Increases driven by mounting costs but still in line with inflation
By Clare Ogilvie
Swooshing down the slopes of Whistler-Blackcomb will cost a little more this season.
The most popular seasons pass, the unlimited dual mountain, will now cost $1,329, plus GST, on or before Oct. 13, and $1,639 plus tax after.
Last year the early bird price was $1,289.
"That is a three-per-cent increase over last year, which is in line with inflation," said Stuart Rempel, vice-president of marketing and sales for the mountains.
Whats driving the increase he said was the on-going upgrades to the mountain itself, the high cost of labour in the resort, and skyrocketing insurance and fuel prices.
"Our costs are going up and certainly we have spent a ton of money on on-mountain improvements," said Rempel.
"We have invested in more enhanced snowmaking, we have done quite a bit of work in the area of Highway 86, where it comes out into Grand Finale, and there are other examples.
"We have been just looking at areas around the mountain where there is congestion and looking to widen some (of those) areas. So we are spending a significant amount of money to upgrade and improve the mountain."
Rempel said the mountains single biggest cost is labour.But he is adamant that even though the cost of the pass far exceeds other nearby resorts it is great value for money.
"People can ski from November to June and this year we have also added the first two weeks of glacier skiing, so pass holders can ski on Blackcomb Mountain Glacier for free for the first two weeks of the season," said Rempel.
There are also a variety of pass holder perks available, such as discounts at the espresso bars first thing in the morning and discounts on demos and rentals and other items.
Pass holders also get to sightsee all summer for free on the mountains and they get a discount at the bike park.
Rempel said the mountains also work hard to make sure that locals and regional skiers never have to pay full price at the ticket window.
Check out www.whistlerblackcomb.com for all the packages available.
For example regional skiers can get discounted tickets at 7-Eleven stores, seven to 18-year-olds in the Sea-to-Sky corridor can get a 10-day pass for just $209, specially priced passes are available for university and college students who are from the community, the Express cards will be on offer again this year, and Chamber of Commerce Spirit Program participants will get almost a 30 per cent discount on the $1,639 price-tag for an unlimited seasons pass.
"We believe there is tremendous value in the pass. Given the length of the season and now the addition of two weeks of glacier skiing, summer sightseeing and then all the pass holder perks, we believe this represents great value," said Rempel.
Day ticket prices wont be released until the 200-day season begins Nov. 28.
Similar types of resorts in the U.S. also offer a plethora of passes and programs, some of them cheaper than Whistler-Blackcomb. But an unlimited pass at Sun Valley is $1,825 US.
"Other similar resorts may have discounted passes but there is always blackout dates or they dont offer their premium mountain all season and so on," said Rempel.
"And our season is significantly longer than any of those resorts."
B.C.s other ski resorts are also leaving summer behind and looking toward the winter season. Some have also raised their prices.
Big White and Silver Star in the Okanagan are offering an unlimited dual mountain pass for the early bird price of $509 until Sept. 21. From Sept. 21 until Oct 31 the pass is $669. After that it is $819.
At Kimberley an adult unlimited pass is $449 until Sept. 20, after which it rises to $629.
An unlimited pass for Fernie or Lake Louise will set you back $579 until Sept. 20. Once the early bird special is over the passes are $729.
Many of the ski areas owned and operated by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies have banded together to offer great deals on multi-mountain skiing for the season and holiday packages.
If you book in these resorts before Sept. 30 kids aged 6 to 12 can stay and ski for free during the season until Feb. 17, 2004.
Skiers at Sun Peaks this year can get a pass until Sept. 21 for $399. From that date until Oct. 31 the pass will be $599. After Nov.1 the pass is $799. A day ticket will cost $55 for an adult.Pass prices at Sun Peaks are unchanged from last year.
Grouse Mountain wont be releasing its ticket and pass prices until the beginning of its season.
Cypress, which did not raise its pass price, is offering them at 30 to 40 per cent off if skiers and boarders buy them before Oct 31. An unlimited pass costs $570.50 right now. After Halloween the pass will be $815. Day tickets will be $42 this year and night skiing is $36.