With little early season snow in the Whistler valley, it’s been a tough start to the season for cross country skiers. But as of Saturday (Dec. 21) they have been able to take refuge in the alpine of Whistler Mountain.
In a partnership between the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and Whistler Blackcomb (WB), the area adjacent to the top of the Emerald Chair known as “Blue Chair Flats” now has a circuit track groomed especially for cross country skiers.
The last time Whistler Mountain saw a cross-country circuit was in the low snow season of 2004-2005.
The track will be open during the mountain’s regular operating hours (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) until sufficient snow arrives in the valley to operate the Lost Lake Cross-Country trail network, which was still closed at press time.
Whistler Olympic Park has fared better, and a press release on Dec. 20 reported over 54km of open trails, with some help from Olympic snowmaking machines intended for the ski jump facility.
“It’s been very marginal and Whistler Olympic Park has done a terrific job of harvesting snow the best they can for a small loop around the day lodge,” said Brent Murdoch, president of the Whistler Nordics Ski Club.
“We’ve been skiing on and off the last number of weeks on decent early season conditions but it’s very thin, so as soon as we get a warming trend it’s gone and we have to wait for another round of cold weather and snow.”
Cross-country day tickets to Whistler Mountain are priced at $30, Lost Lake or Dual Area pass holders will pay $10 per day and Lost Lake Night pass holders will pay $20. Regular mountain pass holders and those with day tickets can access the area for free, subject to restrictions.
While this is only the second time in nine years that cross-country skiers have had to resort to using terrain on Whistler Mountain, Murdoch believes it’s worth looking at a long term solution.
“I think moving forward, I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to have a climate change strategy,” he said Murdoch.
“If we have multiple winters with very little snowpack in the valley, we may need to be looking at an ultimate solution. Sometimes it’s only one or two degrees that make the difference in our valley.”