Resort upgrade won’t include roller-coaster, water park
Whistler Blackcomb’s proposed $66-million upgrade, which will add a gondola and make it easier for skiers to travel between the two mountains, is expected to attract more global skiers.
But it’s a scaled-back version of a $100-million investment announced last year that was supposed to add a water park and roller-coaster.
Vail Resorts of Colorado announced Thursday it will replace the Wizard and Solar chairlifts from Whistler’s Upper Village on Blackcomb mountain with a 10-person gondola.
The gondola will bring skiers to the base of the Peak 2 Peak gondola between Blackcomb and Whistler, and Vail calls it the “first threegondola connection in the world.”
The investment is the largest in the resort’s history, Whistler Blackcomb spokesman Marc Riddell said. It puts Whistler in a better position to capitalize on summer visits by opening up all areas of the alpine area to visitors by offering them a sheltered ride up and down the mountain, he said.
But last year, the resort announced it would spend $100 million to diversify the development for year-round activities by building an indoor water park and roller-coaster, in addition to adding high-speed lifts.
Vail said in the release it is expanding its mountain bike park in a two-phase upgrade that will add 21 kilometres of trails in the summer of 2018.
But, the release said, it would be “deferring consideration of the new water park.”
The investment proves Vail, the largest mountain resort operator in the world with 11 resorts and three urban ski areas, is serious about marketing Whistler and Canadian skiing to the world, said Christopher Nicholson, president of the Canada West Ski Areas Association.
He said when Vail bought B.C.’s largest ski resort last year for $1.4 billion, it said it wanted to invest in the development and market it to the world.
“This is a pretty clear indication of that,” he said.
But the association, which opposes a proposed new ski resort called Garibaldi at Squamish, said skiers’ visits have remained stagnant in B.C. at 6.1 million annual visitors and that last year between 26 and 43 per cent of ski areas reported financial losses.
Nicolson said the increased flow of tourists to Whistler will help other western Canadian ski resorts through a “ripple effect” because foreigners on visits to Whistler will learn about other resorts and return to visit them.
The scheduled upgrades will increase Blackcomb’s lift capacity by 47 per cent, moving 4,000 passengers an hour on the new gondola, compared with the Wizard and Solar chairs, Riddell said.
Also planned are upgrades to the Emerald Express to a six-person (from a four-person) high-speed lift, a 29 per cent upload capacity increase and replacement of the three-person Catskinner lift with a four-person high-speed lift.
Vail Resorts is planning a $66-million upgrade for the Whistler Blackcomb resort. A 10-person gondola will be added and 21 kilometres of mountain bike trails will be created, the Colorado-based company says.