Spring is in the air. As the snow continues to melt, locals are going to start preparing for warmer weather. Digging out bicycles, helmets and hiking shoes and putting their skis, snowboards and snowmobiles to bed for the upcoming season.
But as locals prepare for the spring, businesses are bracing themselves for the slow season. While May and June are ideal for hiking in warm, but not too hot weather and biking through muddy terrain, these spring months are not very popular for tourists and will likely be challenging for local businesses, especially this year as winter in the Elk Valley was difficult to say the least.
As a result of poor conditions, several annual events were cancelled, including last week’s Coca-Cola Slope Soaker and the annual Griz Days Commit 2 Pain Rail Jam. Businesses were forced to change plans last minute.
Despite having one of the best skiing seasons I’ve ever had, I recognize that the Elk Valley in general underwent some serious changes this season, specifically in regards to tourism.
I think that the Elk Valley needs to brace themselves for the future and focus on preparing for the off-season, as it seems like the winter months can no longer support businesses for the entire year.
As climate change continues to affect the Elk Valley, it’s important that the City of Fernie prepares themselves for the possibility of future mild winters. After speaking with friends, I came to realize that several businesses, including landscaping and working up at the hill, were negatively impacted by conditions. Many workers were cut down to three shifts per week. I recognize that the demand for many services was not as high as usual this season but I also believe it’s important that young employees can comfortably live in the valley on their earnings. One solution to this issue would be affordable housing. Although buildings like the Veneto Place apartments provide Fernie with low-income housing units, it’s important that the community works to provide affordable housing for individuals staying in Fernie for short periods of time. Fernie is home to many transitional workers who come to the area solely to work in the winter months and it’s vital that these individuals find an affordable place to live.
After a difficult winter season, I believe the Elk Valley needs to look to the future and, rather than relying on attractions that have thrived in the past, they should look to adapting to the current economic climate.