February 16, 2016 5:15 pm
Updated: February 18, 2016 5:25 pm

Low dollar fuels Whistler’s rising economy

WATCH: For every foot of snow that falls in Whistler, B.C., it seems another busload of Americans shows up. But it's not just the lure of fresh powder feeding the resort's record year. As Mike Drolet explains, the low loonie is luring Americans who want to spend their money.

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Selling Whistler, B.C. as a destination has never been easier.

Why? More than 7 metres (25 feet) of snow has fallen. It’s been rated one of the top resorts in the world.  The memory of the 2010 Winter Olympics is still fresh in many people’s minds.

And when you have a loonie that’s dropped further than the famed mountain’s vertical, record attendance is sure to follow.

So far this year, the resort has attracted more than 100,000 additional visitors than it did at the same point in 2015.

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“We definitely had a bit of a roller coaster over the past few years,” says Louise Walker of Tourism Whistler.  “The recession, followed by the boost with the Games, and then 2011 came and it was our low point.”

“[But] since then, it’s been bigger and busier.”

The biggest reason, undoubtedly, is the low loonie luring people from the U.S.  With savings as high as 32 cents on the dollar, Whistler’s high-end reputation just got more reasonable. American visitors usually account for 25 per cent of hotel room nights in the village.  But so far this year, that number is up to 40 per cent.

“Yeah, the exchange rate is hard to resist,” says Walker.

READ MORE: One area of the economy that’s booming? B.C. ski slopes

Ski and board shops are equally busy, telling Global News that Americans are taking advantage of the massive discount built into their currency.  Signs advertising “best rate in a decade” dot the village.

And at night, restaurants are flourishing. One visitor from New York says, “We used to buy the regular shrimp. Now, we’re buying jumbo shrimp.”

Neil Henderson of Araxi and Bar Oso says, “Whistler is firing on all cylinders.”

“What we’ve seen is they’re maybe coming to the restaurant more frequently,” says Henderson.  “And we’re maybe seeing some guests who would be going to certain restaurants, but maybe now they’re enjoying a different level of restaurant.”

A group of people from Seattle told Global News it’s even considering long-term investments in Whistler.

“We were talking real estate because the price is a third off,” one person said.  “So a $300,000 condominium is about 200,000 to 225,000 (in U.S. dollars). That’s attractive.”

Would they have considered it last year?

“Absolutely not,” they said.  “Not two years ago, not three years ago, but right now for sure.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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