Bill Bennett spent Boxing Day working hard.
He's British Columbia's minister for community, sport, and cultural development. And like thousands of other Canadians, he joined the country's Boxing Day lineups. But rather than queuing at a cash register, Mr. Bennett was strapped to a snowboard, waiting for a chairlift at Kimberley Alpine Resort.
It may sound like he was goofing off, but this is serious business. He was snowboarding, so that covers the sport slice of his portfolio. The hot chocolate and Baileys he downed to warm up in the afternoon counts as culture. And spending the day alongside other families playing in the snow qualifies as community.
"Naturally this is part of my job," he said while standing in line for the North Star Express high-speed quad chairlift, tongue firmly in cheek.
Boxing Day, once best known as a holiday spent digesting turkey and fighting over board games, is now a shopping extravaganza. Busy malls played into Mr. Bennett's snowboard plans. "Our theory is a lot people are shopping today, so we came today rather than tomorrow," said the 62-year old resident of Cranbrook, B.C. "Kimberley at any time doesn't have really big lineups. These are [big] for Kimberley. This is a five-minute wait. And I need the five minutes to catch my breath."
What qualifies as busy in Kimberley would make even the most patient shopper drool. On the mountain's Easter triple chairlift, fewer than 20 skiers and snowboarders were waiting to load in the early afternoon. At its Tamarack double chair, four people were in line around 2 p.m. The lines may be short, but spokesman Matt Mosteller said the mountain is thick with skiers and snowboarders by Kimberley standards.
Kimberley's snowfall, after all, is sitting at a 40-year high for this time of year. The larger, and tougher, Fernie Alpine Resort is clocking better-than-usual traffic, thanks to record year-to-date snowfall, while others suffer a shortage of the white stuff. But with Fernie's size, the competition for first tracks seems thin. Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns Fernie and Kimberley, does not release visitor tallies.
Alberta's Sunshine Village had about 3,000 skiers and snowboarders by noon Boxing Day. "Christmas Day and [Boxing Day] is very busy," spokesperson Tanya Otis said. "It is one of busiest times of year."
Out east, Quebec's Mont-Sainte-Anne Mountain Resort, which is in the same family as Kimberley and Fernie, was buzzing. The province's Le Massif de Charlevoix Ski Resort was also busy, according to spokeswoman Sarah Matthews. "The snow conditions were excellent," she said.