Whistler-Blackcomb looking to the future 

Survey kicks off mountain’s largest, most in-depth planning session to date

The mountain resort world has changed a lot in the past 10 or 15 years.

Once a fringe sport, snowboarders now account for almost half of all mountain users and the majority of younger participants. Snowboarding also gave rise to the terrain park phenomenon, which has become a big part of any mountain resort offering.

Skis have also changed a lot. Parabolic designs made it easier for intermediate skiers to carve. Twin-tip skis were created for a new generation of skiers riding the terrain park. Specialized big mountain skis have also become more common as more riders are empowered to tackle the toughest terrain.

The clothes and boots have also improved, allowing visitors to ski and ride comfortably in any kind of weather, and to stay out a lot longer on cold days.

Detachable lifts have helped the mountains to increase hourly lift capacity, allowing people to pack more turns into a day.

And the evolution is continuing.

This year Whistler-Blackcomb started to allow snow skates on the mountain, even creating a special terrain park area for this new trend. More people are heading into the trees, and encouraging the mountains to add more gladed runs. Terrain park stunts are getting bigger, resulting in the creation of a special pass to enter the most difficult zones and a new regulation requiring the use of helmets.

The mountains have also expanded summer operations to focus on mountain biking, creating trails that recognize how the technology of bikes and skill level of riders has changed over the years.

At every stage of this evolution, Whistler-Blackcomb has been a leader in North America and the world. As a result they’ve received numerous awards and have been recognized in the leading industry magazines for everything from maintaining the top terrain park in North America to offering the best big mountain experiences. The Whistler Mountain Bike Park, which is set to almost triple its vertical, set a new standard for parks around the world. The top mountain bikers in the world now ride and train here.

When you look at all the changes that the industry has gone through in the past decade, you have to wonder what skiing is going to look like in another 10 years.

Rather than react to the changes as they have in the past, Whistler-Blackcomb recently kicked off a large-scale mountain planning exercise in an attempt to anticipate where the industry is going. The results of the study, which will be applied to the larger mountain master plan, will help Whistler-Blackcomb decide where to focus its energy and capital spending in the future.

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