, we will decide whether we will do the entire 15K trail or take the short-cut, which cuts off about two kilometres, but also involves a significant amount of elevation. Needless to say, this is a strenuous hike either way, somewhere between three and four hours."
Those interested should meet at the Telemark chalet on Glenrosa Road or Crystal Mountain Road west of West Kelowna at 9.30 a.m. The fee is $5 for day-use of the trails.
In the South Okanagan, the conditions at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre west of Penticton are reported as "outstandingly excellent."
"I think they are running out of synonyms for great," joked president Esther Skrypiczajko.
"This Sunday is our annual Welcome to Nickel Plate Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Trail passes for adults are $10 and kids $5, with complimentary rentals and lessons at 11 a.m."
A barbecue at noon has hamburgers for $5 and hot-dogs for $3, including drinks and desserts. You can also enter a free draw for two flex passes.
The winter newsletter has information about a new venture for the club: Bring A Friend Guest Pass. From Sunday to Feb. 3, season pass holders can bring one guest - a friend or family member new to the sport - to ski for free. Rentals are not included and the offer is limited to one free pass per member.
"We all know someone who says: 'I would love to try cross-country skiing sometime.'
Well, now is that time. Invite a potential skier to experience the wonderful trails and facilities at Nickel Plate. Show them around, take them out for a ski and make them feel at home," said Skrypiczajko.
The first day for Skill Development lessons is Jan 12, with a hot-dog barbecue at noon.
Demo Day, sponsored by Peach City Runners and Adventure Sports, is on Jan. 13. Reps from Solomon and Fischer will bring skis and boots for everyone to try. There will also be a hamburger and hotdog barbecue at noon.
All snowshoers are welcome to join a group that goes out at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, leaving from the office. If there is range of abilities, participants will be divided up and leaders will take them on appropriate trails.
Speaking of demos, Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre has a Stussi Demo Day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. A reminder that the Bunnies and Jackrabbits 1-2 first session is today.
A recent email indicated there was still time for children to register, but check with the coaches. Registration forms are available at Stussi's and at the lodge. People can also register on Zone 4 if they haven't already taken out a family membership.
J.P. Squire, aka the Ski Sheriff, is an Okanagan Saturday reporter and an avid outdoors enthusiast. His column appears every weekend.