Whistler Blackcomb acknowledges rough start to season 

Deadline for pass products extended to Dec. 3

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOEL BARDE - snow dump Whistler Mountain was blanketed with snow 24 hours before opening day last week.
  • photo by joel barde
  • snow dump Whistler Mountain was blanketed with snow 24 hours before opening day last week.

Representatives from Whistler Blackcomb (WB) apologized for a rough start to the ski season that has left some guests frustrated.

"A lot of our guests had a negative experience and we apologize for that," said Marc Riddell, senior manager of communications for Whistler Blackcomb.

Thanks to excellent conditions, Whistler Mountain opened on Friday, Nov. 17, six days ahead of schedule.

Social media was full of pictures of people ripping light, fluffy pow.

But there was also a fair share of griping on social media with some complaining that their season pass never showed up in the mail, forcing them to wait in long lines to get tickets.

"That contributed to those long lineups," admitted Riddell.

"People were supposed to get their pass in advance in the mail. It's something we're looking at."

This season has brought monumental changes to Whistler Blackcomb.

It's the first winter that Vail Resorts— which acquired the mountain in a $1.4-billion friendly takeover in August 2016 — is fully in the driver's seat.

And that means new systems, passes, and technology.

"Our entire customer base — local customer base and loyal pass and card customers — were transitioned to a new product and new technology," said Riddell.

The processing issues, he said, were compounded by first-rate conditions, which drew many to the hill.

The days leading up to Friday's opening were cold and snowy.

"Those excellent snow conditions and the demand to get (passes) right away obviously contributed to the delay," said Riddell.

Some Whistler locals said they weren't able to pick up their Spirit Passes either.

The passes — which offer unlimited riding — are available to employees and business owners that are Whistler Chamber of Commerce members.

Melissa Pace, CEO of the chamber, said her office didn't receive an abnormal call volume related to the Spirit Pass, adding that WB's guest services did a good job communicating with the chamber.

The week prior to opening day, WB informed the chamber that there would be a processing delay of 72 hours for employer-paid Spirit Passes, she said.

The chamber, in turn, emailed out a note to those affected, and posted about it on social media.

A 72-hour processing delay is in line with other years, said Riddell.

"Generally it takes us three days to process a Spirit Pass, and we're close to that target," he said.

People who weren't able to access their passes were offered day tickets, he added.

In order to help out, Whistler Blackcomb is extending its hours of operations at guest services.

Guest services in the village will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Riddell said that management is learning and always seeks to do better.

"We are committed to ways of improving our guest experience," he said, adding that conditions so far have been favourable on the hill.

WB has also decided to extend the deadline to buy pass products to Dec. 3.

""We are giving this short grace period to our customers," explained Riddell.

"We recognize that this is a big change for pass and edge card customers and we want to make sure they are served."

— with files from Clare Ogilvie

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