Verdant Creek fire headache for Columbia Valley tourism
The Verdant Creek blaze is suffocating business in Calgary’s summer getaway hot spots.
After an “awful” August long weekend plagued by road closures and smoke, it is unlikely Radium and Invermere communities will recover this season, said Kent Kebe, Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce manager.
“(Business owners) have come to realize that the money won’t be made up unless we have a really good shoulder season into September and October,” said Kebe.
He called it a waiting game, and said the community is simply hoping for the best.
The first week of August saw on-and-off closures to Highway 93S due to reduced visibility and proximity of flames. The highway links Alberta with B.C. and its closure resulted in a drop of tourism in Columbia Valley. The highway has since reopened but continues to be affected by the wildfire, smoke and firefighting.
Business has picked up since the long weekend and Kebe is optimistic following larger crowds on Thursday.
Kebe’s concerns were echoed in Sunshine Village.
“The Verdant Creek wildfire has obviously affected businesses. We were closed to the public for over 10 days in August, as well as about a week in July,” said Kendra Scurfield, spokeswoman for Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort.
She said tourism wasn’t the only challenge — staff were struggling to make ends meet.
“Sunshine has covered rent and accommodation for employees that were unable to get hours and has also provided meals just so they can afford to live,” said Scurfield.
Parts of Sunshine Village reopened Wednesday, but certain attractions remain closed, including backcountry trails. During the long weekend, hotel patrons were moved to Banff, about 20 km east.
Banff businesses appear relatively unscathed by the Verdant Creek wildfire, according to Banff and Lake Louise Tourism.
This file image shows the Verdant Creek fire in Kootenay National Park and Asssiniboine Provincial Park in late July, which has affected businesses in Invermere, Radium and beyond.