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Low winter snowfall kills summer ski camps at Whistler Blackcomb

The Horstman Glacier will not open for 2024 due to low snowpack
Momentum Camps will not be operating summer camps in 2024.

Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has confirmed what a season of poor snow had many suspecting: The Horstman Glacier will not open for summer skiing in 2024, and the popular summer training camps taking place on the glacier will have to go without.

"Whistler Blackcomb is unable to host camps during the 2024 summer on the Horstman Glacier,” said a WB spokesperson.

“This decision was not made lightly—we know these camps, and this experience, have a long history at our resort.

“Unfortunately, the conditions related to this season’s snowfall prevent summer camps to safely operate this year."

For the primary user of the glacier through summer months—Whistler’s Momentum Camps—it was hard news to take.

“It’s a huge blow to us and over a thousand kids that come out here to train for the summer,” said Momentum Camps director John Smart, in an interview with Pique. Momentum Camps hosted more than 1,200 registrants in 2023 over summer.

Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier is one of only two locations in North America where summer skiing and riding is possible—the other being Mount Hood, in Oregon.

Smart said the uniqueness of the Horstman operations makes losing a season difficult for the company given the last few years have seen some of the best-attended camps in Momentum’s 32-year history.

Momentum’s camps were still open for registration right up until the decision was made to pull the plug in early April.

“We were fully on track,” said Smart. “Last year was our biggest year in 32 years. The camp has just been getting bigger and bigger. We were tracking the same registration as we were last year at this time, and so expecting that it was going to be a very similar size.

“We’ve had to turn around hundreds and hundreds of people.”

Those registered to attend the camps held in June and July will be refunded, as Momentum hasn’t been able to pivot quickly enough with alternate offerings—and what it could offer wasn’t equal to the draw of Horstman in the first place.

“We tried to pivot quickly for a multi-sport camp, however we’ve learned that our diehard ski and snowboard crowd isn’t having that,” Smart said.

While Momentum can’t host its kids camps, it will instead attempt to flip its adult camp from the beginning of the summer season into the last week of WB’s May operations—so the company will not be completely idle for 2024.

“We’re putting that out there as a new idea for them and so far the feedback has been pretty positive,” Smart said. “We might be able to keep some of our older happy campers going.”

While there will be some activity, Smart said there is “no quick recovery” to keep most customers happy. “It’s unfortunate we have to say no,” he said.

T-bar the issue, not the glacier

Smart said the main issue hampering this year’s operations is the Showcase T-bar.

“Everyone at Whistler knows that that T-bar didn’t get going for the longest time because of the low snowpack,” he said. “That’s the real problem, the way it’s engineered.”

Smart explained there are plans by WB to have the T-bar re-engineered to allow for it to operate on a lower snowpack, but that would require input from the manufacturer Doppelmayr, meaning it isn’t a solution for 2024.

As it stands, WB operations were scraping snow for the T-bar through winter.

“It’s obviously in their interest—everyone knows it was the latest opening for that T-bar this year for the Blackcomb Glacier,” Smart said. “That’s a huge part of winter operations, having access back there.”

Optimism for the future

Smart said 2024 poses a tough situation, but Momentum experienced disruption before in 2020 and 2021, and came back stronger.

“As long as people don’t lose hope … It’s important that people don’t think right away that [summer skiing] is done,” he said, downplaying the idea the glacier has receded too fast, and summer skiing will never return.

“That’s not true,” he said, noting that besides re-tooling the T-bar, there are plenty of other long-term possibilities for summer skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, including snowmaking.

The key focus for now to ensure confidence in future seasons is the Showcase T-bar.

“Without that lift issue, I think we can be a lot more confident, and more positive pushing forward to 2025,” Smart said.

*This story has been updated from its original version to include the proper name of the T-bar.