By Bob Barnett
There will be a new quad chair to the peak of Whistler Mountain this winter, but the real hub on the mountain is going to be the new $9.2 million Roundhouse Lodge.
The 50,000 square foot facility is changing the landscape at the top of Whistler Mountain, and its going to change the way things are done on the mountain.
The new Roundhouse Lodge fills all the space on the old Roundhouse knoll between Pika’s and the top terminal of the Express Gondola. Much of the knoll has been blasted away to make room for the new building and the material has been spread out in front of the lodge to create a wider, flatter "plaza" that allows more space for skiers and boarders dispersing from the gondola or entering/leaving the new Roundhouse.
The building itself is designed to "create little neighbourhoods within," says Gary Rodgers, the man in charge of capital projects on Whistler Mountain. Cappuccino bars, a sports shop, retail shop, different types of dining experiences and provisions for an office centre are all part of the concept.
Starting with the grand entrance under a stone archway, skiers will come into a space twice the size of the entrance area of Blackcomb’s Glacier Creek Lodge. At the end of the entrance area will be a massive staircase, leading up to the main dining areas on the second floor. Most of the second floor area, which will be known as the Valley View Room, has a soaring vaulted ceiling made of massive glue-lam beams that will make for a dramatic space, even when viewed from the first floor stairwell.
"We hope people will go ‘wow’ when they enter the building," says Rodgers.
Back on the first floor, in behind the staircase is the space for the office centre, which may offer fax, e-mail and other internet services, depending on who Intrawest comes to terms with as the company’s telecommunications provider. Washroom facilities are also in this area, just off the entrance, as is a sports shop.
To the left of the entrance is direct access to the gondola building. To the right is the doorway into a revamped Pika’s.
From the outside the building that was Pika’s will look much the same as it has, but the inside is being completely redesigned. The lower level of the old Pika’s will still be called Pika’s and will cater to families, kids and people looking for a quick bite. The main difference is the stairway has been removed and the upstairs of the old Pika’s is a completely separate restaurant.
The rest of the ground floor of the Roundhouse Lodge will be off limits to the general public, but it is here, behind the scenes, where the new building will make things easier for staff. A staff lunchroom, with views similar to Pika’s, is part of this area. Offices, lockers and the main kitchen are also out of view of the public.
In addition to much larger cooking and food preparation areas, the kitchen has more space for an expanded recycling program, as well as walk-in freezers and coolers. These facilities are located right next to the gondola, which is the main link with the valley. Supplies coming up on the gondola and recycled materials and garbage going down on the gondola can now be wheeled quickly and directly between the kitchen and the gondola, without ever having to go outside.
As well, a loading bay for snowcats is located in the same area, so that servicing future restaurants on the mountain will not require excessive handling of supplies.
Speaking of future restaurants, a permanent power line to the top of the Harmony Express and to the Whistler Peak is being installed this summer. A restaurant at one of those locations is likely to be built next summer.
To get the food from the kitchen to the serving areas on the second floor, a service elevator is being installed. The elevator arrives at the second floor in the Mountain Marketplace serving area. The Mountain Marketplace will be roughly in the centre of the second floor and will be the primary food court for the Roundhouse Lodge.
The Valley View Room is the main eating area on the second floor. It is a huge space, topped by the vaulted ceiling, large clerestory windows and impressive views looking north up the Whistler Valley, from the area where the Roundhouse used to sit. But unlike the Glacier Creek Lodge, the Valley View Room will not feel like one large room. There will be corners to disappear into, a cappuccino bar at one side — the Peak Corner Bar — and views out each side of the room which will draw people to the windows.
Above the Roundhouse Lodge entrance, at the opposite end of the Valley View Room from where the original Roundhouse was, will be a full-service restaurant with seating for 110 and spectacular views of the Whistler Peak. Rodgers says the as-yet-unnamed restaurant is not supposed to be like Christine’s on Blackcomb.
"It will serve unique, signature items, but it will be casual dining. It’s not meant to be a two-hour dining experience."
The upstairs of the old Pika’s, which will now be known as the Glacier View Room, will be the main after-hours banquet and catering room on Whistler Mountain, which will likely be quite busy as the Roundhouse Lodge will be used year-round. The room can be completely closed off from other areas of the Roundhouse Lodge and features a small stage in one corner, for awards presentations and guest speakers. A tea bar, serving all types of teas, will be in one corner of the Glacier View Room. The main serving area in the Glacier View Room will feature Thai and Mexican food, among other styles.
Finally, the outdoor deck area has been expanded, and will include open and covered areas, as well as a permanent barbecue area that can be hidden away behind garage doors when it’s not barbecuing weather.
o Cost: $9.2 million
o Size: 50,000 square feet (not including gondola building)
o Capacity: approx. 1,700 seats, including staff lunch room
o Design: Lutz and Associates Architects of West Vancouver
o Construction: Amako Construction
o Primary materials: approx. 150 truck loads of concrete; wood; glass; stone
o Opening day: Nov. 25 (same day mountain scheduled to open for season)