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Whistler Blackcomb issues apology after rocky start to spring season

'We definitely had a miss yesterday'
The line for Blackcomb's Excalibur Gondola stretched more than 200 metres through Whistler Village, all the way to Araxi, after a storm dumped 17 cm of snow over the resort on Monday, April 17, its first day of spring operations.

“Spring skiing is underway, which brings operational changes, too—and we didn’t do a great job of explaining exactly why certain things are happening as we made this shift yesterday. Additionally, we should have been more out front with you about what to expect on Blackcomb for these final weeks of spring, and we apologize.” 

That’s the message Whistler Blackcomb had for its guests on Tuesday afternoon, April 18, one day after its spring season got off to a rough start. It wasn’t so much the terrain that was rocky, after a storm dumped 17 centimetres of new snow in the alpine on top of a nearly 300-cm base, but the scene skiers and snowboarders found when they arrived at the bottom of the mountain Monday morning. 

Whistler Mountain closed for the winter season on Sunday, April 16, in order to prepare for the Bike Park’s May 19 opening, summer sightseeing offerings and even next winter’s operations. Most passholders were aware only Blackcomb Mountain would be open for skiing and snowboarding for the next five weeks, with daily hours of operation shortened to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As evidenced by the high volume of complaints online, fewer knew that only the eight-person Excalibur Gondola would be spinning to bring guests out of the valley on April 17. A lengthy queue for Excalibur wound through the Village Stroll late Monday morning, stretching all the way past Araxi and the Beacon, while the 10-person Blackcomb Gondola in the Upper Village remained closed. 

Whistler Blackcomb’s website states Excalibur will be used for uploading daily until Blackcomb’s May 22 closing day. Accessible from Skier’s Plaza and Base II, it will be the sole upload lift running on weekdays. The Blackcomb Gondola will only spin on weekends (plus Victoria Day, which this year falls on Monday, May 22). 

“We feel confident that we can manage appropriately during the week, but we definitely had a miss yesterday, complicated by the spring storm,” read the message, posted to Whistler Blackcomb’s social channels and signed by interim COO Doug Pierini and vice-president of mountain operations Doug Macfarlane. 

A spokesperson for Whistler Blackcomb confirmed the resort updated its website to include spring operations information on March 9. Asked if information about Blackcomb Gondola’s weekday closure was communicated elsewhere, the spokesperson told Pique the resort included a call to action in its spring and summer operations dates announcement, prompting guests to visit a link in its Instagram bio for a more detailed breakdown of upcoming operating hours. 

Though the Blackcomb Gondola has typically spun daily each spring since it was installed in December 2018, the lift is reportedly due for more substantial maintenance in its fifth year of operation. 

“Around this time, we also need to take care of a variety of maintenance needs and prep work on both mountains ahead of summer kicking off. This year, it includes necessary preventative lift maintenance on Blackcomb Gondola, which is required by Technical Safety BC and additionally by our lift manufacture,” the message read. “It’s also an essential component of our commitment to safety, as we need to complete load testing, extensive station work, and tower work (mechanical + electrical). This all must be done within the spring timeframe, which makes it a bit tricky as we continue to operate through May.” 

Higher on the mountain, skiers and riders were also bummed Monday to learn Glacier Express wasn’t expected to open this spring. The resort attributed the closure to annual maintenance for the chairlift. Whistler Blackcomb reversed course Tuesday, adding Glacier to the list of lifts that will spin daily, weather permitting, until the end of the season. 

Excelerator, Jersey Cream, Catskinner, 7th Heaven and Crystal will also continue to operate until Blackcomb’s closing day. 

In the statement, Whistler Blackcomb directed guests to its Lifts & Terrain Status Page and Mountain Operations Twitter feed for real-time updates. 

Whistler Blackcomb officials also used the message to remind drivers about Lot 8’s closure this spring, while the parking lot is being used as a staging area for construction on the Fitzsimmons Express chairlift replacement. Lots 1 to 7 will remain open. 

“We will also have ongoing maintenance and safety work ongoing throughout spring and summer – our resort is extremely large (the biggest in North America!) and we have a lot of lifts to care for – safety is critical, and with a significant summer operation here, we need to ensure everything is good to go for you, especially as some of our lifts have very little down time because of our nearly year-round operational schedule,” the message read. “This work can be time consuming, but is important. We appreciate your patience and support, including through the construction process with Fitz this summer.

“We remain committed to ongoing communication about what to expect while you’re at our resort – especially as you enjoy the last weeks of the season, skiing well into May.”