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Vernon ski centre boosts B.C.’s economy

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club contributes half a billion dollars annually

Millions of dollars are added to the B.C. economy year after year through wax, boards, poles and snow.

With nearly 50,000 seasonal day visits, four major annual events and spectacular trails drawing a growing number of skiers from across North America and beyond — a new economic impact study shows that Vernon’s Sovereign Lake Nordic Club (SLNC) contributes $5.2 million to the B.C. economy every year through club operations and associated tourism.

That’s in addition to nine person years of employment (one person working full-time for nine years) and $900,000 in taxes to all levels of government annually.

“We are so excited to share how much the club has to offer the community,” says Cyndy Flores, board chair, SLNC, the non-profit that operates a trail network and activities within Silver Star Provincial Park. “Some people might be surprised to learn what a destination we’ve become and the ripple effect that has on local tourism.”

The study, conducted by Lions Gate Consulting, shows the club’s operations and events bring critical dollars to local hotels, restaurants and equipment shops.

In the 2022-23 season alone, four major events — including two BC Winter Games events — drew 993 non-local participants. With stays of three-to-five nights, that translates to 5,115 ‘person nights’ in Vernon accommodations, and that’s on top of spending at restaurants and ski shops.

On those huge event days or just busy ‘bluebird’ days when many of the club’s 2,800 local members are out enjoying trails alongside visitors, the aging Sovereign Day Lodge quickly overflows. It was built in 1993 and offers just 4,154 square feet of floor space. Flores says having the numbers from the economic impact study will help make the case for a new day lodge.

“We have the best conditions and if we had the lodge to match, in addition to serving locals, we could be hosting national races and world championships. How exciting would that be for our community?”

The study concluded that building a new day lodge could generate an additional $4 million in labour income, 37 person-year jobs and $712,000 in taxes during construction.

With outstanding high-elevation snow conditions and world-class grooming, Canada’s largest cross-country ski club already attracts ski teams from across the continent for training — as well as more and more ski tourists.

“Just the other day I gave a trail map to a woman from Austria and she was taking it back to her cousin, who is coming here in April for the Sovereign 2 SilverStar Marathon,” says Wendy Shannon, general manager. “It’s an event people have come to love. For others, it’s the top-notch grooming.”

In November and December 2023 alone, the club saw 1,043 tickets (day and packs) and 198 season passes purchased by non-locals — creating $90,421 in revenue. Among locals (anyone residing between West Kelowna and Salmon Arm), 433 tickets were purchased, and, between June and December, 1,462 season passes purchased — creating $613,030 in revenue.

Rising day ticket sales through the season also point to more tourists: 15,554 day tickets were sold in 2022-23 — up from 13,835 the previous season and 8,891 in 2020-21. Total day visits (among all users) are also increasing: 48,744 last season, up from 48,106 in 2021-22. The ‘COVID winter’ of 2020-21 saw exceptionally high day visits totaling 55,323 — more than nearby provincial parks see in the busy summer season.

“These numbers are also a reminder of our incredible local community outreach,” says Flores, of the club’s mandate to promote an accessible and affordable winter activity for schools and families, and adaptative adventures for people with different abilities.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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