Hemlock businessman Richard ten Brink says ATV trails are excellent around Hemlock Valley and it has become a bigger tourist draw over the last few years.

Open for business despite closed slopes

Hemlock Valley businesses frustrated at lack of exposure after ski hill's closure announcement

‘We’re still here’ is the cry from the top of the mountain.

Hemlock Valley businesses, which rest around the base of Hemlock Valley Resort, are still open for business despite the cancelled ski season. And It’s about time everyone else knew that fact too, says local businessman Richard ten Brink.

“It’s almost devastating for the industry up here,” says ten Brink, owner of Hemlock Hollow Mountain Accommodations, of the resort’s announcement of a cancelled season on Feb. 4. “It’s been hard on the businesses because that’s what people mostly come up for.”

But no snow shouldn’t stop visitors, he goes on to say. There’s a lot more to Hemlock than a ski hill.

“It’s a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle,” says ten Brink. There’s ATV routes and hiking trails as well as quiet, hidden natural beauty around every corner. There’s fishing, golfing and close access to Harrison Hot Springs.

After Hemlock Resort made the announcement, hundreds of people responded, many writing comments on Hemlock’s Facebook page. At least one mentioned not being able to get a refund for their upcoming weekend booked through Hemlock Hollow. Ten Brink says while they have a clear refund policy on their website, in many cases they did end up providing refunds.

“We pretty much just threw the cancellation policy in the garbage and did per case,” says ten Brink. “A lot of people told us they’d just come up and enjoy it anyway.”

Ten Brink says those who chose to come up for their reserved overnight stays still had a good time. To attract more visitors, Hemlock Hollow dropped their high-season rates to encourage more overnight stays.

The ten Brinks love Hemlock Valley. They ended up living there when a weekend getaway place became their full-time home. They started off as a bed and breakfast and recently bought a competitor’s properties, now making them the largest accommodations company on the hill.

Stewart Green is another one of the year-long residents on the hill. He doubles as a ski coach and local realtor. Green is quick to point out that Hemlock was just the first of many hills with bad luck for snow this year, with many either closing or having severely impacted conditions.

When it comes to real estate, Green says the closure this year didn’t actually cause a stir in the local market. That’s because the waters have been relatively stagnant for years.

“The trend is really province-wide, and country-wide and world-wide,” says Green. “After 2008 and the economic downturn, interest in recreational and retirement-style real estate dropped off.”

Places like Hemlock Valley suffered, with the frequency of sales dropping “considerably.”

Green saw almost no sales from 2010-2013. But then in 2014, inventory started to move with a “little flurry” of interest. He says for newer buyers and longtime owners, the only draw was winter skiing. But now, he sees owners and renters using the accommodations year-round for everything from hiking, ATVing, golfing and fishing.

“I’m a big believer Hemlock will succeed,” says Green.