A winter tourism experience brainstorming session held Dec. 11 went very well, according to Stephanie Molina, marketing manager with Tourism Wells Gray.
“In total we had 16 participants for the session, including accommodations, guided activities, local clubs, local government and restaurants,” she reported.
The session began by inviting participants to think like a traveller by introducing them to the Explorer Quotient, a psychographic tool used by Destination Canada and Destination BC to understand what motivates visitors to travel.
“We then discussed reasons why winter tourism is important,” Molina said. “The participants thought developing more winter tourism was important as it would contribute to: year-round jobs, keeping businesses open all year, healthy community recreation, and contribute to the growth of the community and economy.”
Current and past winter experiences and activities in Clearwater and Wells Gray were inventoried.
The marketing manager then introduced some winter experience inspiration by looking at winter activities throughout Canada that we do not currently have in our area.
For example, she delved into a case study looking at the Flying Canoe Festival in Edmonton, which incorporates storytelling, Quebec culture, winter and ice activities, music and Indigenous culture in a natural and scenic setting.
Ideas that came forward from the brainstorming included:
• A winter festival focusing on the history of the North Thompson celebrating the Indigenous, pioneer, trapper and logger heritage of our area. The festival could incorporate storytelling, theatre, guided tours of kekulis, trapping, farming/agriculture, and historic sights and trials. The festival could include culinary delights and classes (bannock, salmon, birch syrup) sleigh rides, a logger show, a marketplace showcasing local goods, and a scavenger hunt.
• Development of a winter relay (snowshoe, cross-country, toboggan) with an activity passport and a dinner/dance finale featuring local foods and drinks.
• Adding additional elements to an existing event such as the Wells Gray Birch Leg including music and beer to reflect the jubilation of past events like the Loppet (a 30 km cross-country ski race held in Wells Gray Park starting in the mid-1980s).
• There was interest in working with Melody Romeo, District of Clearwater sports coordinator, to develop evening events for families and participants during the many winter sports tournaments she has worked to attract. Ideas included music, dinner, and dances.
“The one common thread throughout these wonderful ideas is the clear need for collaboration and partnership to see them through,” Molina said. “My next steps will be to invite stakeholders and community members to gauge their interest in being a part of planning and further developing these ideas.”
In addition to winter experience development, Molina said she been working on growing winter tourism by:
• working to address the ploughing and platform access issues at Spahats Creek Falls, which if successful would allow Tourism Wells Gray to promote self-guided winter waterfall tours (at Helmcken, Dawson and Spahats) all winter long.
• submitting a funding request to the Rural Dividend Fund for a Clearwater snowmobile tourism feasibility study
• proactively promoting the many existing guided and self-guided winter activities and events taking place and available throughout Wells Gray Country.
• ensuring there is detailed, accurate, and easily accessible information for visitors planning to enjoy winter recreation in Wells Gray Park and Clearwater.
• working with any interested businesses and individuals looking for ways to expand their offerings into winter.