Western Canada’s abandoned ski resorts


Abandoned ski resorts of BC


The consolidation of the ski industry in North America has seen a handful of large companies buy up dozens of resorts

While the issue has just started attracting attention in the past few years — both SilverStar and Whistler Blackcomb are now owned by American giants — the trend is decades old. Smaller, family-owned and operated ski hills used to be common but are an increasingly rare breed.

Dozens of now abandoned ski resorts dot Western Canada.

YouTube channel Skier72 recently published a video taking viewers through these smaller hills from a fading era of skiing.

Abandoned and lost resorts on the list include West Kelowna’s Crystal Mountain, now under new ownership that is trying to relaunch the hill as Bull Mountain.

There was also the Lac Le Jeune Ski Ranch, which operated from 1947 to 1992, as well as hills that operated in Princeton, Sparwood, Nelson, 100 Mile House, Tillicum Valley, Lytton and more.

Tabor Mountain outside Prince George is working to reopen after a fire destroyed its day lodge in 2018. The YouTube video also details abandoned resorts in Alberta and Manitoba.

Passengers should check for ferry cancellations due to staffing issues: BC Ferries


BC Ferries cancellations

A BC Ferries spokesman is encouraging passengers to check online for possible service disruptions before heading to a terminal.

Dan McIntosh says several factors could lead to sailing cancellations on some routes, including employees being sick with COVID-19, seasonal cold and flu or severe winter storms.

Four sailings were cancelled yesterday on the Queen of Cowichan between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo due to staffing issues.

McIntosh says some sailings can still go ahead even when there’s a shortage of employees but that depends on whether that’s the captain, engineers or a cook.

He says fewer kitchen staff may mean less cafeteria service, but a ferry can’t sail without key staff.

McIntosh says BC Ferries has contingency plans in place as requested by the provincial health officer to deal with a rise in absenteeism as the Omicron variant sweeps through the province, and that includes cross-training staff to do other duties or deploying them to different locations.

“All it takes is for a few people to be sick, depending on the role they play on the ferries, and then all of a sudden that augments your schedules in a way that we’ve seen. And we can say, anecdotally, that because of the COVID situation, we know that that is impacting our staff.”

He says service notices are posted online as soon as possible when sailings won’t be going ahead as scheduled because so many customers are dependent on the service to get to work, school and medical appointments.

Passengers can check the BC Ferries website for any cancellations before heading to a terminal or register to get notices sent to their mobile device.

Nearly half of British Columbians say they’re $200 away from insolvency: poll


Living on the financial brink

Nearly half of British Columbians say they are not confident they can cover their expenses over the coming year, a new poll has found.

According to an Ipsos survey conducted every quarter on behalf of the national accounting firm MNP Inc., the number of people who don’t think they can cover the cost of living has surged 10 percentage points since the last quarter.

Meanwhile, over 40 per cent of British Columbians said they were worried about how much debt they were in, and 21 per cent said they think that situation has gotten worse over the past year.

“Now, as we near two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbians are becoming increasingly worried about their household debt,” said MNP’s Lower Mainland-based licensed insolvency trustee Linda Paul said in a written statement.

Paul added that people often have a grim outlook on their finances over holiday bills. But this year, the Omicron variant, rising inflation and potential interest rate hikes all appear to be taking an added psychological toll.

Less than a third of respondents said they were confident they could cope with “life-changing events” without going into deeper debt.

British Columbians also appear to be less confident in their ability to weather relationship turmoil: whereas last quarter 32 per cent said they could handle a change in relationship status, that proportion has dropped to 26 per cent.

Another 19 per cent said they could cope with the death of a family member (down three per cent), while only 17 per cent said they could pay for education (down six per cent).

When it comes to British Columbians’ confidence in how they would financially cope with an illness that put them out of work for three months, a third said they wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“For households in B.C. whose budgets have been stretched thin during the pandemic, it’s getting harder and harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” added Paul.

“As we weather another wave of business closures, reduced working hours or job loss, and health concerns related to COVID, many could find themselves vulnerable to any change to their budget.”

The poll comes amid rising projections on the cost of rentals in B.C.’s biggest city.

A national rent report ranking the most expensive cities to rent in Canada put Vancouver at the top of the list, with the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment climbing to $2,176 in January, up over 13 per cent over the previous 12 months.

The rentals.ca report put the cities of Victoria and Coquitlam in 14th and 15th place on the Canada-wide list, with single-bedroom apartments averaging over $1,560 for both communities.

Those rising costs contribute to a situation where roughly one in two British Columbians surveyed by IPOS said they were $200 away or less from not making ends meet.

British Columbians are the most likely in all of Canada to believe their debt situation has deteriorated: Since September, the number of B.C. residents who said their debt situation was worse than a year ago climbed six points up to 21 per cent.

But that hasn’t stopped many from spending freely. More than any province, 15 per cent of British Columbians said deals and Black Friday offers lured them—a near doubling over last year.

Costco gas bar opens


The much anticipated opening of Costco’s new Kelowna gas bar has arrived.

The 24-pump gas station on Baron Road opened Friday morning.

Costco Kelowna general manager Omara Escobar sent out a brief video on the company’s Facebook page earlier this week saying the gas bar would open sometime this month, but no firm date was given.

Corporate communications officials suggested the gas bar wouldn’t open until later in the month, however, the open for business sign went up earlier this morning.

The price at the pumps, 134.9 for regular, 11 cents cheaper than other stations around the Central Okanagan.

The premium price is 144.9. The station is not selling diesel.

The opening has already caused some complaints about traffic in the area.

Construction on the nearby warehouse is continuing. It’s not expected to open until February or March of next year.

Kelowna taxpayers could face a tax increase north of 5 per cent in 2023


Big tax hit possible in 2023

A new city council will be asked to stickhandle around a number of potential landmines when they take up the task of determining a 2023 budget.

Each year’s budget includes a five-year financial plan which forecasts tax rates for upcoming years based on both operating and capital decisions made that year and in previous years.

Decisions made Thursday during day long deliberations on the 2022 budget pushed the projected increase in 2023 north of five per cent.

It’s expected taxpayers could face an increase of 5.21 per cent in 2023 and 4.76 in 2024.

Over the next four years, the combined increase is anticipated to fall just shy of 19 per cent.

A discussion Thursday to fund four RCMP positions not included within the 2022 budget prompted Mayor Colin Basran to suggest a compromise to fund two of the positions due to implications adding all four would have on the 2023 budget.

Things could change in the meantime.

Residents will go to the polls in October to elect a new council, whose makeup will dictate the fiscal direction the city will be taking.

And, while some decisions made Thursday will have an impact down the road, some looming major projects will have the biggest impact.

“You have to keep in mind next year’s budget includes borrowing for a new recreation facility, potentially the largest infrastructure project in our city’s history,” said Mayor Colin Basran.

Basran is referring to the estimated $133 million cost of replacing the Parkinson Recreation Centre.

That project was initially estimated to come in at $50 million, then jumped to $100 million a year ago.

Basran said the next council could decide to delay that, but stated delays would likely mean higher costs.

Kelowna’s downtown New Year’s celebration to return this year


New Year’s party to return

The pandemic halted many beloved events in Kelowna, but the city’s annual Valley First New York New Years celebration is returning.

From 5:00 p.m. until 9 p.m. on December 31 in Stuart Park, families will have a chance to ring in 2022 early.

“We are so grateful to again be able to hold this fun, all ages event,” said Renata Mills, executive director of Festivals Kelowna.

“After cancelling last year, and watching with bated breath into 2021 while we continued to be touch and go on the event front, this New Year’s Eve celebration is a way for our community to safely gather outdoors and return to activities we enjoy.”

In order to keep this year’s festivities safe yet fun, Festivals Kelowna has made adjustments to the event including closing Water Street between the roundabouts to allow for larger event space in order for people to circulate, extending the length of the event to give people more time to take part, cancelling use of the Kelowna Community Theatre indoor space, and eliminating activities where there is close personal contact such as face-painting.

This is a free event thanks to funding for the City of Kelowna and many returning sponsors. It will offer an array of COVID-modified activities including skating on the outdoor ice rink, toss games, a scavenger hunt, hula hoop and Hip Hop dancing on the “snow stage” and more.

To ensure everyone stays well fed and warm, there will be four food trucks onsite from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. dishing up “glove friendly” portions of little donuts, kettle cooked popcorn, hot dogs, smokies, fries, coffee and hot chocolate.

When skaters take to the ice, they’ll be serenaded by live musical performances on the Main Stage under The Bear starting at 5:00 p.m. This year’s performers include “Marianne La Brasseur” playing New Country and original hits at 5:00 p.m., followed by Indie Rock band “The Nomads” at 6:00pm, local rock band “3/4 Crush” at 7:00 p.m. playing Classic Rock covers, and Kelowna DJ “Hotel Zero” spinning Dance music between sets.

Kelowna’s “The Insiders” will finish off the night’s performances with a Fleetwood Mac inspired set starting at 8 p.m, and closing the ceremony will be Mayor Colin Basran. He’ll help countdown to the fireworks display at 9:00 p.m. and ring in an early New Year with locals. Shot from City Park, the fireworks will be visible along the waterfront from The Sails to the Kelowna Yacht Club.

For more information on the event, click here.

Kelowna Chamber of Commerce makes better commercial vehicle routes a top priority for 2022

Time for a Kelowna bypass?

Is it finally time to build a Kelowna bypass?

The exponential increase in truck traffic down Highway 97 in recent weeks is easy to see and it’s not just because of the extended closure of the Coquihalla Highway due to flood damage.

Along with finding answers to the labour shortage and the lack of affordable housing, improved transportation infrastructure is one of the top priorities of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce heading into 2022.

“One of the things that we’ve been pushing for with the city is a commercial goods study, and we want to see them work in getting that underway, with the province. We need to address our long-term needs for commercial traffic,” said Dan Rogers, executive director, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

Highway 3 is currently the only major route open to transport trucks carrying goods between the Interior and the Lower Mainland, and a lot of that volume is being funnelled through the Okanagan.

Rogers also points out Kelowna continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada.

“We expect 40,000 more people, over the course of the city’s OCP (Official Community Plan), to be moving to the community. Whether they land here or West Kelowna or in Lake Country is yet to be seen, but they need to move around. And our transportation needs a lot of focus, whether it’s municipally or by the provincial government.”

He says the chamber of commerce will be working to ensure the provincial government doesn’t just focus on fixing the Coquihalla highway and then puts all the other projects in the Central Okanagan on the back burner.

The City of Kelowna Transportation Master Plan does include a proposal for a truck route.

The Clement Avenue Extension has been talked about for a long time. It was previously called the Central Okanagan Bypass, or Multi-Modal Corridor.

Extending Clement from Spall Rd. to Highway 33 would help take pressure off Highway 97, Enterprise Way and Springfield Road. However, the transportation plan currently doesn’t see the project starting until 2031 and recommends further study of the extension in partnership with the BC Ministry of Transportation.

Kelowna’s 2022 budget will include a 3.64 percent increase for taxpayers


Boring, no surprise budget

Boring, devoid of any real surprises.

Call it what you will – after Kelowna city council breezed through more than 400 pages of budget requests, they fell on a provisional number close to what was presented at the beginning of deliberations Thursday.

Council started the day with a proposed tax increase of 3.49 per cent and, after a handful of changes, including the addition of three more staff positions, jumped marginally to 3.64 per cent.

That works out to an annual increase of $80 for the average city homeowner.

Coun. Gail Given she was less concerned about the the overall increase, and more concerned with what taxpayers would have to shell out in 2022.

She says she was buoyed by the fact taxpayers in Kelowna pay among the lowest taxes of any comparable size city in the province.

“You can be low in taxes people pay and not deliver any services, but that’s not the situation we’re in,” said Given.

“Repeatedly we hear from the community they appreciate, and are supportive of the services we deliver. I think the fact we have taken on additional responsibilities around the social side, we’ve maintained a low tax dollar rate is really quite an important part of the budget process.

“The other important part of the budget process for me is the budget binder isn’t full of surprises.”

She says the budget is a culmination of the work council and staff have done throughout the year on a number of capital and operational plans.

Any real surprises, Given says, would have been a cause for concern.

The biggest additions to what council was presented was the addition of three new staff positions, including two within the RCMP ranks. One position was for an additional general duty member while the other was for a disclosure co-ordinator need to process disclosure documents to meet court-imposed deadlines.

An accountant position in a department that has not had a staffing increase in 20 years was also approved.

“When you compare us to what other municipalities are going through and where we’ve ended up, we are in a really good place,” said Mayor Colin Basran.

“We are a growing community, but we have aging infrastructure. We have residents who expect more and, in conversations I have with residents it’s never do less, it’s always do more.

“I think we’ve found a good balance of increasing services, continue to invest in our infrastructure, continue to build a community where everyone wants to live, but do it in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Council will finalize the 2022 budget next spring.

Central Okanagan School District has taken the next step toward construction of Wilden Elementary school


Wilden school moves on

The Central Okanagan School District has taken the next step in the process toward construction of a new elementary school in the Wilden neighbourhood.

The district has submitted a subdivision application to the city for the property it recently purchased at 2025 Begbie Road.

A school in the rapidly growing Wilden neighbourhood has been on the school district’s radar for several years.

The school started to become reality earlier this year when the district purchased the property for $7.4 million.

The province provided $1.9 million toward the purchase with the district supplying the remaining $5.5 million.

“Students and families want and deserve schools near their homes, and this new site ensures land is in place to build a school that can serve families in Wilden for generations,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education at the time of the purchase.

Development and building permits must still be applied for and approved by city council before ground can be broken on the new school.

Students plant wetlands, learn modular farming at middle school in Kelowna


Students learn to grow

It was “Green Day” don Thursday at KLO Middle School, an event that brought kids out of the classroom to teach them about sustainability.

In addition to wellness walks to start their day, students worked with the BC Wildlife Federation’s Wetlands Workforce team on the schools wetland area by maintaining existing plants, and planting new ones.

They also received a first-hand look at a new modular farm funded by the President’s Choice Children’s Charity, in an effort to teach kids about growing healthy food options and making sure no one goes hungry.

KLO Middle School teacher Karla Lockwood says the modular farm has sprouted a new elective for students to take.

“We started what we’re calling ‘Seed to Feed.’ Teachers can sign up their classes in any curriculum or any content area, and my environmental kids go in and teach them about the process of growing. They end up harvesting over 200 heads of lettuce, kale, bok choy, rosie choy and they take it home to their families.”

Lockwood says when her students see the growth of their fresh produce, it changes their attitude, and it’s even inspired Grade 9 student Tarran Bates.

“I’ve been really attached, and I really want to learn more about how this whole thing works. So on my own time, I’ve been doing a bit of research on how this all works,” said Bates. “I’m hoping that when I get older, I can have my job be something like this.”

School principal Ashley Ragoonaden says seeing his students and teachers take part in Green Day makes him hopeful for the future.

“We are proud of our students and educators who embraced a green philosophy and brought this project to life,” said Ragoonaden. “When we teach students both knowledge and practical skills around global issues, they gain confidence in their abilities, and we empower them to become engaged global citizens.”

Students also received fresh smoothies made from kale that was grown at the school, while other ingredients such as blueberries, bananas and juice were donated by Peter Boyd of Independent Grocer. The school’s environmental students planted over 800 kale seeds at the start of September.

“It was so great to see the kale being used up, and I know the students were super excited to try it,” said Lockwood.

Lockwood also said the modular farm is designed to last 30 years, so the hope is that it can be extended into the community through options like food banks or other initiatives in need in the future.