Lift expansion makes a statement 

$18 million Whistler Blackcomb improvements 'positive' for community, industry

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANDREW MITCHELL - Crystal eyes Doug Forseth, vice-president of planning at Whistler Blackcomb, shows where the bottom terminal of a longer chair will be built this spring and summer to serve the Crystal Zone.
  • Photo by Andrew Mitchell
  • Crystal eyes Doug Forseth, vice-president of planning at Whistler Blackcomb, shows where the bottom terminal of a longer chair will be built this spring and summer to serve the Crystal Zone.

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The old Harmony quad chairlift will then be moved over to the Crystal zone on Blackcomb Mountain, an area Brownlie called "near and dear to our hearts" with runs like Rock'n'Roll, Ridge Runner and the gladed tree skiing in the area.

It's so near and dear to the hearts of locals that there was even some light-hearted booing at this weekend's Deep Winter Challenge event when the expansion was announced. The change will open up the area to more people, which means more people accessing favourite untamed spots.

The bottom terminal of the chair will be moved 158 metres lower than the old Crystal Chair and below the Glacier Road in the area of Rock'n'Roll. Rather than taking the long ski-out back to the Excelerator Chair when skiing the Blackcomb Glacier and the Crystal zone, skiers and riders will be able to lap the area using the new chair.

The chair will increase the skier carrying capacity by 65 per cent to 2,400 skiers per hour. The six-pack at Harmony will increase uphill capacity by 50 per cent from 2,400 skiers per hour to 3,600.

All pointing to the fact that Whistler Blackcomb is preparing to handle more skiers.

Last year the company welcomed more than 2.6 million visits in the winter and the summer (2.1 million and 500,000 respectively).

"We'd like to get this place to over three million visits in winter and summer," said Brownlie.

"There's no question investments like these bring more people here."

The president and CEO of Canada West Ski Areas Association, David Lynn, said it was great to see WB, as a leader in the industry, making changes to improve the business.

"It shows that the industry is continuing to invest in itself to improve the product and to continue to grow skier visits," said Lynn, who was in Whistler for a board of directors meeting this week.

"Obviously the magnitude of what Whistler is doing is very significant at $18 million... We've certainly seen other capital investments in the industry and I think that's really positive in terms of continuing to improve the quality of the product that we offer skiers."

In the grand scheme of capital on-mountain investments, this project is perhaps second only to the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, said Brownlie.

"This is really about providing the best guest experience that we can on these tremendous mountains that we have," he said. "And I think this will do a lot to just enhance that guest experience every day of the year and it will bring more people here and more people will have a great time. And then that will allow us to continue to grow our business and then do many more things, if you've looked at our master plans. We've got lots of ideas and lots of things that we want to continue to do over the next many years."

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