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Construction kicks off on Whistler Blackcomb's Fitzsimmons Express replacement

Here's what you need to know
Deconstruction on Whistler Blackcomb's Fitzsimmons Express chairlift is officially underway. The lift is set to be replaced with a high-speed, eight-seater chair in 2023.

Whistler Mountain is open for 18 more days of skiing and snowboarding, but if you were planning to use the Fitzsimmons Express chair to access the slopes, you're out of luck—at least until next winter. 

Construction on the lift's replacement got rolling in Skier's Plaza this week, Whistler Blackcomb shared in a March 28 social media post. Crews were scheduled to begin deconstructing the lift and removing its carriers on Wednesday, March 29. The resort announced plans last September to replace the existing four-seater with a high-speed, eight-person chair, significantly boosting uphill capacity from Skier's Plaza. 

Whistler Blackcomb is warning guests to be aware of the construction zone and respect any terrain closures near Skier's Plaza and along the ski-out to Whistler Village. With "prominent" fencing installed in the area, downloading the Whistler Village Gondola from mid-station is an option beginners may want to consider to avoid the narrower ski-out. All guests are encouraged to slow down and be aware of increased congestion while riding out.

The construction zone also means guests won't be able to ski or ride directly to Skier's Plaza from Blackcomb. Instead, that ski-out will direct guests to the bus loop on Blackcomb Way, on the opposite side of the stairs. 

"At some points, we will need to close trails/ski outs entirely, meaning guests will need to download as a result," the post added. Guests can follow Whistler Blackcomb's Mountain Ops account on Twitter for the most timely updates. 

Officials also recommend uploading via the Blackcomb or Creekside Gondolas to avoid the construction zone entirely. 

"This project is significant and complex – and we’re committed to keeping you informed throughout the process," the post concluded. The resort plans to release construction updates on its blog and through its social channels throughout the coming months.  

The resort initially planned to upgrade Blackcomb's four-seater Jersey Cream in 2023 as well, but confirmed earlier this month that construction on a new high-speed six-pack would be delayed by one year. "Unfortunately, our lift manufacturing and install partner, Doppelmayr, has informed us they cannot complete both Fitz and Jersey Cream Express this summer due to their labour and resource constraints," the company explained in a March 9 post.

The brand-new lifts were originally earmarked for Vail Resorts’ Park City property in Utah, but were stalled by permitting delays.

On Tuesday, the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) mayor and council adopted new parking bylaw amendments and a development permit at two hastily assembled special council meetings that ultimately paved the way for Whistler Blackcomb's Fitz upgrade, without requiring additional parking.

Whistler's zoning bylaws for Whistler Village Base require 0.50 parking spaces per hourly rated capacity of all base lifts. With the Fitzsimmons Express upgrade set to increase that lift's capacity from 1,850 to 3,300 skiers per hour, parent company Vail Resorts would be required to provide an additional 725 parking spaces, equivalent to about half of the space in the Creekside Parkade, for the upgrade to be approved.

The amended parking bylaw lets Whistler Blackcomb off the hook for those extra spots. It does, however, come with four conditions, one of which requires Whistler Blackcomb to pay $200,000 annually in lieu of those parking spots.

Whistler Mountain's last day of winter operations is set for Sunday, April 16, before the Whistler Blackcomb Bike Park opens for the season on May 19. Blackcomb will remain open for skiing and snowboarding until May 22. 

- With files from Robert Wisla