Sharon and Eskil Larson
Sharon and Eskil Larson started seriously planning a tourism business when they officially retired in Calgary, and their daughters completed high school. After searching all over BC, they settled on Vernon because of its year-round activities.
In July 1977, they purchased acreage close to Silverstar Mountain Ski Resort and put in a road so they could build a shop to use as a camp over the summer. Each time they returned, they were more certain they wanted to live there permanently.
The Larsons opened their B&B — Castle on the Mountain — on the property in May of 1986, coinciding with Expo 86. They started with two rooms in an unfinished house, opening an art gallery and picture-framing studio at the same time. They now have six deluxe rooms and a luxury cottage on a beautifully manicured property, and 2006 will mark their 20th anniversary there.
As entrepreneurs with a high school education, Sharon had some college training in accounting, and Eskil was a journeyman carpenter specializing in finishing work. They had owned their own construction company in Calgary, where they worked for the university.
The Larsons attribute their excellent health to being forced to keep physically and mentally active while running their businesses. Although they don’t always have income to spend on elaborate vacations, says Sharon, there are intangible compensations: “To be able to work with positive people, creating enjoyment for all, is one of the most rewarding vocations that you can find.”
The biggest challenges over the years have been finding reliable part-time help and marketing the property. For example, attending a Chamber of Commerce Breakfast meeting is a difficult time commitment, and finding someone who can take over temporarily means a great deal.
The Larsons plan to remain involved in the tourism industry for the foreseeable future. They encourage others to work at something they can derive enjoyment from, and to try to eliminate stress. “You have to experience the enjoyment along the way, doing things for people that they appreciate, and being able to spend time in a healthy environment. Enjoy the doing,” says Sharon.