Kimberley Alpine Resort and Tourism Kimberley discussed the first holiday season back since the 2021 arson. Matt Mosteller photo.

Kimberley Alpine Resort and Tourism Kimberley discussed the first holiday season back since the 2021 arson. Matt Mosteller photo.

Kimberley Alpine Resort, Tourism Kimberley on arson, COVID recovery

On Dec. 18, 2022 Kimberley Alpine Resort’s Northstar Quad chairlift began loading skiers and snowboarders for the first time in exactly one year, marking a triumphant return to normalcy after two years heavily impacted by arson and COVID.

Navigating the pandemic was a huge challenge for KAR and Tourism Kimberley in and of itself, so the Dec. 18, 2021 arson that severed the main artery to the ski hill was a devastating blow, the effects of which still yet to be fully realized.

“I think we’re starting to see good reservations coming in,” said Tourism Kimberley executive director John Hamilton.

“The challenge of course is, and I don’t think we know this yet, but did we lose reservations from last year that are not coming back now? We will see that over the next few months if our repeat business is coming back or if we’re trying to spend a lot of money getting new business.”

READ MORE: Tourism Kimberley optimistic in face of ski-hill fire, Omicron one-two punch

He said that another challenge this year from a tourism perspective was that they were only able to announce the re-opening of the Northstar Quad on the Sunday prior to Christmas, where usually there would be a longer lead-in for marketing for hotels, so there were some vacancies over the holidays, which Hamilton said is very unusual.

“But not badly, so we saw a good recovery and given the lateness of the ski lift being open, or at least publicized as open, I think everybody was able to recover pretty quickly in terms of getting the message out to everybody,” he said. “But obviously, by Dec. 18, people had made arrangements already for Christmas and the New Year.”

Hamilton commended KAR general manager Ted Funston and his team for the “absolutely fabulous job” they did, alongside chairlift manufacturer Leitner-Poma to get the chairlift back up and running.

“The fact is we announced at the earliest possible date,” Funston explained. “We had to make sure that the lift was ready to run and that we were cleared by the authorities to run and to make an announcement before that would have been premature.

READ MORE: ‘Northstar Turning’: Opening day at Kimberley Alpine Resort

“But we’re super excited to have been able to open effectively, more or less on our opening date, that was super exciting.”

Navigating the lift’s repair schedule and corresponding re-opening announcement was just one more challenge Funston and his team have had to overcome, and he said he’s “extremely proud” of everything his team has been through and accomplished.

“It has not been an easy few years, but these are the difficult times where I’m really proud of how the team has rallied to do the best we can do with the situation that we had and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team,” Funston said. “Everybody’s worked really hard to think outside the box and make the experience at the resort as enjoyable as possible and so it is really nice to get back to a normal operation.”

Funston said now that Northstar is running again, the resort can shift their focus back on guest experience and “doing what they do best,” providing access to all the terrain the mountain has to offer.

He also extended his gratitude to the skiers and snowboarders of Kimberley for their support over these past difficult seasons, and said that watching people load on to the lift on opening for the first time since last year nearly brought a tear to his eye.

Looking ahead, Funston said he’s excited about the return of the lively events like Spring Splash that were compromised by COVID, Community Day on Sunday, Jan. 15 and the very busy season of ski racing that Dreadnaught Racing has arranged for the coming year.

READ MORE: Kimberley Alpine Resort’s Community Day set for Jan. 15

READ MORE: ‘Prestigious’ season ahead for Dreadnaught Ski Racing

He added that he also looks forward to what he considers to be the best part of KAR, simply going skiing on a Saturday and then heading into the Stemwinder for a beer, some nachos and some live music.

“It’s really exciting, with COVID being mostly behind us and the lift working again, we can just focus in on that awesome experience and just really try and have some fun,” Funston said. “That’s what we want to provide is just the fun that maybe has been more challenging to provide over the last few years.”

READ MORE: A challenging season draws to a close at KAR

From a tourism perspective, Hamilton is confident that Kimberley is in a good place for the winter and looking ahead to the rest of the year.

“This past summer and the fall was extremely strong, so the demand for Kimberley is still there,” he said. “It’s just that we didn’t have the product in some of the winter months last year, but I don’t think that has in any way lessened the demand and we still remain a strong destination in 2023.”

Funston added a reminder that there is still a $100,000 reward offered from Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for last year’s fire.

“We definitely don’t want to see anything like this ever happen again, and so we have added cameras and alarms around the resort and also we have security personnel that we’ve added at night,” he said.

Uptracking and skiing down the Boundary run is something that many people enjoy in Kimberley and that isn’t offered at any other resorts in the area. Funston said that it’s welcomed between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., but only during those hours and only on Boundary.

This is not only due to safety concerns, as there is often heavy machinery like snow cats and winch cables operating on the mountain, but due to the increased need for security going forward.

READ MORE: KAR, RCR offering $100K reward for information leading to arrest in resort arson investigation