Can Hope sell its fog to tourists?
A famously foggy town hopes to use its clouds and rainy season to draw new visitors
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When the weather gives you months of fog, you make a fog festival.
Hope’s tourist season has, historically, come to a screeching halt in the fall as the weather takes a turn for the darker.
Clouds creep down the nearby mountainsides, blanket town, and leave everything curtained in a fine, damp, unavoidable mist. It can be a bit dreary. But it can also be beautiful, leaving some locals wondering: what if Hope could package that fog up and sell it?
A festival of fog?
Hope has beautiful mountain trails, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and the entirety of the Fraser Canyon, all at its doorsteps. For obvious reasons, its tourism marketers stress those physical assets when trying to attract visitors. It’s a pretty spot. When you can bear to venture into the outdoors.
Because, of course, the weather is not always that accommodating.
“In Hope, it starts raining in October and it rains pretty much until March,” said Sarah Brown, the operations manager and curator of Hope’s visitor centre and museum. Hope’s weather is like that of the rest of the Fraser Valley, only even wetter, with more clouds, thanks to the mountains that hug the town on all sides.
So it has long been a challenge to draw people to an outdoor destination during a time of year when few want to venture into the outdoors.
This year, though, they have come up with something new: Fog Fest, a marketing campaign that embraces Hope’s clouds and general dampness and uses that chilly, damp weather to sell the warmness and comfort of the town’s town’s cafes and indoor spots.
Whether it will work remains to be seen. But it’s an attempt to turn a negative on its head, recast a town, and shine a light on an underappreciated weather phenomenon.
Embracing the cozy
The general theme of Fog Fest is not, necessarily, to get people to go outside and feel the fog. Instead, Hope wants to lure tourists to its cozy cafes, restaurants, and B&Bs, pitching them the feeling of coziness and the unique appeal of a warm, dry room on a cold, gnarly day.
To accompany the coziness, musical performances are taking place at the Silver Chalice Pub, Mountain View Café and Blue Moose Coffee House.
“The main thing we’re going for is that cozy feel: that you’re inside with hot chocolate and you’re looking out at the fog,” Brown said.
But there are other elements too.
Brown said the festival is both about re-examining and showcasing something that the community has seen as a negative, and about reshaping expectations.
Visitors hiking one of Hope’s popular viewpoint trails can find their experience a bit anti-climactic in the winter. But the organizers are also pitching Hope’s fog as an attraction for photographers.
“Especially with the lookout trails, you climb up to this point and you’re looking out and like ‘All I saw was fog!’” she said. “That can be really disappointing if you’re not prepared for it. But if you’re going up and thinking, I’m going to take some really cool fog photography, then you get up there and you’re excited to see the same view.”
Hope’s low-slung clouds frequently hug its mountainsides. 📷 Aurelina Films/Shutterstock
Embracing the mist
If you really want to hear about why fog is amazing, you want to talk to Riley Forman.
Forman runs Connect Media, a marketing company that has long worked alongside Hope’s tourism organizations to promote the region. The fog festival was his company’s idea, so it’s not surprising to hear him proclaim the brilliance of a cool fog mist.
But Forman grew up in Hope and takes it a step ruther, talking about fog with the same possessiveness that a Vancouverite might talk about the Stanley Park seawall.
“We don’t stop to think about how beautiful the fog and mist can be,” Forman said. “You hike above and it just dances over the valley.”
That appreciation for fog comes from years spent scrambling up mountains and along highways to photograph misty mountains, hills, and river valleys.
“I would timelapse the clouds and the fog at night and I loved it. I loved the ability to see the movement and the flow of it, how it hovers over the water,” he said. “You get it over the Fraser River on a nice inversion [day] and it's like a river of fog flowing over the Fraser.”
Gradually, he also became tired of seeing British Columbia always market itself with photographs of sun and beautiful weather.
“We’re selling ourselves to the rest of the world, and we’re always choosing sunshine and sunshine,” he said. “People are coming here and it’s cloudy and they are disappointed. We should sell who we are.”
Fog fest is built around the idea that the fog is an asset, not a liability—and recognizing the role rain and clouds and fogs play in the local ecosystem.
“It was taking something we already have and realizing how beautiful it is and sharing that and saying, ‘This is really beautiful, you should come look.’”
The ubiquity of smart phones and apps like Instagram have given everyone a high-powered camera and the ability to share their photos. That has helped create entire new tourism businesses and programs focused on photography opportunities.
Tulip festivals and agri-tourism operations market themselves heavily to people who don’t just want to see pretty flowers but who visit, in large part, for the opportunity to take photos of their experience.
And Forman hopes Hope can seize on the allure of fog photography.
Fog is a little more common in southwestern BC than fields of flowers, but Hope has a particularly large amount of foggy photo ops—and unique landscapes and places well-suited to it.
The Fraser Valley’s funnel-like shape squeezes its clouds as they push east from the Pacific into the Interior of British Columbia. As they bump into the high mountains surrounding Hope, the clouds stall, leaving the town frequently shrouded in low-slung mist that cling to the trees that encroach on the town.
Valley fog itself materializes most fall mornings in the bowls of valley bottoms—especially over water bodies like rivers, lakes and streams. Hope, its surrounding valleys, and its numerous rivers, creeks, and lakes, provide a remarkable density of fog opportunities the town might be able to capitalize on.
“You see a lot of painters create beautiful images [using fog],” Forman said. And photographers can do the same.
Fog also adds something to a forest hike, of which Hope has many.
“If you want to take a picture of your experience in the forest, the fog can bring a contrast to the mountains. It looks incredible.”
The Fraser River, Kawkawa Lake, and Lake of the Woods all offer morning fog photo opportunities. Just to the north, Alexander Bridge offers a historic twist.
But though you don’t need to go far beyond Hope to find the beauty in morning mist, for Forman, there’s no place quite as good as along Highway 3, between Hope and Manning Park. The mountainsides, and especially the marshes and wetlands that line many stretches of the highway, are brought to the fore by the layers fog photography allows.
“We have some really unique geography with the rivers and lakes and the way the mountains are set, you can get these gorgeous multi-layered moments, whether it’s just looking or taking time-lapse or shooting photography,” he said.
“It’s a whole level of beauty when you start to appreciate it. Once you start appreciating fog, you become more and more in love with it and see it as a completely different thing.”