Olympic Park gets official 

Last season the Whistler Olympic Park opened its doors to the public for the first time, despite the temporary buildings, lack of a proper highway turnoff, and a complete lack of marketing. It was a soft opening of sorts, a chance for people to acquaint themselves with the venue, and an opportunity to build capacity to host events through the 2010 Games and beyond.

It surpassed all expectations, with 32,000 skier visits over the season. Up to 500 tickets were being sold every Saturday before the end of the season, and hundreds purchased season passes or dual season passes with Whistler’s Lost Lake trails.

Olympic Park manager John Aalberg expects this year to be even better, with more trails, more club involvement, and new facilities that will be open to the public and the clubs that are using the facilities on a regular basis.

“It’s going to be a totally different experience,” he promised. “Last year people were smiling, big time, because they couldn’t believe how nice the trails were. This year we will complete our daylodge at the end of November, and that is going to be a unique place, a special building with a fire place, food service, showers, lockers, ticketing, ski rentals. It will be nice to get those things out of the trailers and tents and under one roof.

“Last year was also just a trial for us, getting some people out to ski the trails, and this year we’re also adding more trails — not quite double, but more than 50 per cent more trails. This year we’ll have 55 kilometres, when last year we had 35, so that’s a big improvement in my mind. We had to get the Olympic trails built first, obviously, but the new trails are a bit different and offer a lot of different terrain.”

Also new this year is the addition of new snowshoe trails, bringing the total to almost 12 km. Aalberg is also working on a plan that would allow snowshoers to use the ski jump lift up to trails in the forests surrounding the park.

As for promoting the park, Aalberg says the Ministry of Transportation has confirmed that they will be paving the entrance to the Callaghan Road for the winter, as well as providing more signage on the highway.

A marketing plan is also being put in place to draw more tourists and visitors, as well as to develop cross country and biathlon clubs through the corridor and in the Lower Mainland.

The goal is to make Whistler Olympic Park self-sustaining after the Games. There is an endowment fund of $133 million, the interest from which will be used to cover operating costs of Whistler Olympic Park, the Whistler Sliding Centre, the athletes’ centre and the Richmond speed skating oval.

For more information, visit www.whistlerolympicpark.com.

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