Whistler Blackcomb’s New Lifts
Vail Resorts announced that their plans to make an historic investment of CAD$66 million at Whistler Blackcomb for the 2018.19 season focusing on three new lifts at the heart of the resort. Their goal is to improve traffic flow by expanding upload capacity and they hope to improve Whistler Blackcomb’s guest experience.
The investment will be spent on the addition of a new gondola on Blackcomb Mountain and several other lift infrastructure upgrades. The improvements will be completed in time for the 2018.19 winter season and will be the cornerstone for future development.
Wizard and Solar chairlifts will be replaced with a new 10-passenger gondola that will ascend from the base of Blackcomb Mountain and terminate adjacent of the existing PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. The new gondola is expected to represent a 47% capacity increase and move 4,000 people per hour, the highest capacity in North America. The Emerald Express four-passenger lift on Whistler Mountain will be replaced with a new six-passenger high-speed lift, increasing guest uphill capacity by 29%. Finally, the existing Catskinner triple-passenger lift will be replaced with a four-passenger, high-speed lift, which will increase uphill capacity by 56%. These upgrades will provide guests a quicker and easier access to all levels of terrain across both mountains.
This historic investment represents the largest single-year capital investment program in Whistler Blackcomb’s history. This investment is even larger than the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola project in 2007, which cost CAD$55 million. Upon completion, the new gondola on Blackcomb will enhance the longest continuous lift system creating the first three-gondola connection in the world.
Whistler Blackcomb has long considered putting a gondola in at this location as part of the overall master plan. The Wizard/Solar lifts are a main transportation corridor for the mountain, moving both staff and guests. The new gondola will move guests up the mountain much faster, but also allow for significant improvements for summer/winter operations. Whistler Blackcomb looked closely at how it might retain the Solar Coaster Express with their contractor for the project to find a way to keep the lift. In the end, they could not come up with a plan that would safely allow the install of the new gondola and maintain operations on Solar. The new mid-station on Blackcomb will still be able to serve those guests who want the mid-mountain experience and the upgraded Catskinner lift will also help move skiers/riders to an area that is currently under utilized.
There will also be an expansion of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park included in the overall investment plan. The bike park is currently in the middle of a two-phase upgrade that will add 21 km of biking trails for summer 2018. This represents the single largest new terrain opening in the history of the park.
“This transformative investment, the largest in the resort’s history, will offer a dramatic improvement to the experience for all of our guests as they explore and enjoy the largest and most popular resort in North America,” said Pete Sontag, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Whistler Blackcomb.