Renaissance re-vamped

Plenty of questions have arisen in the year since Vail Resorts bought Whistler Blackcomb.

What would the impact be on the community? What did the future of various passes look like? What changes would employees face?

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While some of those have been answered over the last several months, there were still questions over the future of the Renaissance project. WB announced that $345 million project — which promised to transform the resort’s four-season offerings with everything from a bowling alley to a mountain coaster to night skiing and a townhome complex — just months before the sale.

Vail has remained mostly tight-lipped about it (though plans to expand the Whistler Mountain Bike Park in Creekside have come to fruition) — until last week when they announced a new project under the Renaissance banner: a $66-million investment of a new gondola on Blackcomb Mountain and two new lifts.

The move promises to increase capacity for those lifts by 47 per cent. As well, around 4,000 people an hour will be able to ride the gondola alone.

The reaction from locals (particularly on social media) was mixed. While everyone seemed to have an opinion on what they felt should be prioritized, there wasn’t an outpouring of support for the project.

The biggest response seemed to be, “why?”

At the same time, there didn’t seem to be much disappointment when the company announced that they were putting the waterpark project on the backburner for the time being. COO Pete Sonntag said that decision — as well as the company’s other decisions around Renaissance — was made, in part, with feedback from the community.

The other bits of information we can glean about Renaissance from last week’s announcement: on-mountain projects — like the gondola and lift upgrades — are the top priority, followed by the “real estate” piece. All other aspects — the wacky, theme park-sounding ones — seem to either be in the very distant future, or perhaps will ultimately be axed altogether.

While it’s debatable whether the on-mountain projects are necessary or not, it’s a relief to many that Whistler and Blackcomb won’t be slowly morphing into an amusement park the way many worried they would when Renaissance was initially announced.

Now instead of worrying about bowlers, roller coaster riders and wave park enthusiasts further clogging up the highway, we can focus on more realistic changes — like pay parking in Vail-run lots.

Sonntag says there are currently no plans to start charging for those spots, but his tone seemed to suggest we can probably read between the lines.

Stay tuned…

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