Symphony Express on pace for December opening 

Early opening for mountains depends on snow

By Andrew Mitchell

With the latest warm and wet “Pineapple Express” front receding Whistler can expect valley temperatures to cool and snow in the alpine.

The latest Environment Canada weather forecast Wednesday was predicting up to 40 cm on Friday, 40 cm on Saturday and 50 cm on Sunday, with the freezing level dropping to 1,250 metres. If the conditions justify it, Whistler-Blackcomb may decide to open early this year.

“Right now the 23 rd (of November) is our official opening and everything else is wait and see at this point,” said Tabetha Boot, regional public relations supervisor for Whistler-Blackcomb. “Obviously we will try to open as early as possible. Everybody is hired and training, and we’re getting ready to go in every department.”

While the weather will ultimately determine whether Blackcomb will open up to a week early, Whistler-Blackcomb is moving ahead with the Symphony Express chair — a high-speed quad chair that will open an area on Whistler Mountain now being called the Symphony Amphitheatre, which includes Piccolo, the Burnt Stew area and Flute basin. You’ll still need to hike Flute to ski or ride from the peak, but the lift will improve or open access to more than 1,000 acres of terrain.

The $9 million lift is slated to open on Dec. 16.

“We have been very pleased with the progress of the construction to date,” said Wayne Wiltse, Whistler-Blackcomb’s lift maintenance manager. “The towers were flown in about six weeks ago and since then we’ve been busy building the upper and lower terminals, and the various other out-buildings that are required. The haul rope is in place and will be spliced this week.”

The new chair is part of a $22.1 million upgrade to Whistler-Blackcomb. Other projects include the creation of new runs in the Symphony Amphitheatre, upgrades to reservoirs and snowmaking, and summer grooming of runs that allow them to hold snow better and be opened with less snow depth. Whistler-Blackcomb has also invested in new rails and boxes for terrain parks.

To help speed winter on its way Whistler-Blackcomb is once again hosting an Ullr Party to pay tribute to the Norse god of snow.

“Every fall we celebrate Ullr, who in old Scandinavian myth was the god of justice and dueling, but was most well known for being irresistible and master of skiing,” said Kirby Brown, director of Employee Experience at Whistler-Blackcomb. “Last year’s event was a huge success and Ullr must have noticed because he rewarded us with an outstanding winter season, including record breaking snowfall in January.”

The party is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Base II. There will be a bonfire, fireworks show, fire dancers, food, and live music from the Dank Nuggs Band and DJ PHD. There will also be a costume contest with prizes awarded for the best Ullr-inspired outfits.

People are asked to bring non-perishable food items for the Whistler Food Bank, or to make a cash donation for the B.C. Children’s Hospital to receive their own mini skis to sacrifice to the fire.

The party is family friendly and alcohol-free, but there will be after party events at local clubs and bars including the Longhorn Saloon, Garfinkel’s, Black’s Pub and Merlin’s Bar and Grill. There will be free uploading and downloading on the Excalibur Gondola, and the parking lot at Base II will be closed to vehicles.

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