Re­sort up­grade won’t in­clude roller-coaster, wa­ter park

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - SU­SAN LAZARUK

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.

FILES

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.

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