Outdoor options to fuel winter tourism

Suppliers in the Elk Valley foresee increased interest over winter

Winter tourism may be a great unknown, but that isn’t stopping local operators and businesses from getting ready for a rush on the great outdoors.

In the same way Canadians took to cycling over summer, there’s an expectation (and a hope) that they’ll take to back country adventures, fat-biking and nordic skiing.

Tourism Fernie has acknowledged what could be a challenging winter, but expects the pandemic-friendly outdoor options to keep the sector humming along nicely.

Service manager and shop supervisor at local outdoor sports store, GearHub, Sam Moffat, said that they were gearing up for a busy season.

“We’ve beefed up our backcountry rentals a lot,” he said, adding that questions over resort skiing operations was motivating a lot of interest.

“We’re not too sure how that’s all going to go, so we went deep in our backcountry rentals this year. We’re going to have a fleet of split-boards, which we’ve never had before, as well as full-terrain ski setups.”

Moffat said that GearHub’s yearly fleet of fat-bikes were usually reserved well in advance on a normal year, and they were expecting much the same in 2020-2021.

GearHub has so far enjoyed a solid year, having put in a big order for bikes prior to the economic impact of the pandemic was known, putting them in a good position to reap the benefits of Canadians looking for a way to spend their summer holidays.

“Lots of shops were out of bikes, and we took the opportunity and ordered more bikes than normal. We had a really busy summer because people were coming to us from all over.”

Straight Line Bicycles in Fernie is also anticipating a healthy interest in fat biking over winter as part of a year-on-year trend.

“We were one of the first to sell fat-bikes about 15 years ago,” said Straight Line Bicycles owner, Ian Shopland. “We’ve certainly noticed an increase since then, and more rapidly in the last few years.”

Shopland said that it would be fair to predict even more interest in the 2020-21 interest in fat biking given uncertainty about the winter season.

For Shopland, a decision made to narrow his business’s focus on selling bikes coincidently lined up with expectations for this year.

“About a year ago we made the decision to not be in the ski business again, so well before the pandemic.”


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