While there was no major capital expansion confirmed at Whistler Blackcombís latest master plan update as some may have expected, the mountain operator addressed a significant number of the publicís concerns in the unveiling of its long-term vision for the resort.
Presented at an open house last Wednesday (Sept. 25), Whistler Blackcomb laid out its 60-year vision for development and expansion on both mountains, with details on new potential lifts, restaurant facilities and increased snowmaking.
ďItís been a very positive process as weíve gone through it,Ē said Whistler Blackcomb president and CEO Dave Brownlie. ďIt has been a time-consuming process, but we all know that over a 50- or 60-year timeframe things do change and evolve, so we really tried to look at this in a holistic manner into the future, but also recognizing the need for flexibility.Ē
The update follows the last master plan update in 2011, when the public provided dozens of comments on the future of Whistler Blackcombís tenure. Responding to the publicís concerns over a lack of mid-mountain lifts during stormy weather, the most recent master plan proposes seven new, mid-mountain chairs.
A proposed Orange Gondola up Whistler Mountain was included in the update after comments were received regarding congestion experienced at the Creekside base. The gondola would likely be installed around the same time as a new, high-speed Franzís Chair that would lift riders to the shoulder of the Little Whistler Peak.
Comments received at the 2011 open house urged Whistler Blackcomb not to construct the proposed Flute Lift, as the top station would sit adjacent to Garibaldi Provincial Park and could lead to illegal backcountry access. Whistler Blackcomb has already committed to B.C. Parks to install a fence that clearly marks the boundary between the park and ski area. There will also be gated access to the park, with signage indicating boundaries.
Brownlie remained tight-lipped on what Whistler Blackcombís next major development or expansion could be, saying the roll-out of the new Harmony 6 Express and Crystal Ridge Express chairlifts this winter will help to determine the resortís next move.
ďWeíre in the middle of an $18-million investment this summer and we want to see how that turns out from a guest feedback point-of-view, and ultimately the experience, and how many more people come,Ē he said. ďTying into some of that investment, thereís some restaurant expansion that would make sense, there are also some newer lifts, but weíre looking at different alternatives, ideas and zones as to what would be the next move for us.Ē
The update outlined plans for the construction of 13 new restaurants and four proposed additions to existing facilities, including building a new Ravenís Nest with a capacity of 250. The new facilities and expansion to existing mountain establishments would result in nearly 8,000 additional seats, with the Symphony and Harmony area noted as high priority.
Whistler Blackcombís president was less ambiguous about the proposal to expand the mountain bike park into Creekside.
ďItís very likely, itís just a matter of when,Ē said Brownlie.
The possible introduction of a small facility on each mountain with eight to 12 rooms allowing for overnight accommodation is also being explored. The proposed facilities would have lodge hosts on hand to welcome guests, take care of meals and any housekeeping needs.
Among the many other developments proposed in the master plan are additional hiking trails in the alpine, up to 363 acres of additional snowmaking capacity and the installation of new learning and teaching zones on both mountains.
Brownlie said Whistler Blackcomb will re-convene with B.C.ís Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to ensure both parties are aligned, with provincial approval of the master plan expected in the coming months.