W-B gives economic case for gondola 

Open house Saturday an opportunity for public feedback on Peak to Peak project

Whistler needs to bring a little sparkle to its lackluster economy.

Whistler-Blackcomb believes they can make the resort shine a little brighter with their proposed Peak to Peak Gondola, an investment in the range of $40 to $50 million.

"We are looking to re-spark some interest (in Whistler)," said Doug Forseth, senior vice president, operations at Whistler-Blackcomb. "We do believe this will help grow our business."

The proposed gondola would be a world record-setting engineering feat, spanning the Fitzsimmons Creek and linking Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains at the Roundhouse and Rendezvous restaurants.

Whistler-Blackcomb is looking for public input on their gondola proposal at a public open house on Saturday.

In the meantime they are pitching their idea to various community groups, such as One Whistler and the Chamber of Commerce trying to rally support for the project.

Forseth also spoke at a community meeting on Saturday, organized by Whistler Real Estate, which brought together various key speakers on a range of topics from the economy, to the local real estate market and the initiatives from Tourism Whistler to drive more business to the resort.

Among the speakers was economist Michael Levy and demographer Andrew Ramlo.

Forseth said he left the four-hour meeting with the sense that Whistler is living through some challenging times, affected by events far beyond our own small borders.

"We live in a bigger world than just Whistler," he said.

At the meeting Forseth explained Whistler-Blackcomb’s rationale for the gondola project, which is based in part on the company’s 2014 plan. That plan talks about the changing market for snow sports and the fact that Whistler-Blackcomb needs to create new product to meet that changing market.

Of the quarter of a million people arriving in Canada each year almost one-fifth are coming to B.C. and 70 per cent of those in B.C. will be Asian.

"Our task is going to be one to attract new people to our sport, whether they’re Asian or Caucasian or anything else," said Forseth. "The other thing is we have to go after the youth market."

To help attract those people, Forseth said they need more terrain for beginners and intermediate skiers. The gondola will help those skiers and riders access that terrain by moving them from mountain to mountain where they can get to the good snow. The theory is if they ski on good snow and have a good time, they’ll keep coming back.

"People can be having a good day, in good snow at that elevation," said Forseth.

"These are the kind of things that we think are going to attract attention to Whistler."

The gondola will also change the summer experience in the mountains too and entice more sightseers to the peaks.

The Peak to Peak gondola open house will be held at Legends in Creekside on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 2 to 5 p.m.

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