A back-country ski touring business located in the heart of the Kootenays is forging its way through the most challenging season ever, through the perseverance and commitment of its owner-operator and the support of BC’s Tourism Resiliency Network.
Valhalla Mountain Touring is a back-country ski touring company owned and operated by Jasmin Caton and caters to people interested in a full week or half-week back country ski touring experience and some of the finest powder in the world.
The base of operations is a full-service lodge that has been in Caton’s family since 1993, and is only accessible in the winter months by snowcat – from the north end of Slocan lake, near Nakusp.
Caton says the past year has been a very trying period, but a commitment to honour the reputation her family worked so hard to develop and uphold, and a desire to keep staff working and employed, have been motivating factors. She suggests the BC Tourism Resiliency Network has played a role in helping her forge ahead.
“The winter ski season accounts for 95 per cent of Valhalla’s traditional revenue but we are operating at a reduced level and some weeks have cancelled entirely, but we are hanging in there,” said Caton. “As the sole operator, I have been stretched, so the support of the Tourism Resiliency Network through Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association, has been nothing short of positive – providing information, ideas and helping me access grant funding that has provided me some assurance that things will be okay.”
Given the evolving nature of the pandemic and with travel being discouraged, Caton has focused marketing efforts on the local population where she has seen the opportunity for people to get outdoors and get active has brought some relief from the COVID mental fatigue that many are experiencing.
She adds, COVID protocols are a “huge focus” at Valhalla and are closely observed through every aspect of the experience.
Through the support of the BC Tourism Resiliency Network, Caton has been able to access funding through the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the BC Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant Program.
The funding will help support her business through a difficult period and may also allow her some room to pivot to summer opportunities, and target retreats or other functions that can be hosted safely.
The BC Tourism Resiliency Network was created by the BC Regional Tourism Secretariat as a means of more formally supporting businesses through the pandemic, and through which a team of experts in health and safety, human resources, finance and strategic planning were enlisted to provide advice and assistance.
The other important function of the network is to ensure that communities are able to, and are comfortable with, welcoming visitors.
Support is delivered through five tourism regions, in this case the Kootenay Rockies Tourism Association.
CEO Kathy Cooper says, “At a time when tourism operators are going through such a difficult period, it’s also uplifting to see that the support being provided is having such a real and significant impact – and I would encourage businesses who haven’t registered with the BC Tourism Resiliency Network to do so.”