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Osoyoos waterslides bring smiles to faces of youngsters in summer heat
When you ask Tony and Nadia Slovak what is the best part of owning the Osoyoos Campground and Waterslide Park, they answer within a split second and echo virtually the same answer.
“Seeing all of the smiling faces is very rewarding,” says Nadia.
Her husband couldn’t agree more.
“Getting compliments and seeing everyone smile is what it’s all about,” he says.
The Slovaks, who met and were married in their native Czech Republic more than 40 years ago, came to Osoyoos almost a decade ago and never thought in their wildest dreams that they would end up owning and operating a campground or waterslide park.
When they first met, they didn’t know if their life together would last very long as the Russians had invaded their homeland.
“Like many people in our home country, we got out to try and seek a better life and Canada was our first choice,” said Tony.
It was a decision they have never regretted.
Nadia worked 20 years owning her own hairdressing salon in Vancouver, while her husband worked in the heavy equipment industry building airplanes and cruise ships.
After raising their two children, they decided they wanted to invest their money and own their own business.
“We were living in Vancouver and were looking for an investment property and we saw in a real estate magazine that there was this nice resort for sale in Osoyoos,” said Nadia. “We came down and thought we had worked out a deal and were ready to sign everything … when the banks backed out and the deal fell through.
“Because we thought the deal was going to go through, we had sold our home before we came here, so we were basically homeless in Osoyoos for a couple of weeks.”
As avid outdoor enthusiasts, Tony and Nadia were kayaking across Osoyoos Lake one day when they noticed the business, formerly called Wild Rapids Waterpark, was up for sale on Lakeshore Drive.
They decided to purchase the business with the idea of turning the three-acre site into a luxury condominium development.
Two large-scale proposals to turn the site into a luxury resort fell through and they finally decided in the spring of 2008, just before the worldwide recession hit, to try and continue operating the facility as a campground and waterslide park.
“The year 2007 was the only year we owned it when we didn’t open the waterslide, even though we kept the campground going,” said Tony. “We finally decided in 2008 that we would get the waterslides back open and try and make a go out of it.”
It is a decision they don’t regret, despite the fact there is so much competition in the camping industry and a waterslide park only attracts regular customers over a two-month period in July and August, said Nadia.
“We only have a couple of months to generate all of our revenue, which is very challenging, but we’re very busy getting the campground and park ready for a couple of months before the people start arriving.
“It’s a unique business with a lot of challenges, but we’ve managed to make a decent living at it for a few years now and we love living in Osoyoos, so it’s all worked out.”
Despite being more than 35 years of age, the waterslide park is in remarkably great shape, said Tony, who knows a thing about structural engineering as he worked building aircraft and cruise ships for much of his career in his native country and in Vancouver before moving to Osoyoos.
The facility features “two mini slides and three big ones”, including the Wild Rapids ride, which is the longest and fastest of the waterslides.
Other fun names for the rides include The Twister, The Corkscrew, The Bunny and The Coyotes.
There is more than 1,350 feet of waterslide action going on at any given time.
The campground features 38 sites and following a lot of work over the past few months, every one of those sites has electrical installation offered, said Tony.
The campground opened on the May long weekend and will remain open until the fall. The waterslide park opened in early July and remains open seven days a week until the Labour Day long weekend.
Tony and Nadia don’t’ get much sleep in July and August, which is part and parcel of owning such a unique business.
“It’s pretty much 24-7 in July and August,” said Tony. “The waterslides are open seven days a week and we have to make all our money in two months, so we’re up early and in bed late, but it’s also a lot of fun to see so many people having a good time.”
Being able to live and enjoy Osoyoos when their business closes down offers a lifestyle opportunity they cherish, said Nadia.
“We are both very active in sports so we spend a lot of time skiing, cross-country skiing and we’re big into ice sailing here on Osoyoos Lake,” she said. “We would never consider leaving Osoyoos in the winter time because there’s too much going on and we get to enjoy our free time.
“Osoyoos offers everything that we love to do and we find it a wonderful place to live year-round. It’s truly a paradise. It really is.”
All campers who stay in the campground receive a 20 per cent discount for the waterslides and all tourists and local who purchase a five-day pass receive the same discount, she said.
Another big bonus of operating a waterslide park is to have their two grandchildren visit on a regular basis, said Nadia.
Osoyoos Campground and Waterslide Park is open between noon and 6 p.m. daily through Labour Day weekend.
For more information, visit www.osoyoos-rv-waterslides.ca.