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Layoffs at Whistler-Blackcomb

Global economy takes personnel toll on parent company Intrawest

Challenging economic times and concerns over a likely drop in the number of tourists has led Intrawest to lay off staff across North America at its resorts.

Some of layoffs are at Whistler-Blackcomb.

“There are workforce reductions at Whistler-Blackcomb,” confirmed Intrawest spokesman Ian Galbraith this week.

Added Whistler-Blackcomb spokeswoman Christina Moore: “While there have been a number of positions eliminated across the Intrawest network of resorts, the impact on Whistler-Blackcomb is in fact minimal. The majority of positions eliminated at Whistler-Blackcomb are in the form of vacant positions that will now not be filled.

“In no way will the cuts impact the Guest Experience at Whistler-Blackcomb.”

No numbers are available for any of the resorts affected. According to other media outlets there are also layoffs at the Steamboat ski area in Colorado.

Intrawest, based in Vancouver, owns 11 North American resorts and employs 22,000 workers.

“Like many companies in North America, Intrawest is not immune in this current economic environment,” said a statement released by Galbraith in explaining the layoffs.

“As such, we are taking the necessary steps to preserve our ability to be competitive and ensure our future success. As part of this process we have taken the difficult step of reducing and realigning our workforce.

“Impacted employees have been offered access to outplacement services to help in their transition. Although these are difficult decisions for us, our vision remains consistent and we are committed to delivering exceptional experiences for our guests, homeowners and employees.”

Galbraith said the layoffs were not in positions that would affect guest experience.

He could not confirm that Whistler-Blackcomb vehicle use, and the number of promotional passes handed out, was also to be cut back.

“Like every company out there we are taking a close look at our bottom line,” said Galbraith.

Despite the sober news of the layoffs Galbraith said Intrawest is firmly focused on delivering a great year for visitors and staff alike.

“The fact that we are opening a day early is fantastic and we are looking forward to another great year,” he said.

“The Peak 2 Peak is coming and with the Olympics a year away I think there is a buzz up there and there is a lot of interest up there.

“Our research has shown that if we can put together good packaged products and offer a great experience, and arguably Whistler-Blackcomb is one of the best in North America, people will still want to come. We see that with season pass sales and vacation planning packages.”

Whistler-Blackcomb does not reveal its numbers for things such as pass sales. But Stuart Rempel, senior vice president marketing and sales, said: “…We're doing well and tracking well to plan.”

Tourism Whistler has been predicting that U.S. visits will be down about 12 per cent this winter.

At a recent meeting the organization said it is working to fight the trend by continuing with its long-term strategy to grow and diversify Whistler’s markets, but concentrating on core markets with the highest return on investment.

Actions include:

• increased focus on B.C., Canada, regional U.S., the U.K., Australia, Germany and Mexico;

• creating and promoting aggressive lift and accommodation packages;

• promoting the additional value that comes with the exchange rate;

• promoting Whistler’s strengths, including the 2010 alpine and Nordic venues, the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre and the Peak 2 Peak gondola.