After months of mishaps and delays, Whistler-Blackcomb Resort in Canada’s British Columbia unveiled its new state-of-the-art gondola this past November.
The Whistler and Blackcomb mountains dominate two ridge-lines separated by a picturesque deep valley; and are now connected by the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola which shatters long-standing world records for both length and height.
A link between the two has been a dream for several years and has now finally been realised, allowing skiers and snowboarders to traverse the 3 mile distance between the two peaks in just 11 minutes.
With a ten-people capacity – the highest in North America, at least for the time being – the brand new gondola is the last addition to a series of infrastructure upgrades.
With two new lifts, the Emerald on Whistler and the Catskinner on Blackcomb already in place, the new gondola is already being hailed by visitors as a great improvement to the existing facilities.
The new gondola is part of a consistent effort and a $66-million investment, aiming to cut down on wait and travel times, as well as increasing the resort’s lift capacity.
A Successful Merger
Whistler-Blackcomb is probably the most famed ski resort in Canada, and certainly the largest one in North America, especially in terms of uphill lift capacity.
It is estimated that it attracts more than 2 million visitors each year.
Whistler has a history of no more than five decades, with the Blackcomb resort opening for business much later, in 1980.
Initially, there was fierce competition between the two.
This triggered a series of constant upgrades and improvements that quickly put them on the map of the leading ski resorts of America and, eventually, the world.
During the 1990’s, the area earned the title of the best ski resort several times, convincing a group of visionary investors to merge the two resorts in 2003.
Ever since ticketing, pass, and access control systems were integrated, forming the largest ski area in North America, covering around 33 km2.
In 2008 a PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola connected the two mountains for the first time, boasting the longest unsupported span of its kind worldwide (almost 1.9 miles) and the highest ground clearance above (more than 1,400 feet).
The resort hosted the alpine skiing events of the 2010 Winter Olympics, earning universal applaud for its excellent skiing conditions – contrary to other resorts that were used during the Games.
Whistler Blackcomb’s fame skyrocketed, along with the number of visitors teeming its slopes, making long waits and travel delays a growing problem.
In 2016 Whistler Blackcomb changed hands, with its new owner paying no less than $1.39 billion Canadian Dollars to close the deal and making plans for immediate upgrades and improvements in infrastructure.
Future-Proofing the Resort
Whistler and Blackcomb boast an amazing lift capacity, numbering 35 up-hill lifts, four gondolas, eleven high-speed quads, high-speed chair lifts, three fixed-grip triples several carpet lifts.
Its fame and consistently excellent skiing conditions attracted a far greater number of visitors than the 2010 infrastructure could swiftly transport in and out of the mountains.
The initial plans of the new multi-million-dollar investment proved to be a bit over-ambitious, including a water park and several similar facilities.
Over time these ideas were dropped and all effort was focused on the new lifts and gondolas.
The gondola was set to open in November 2018, but several mishaps caused delays that dragged the opening in mid-December. On December 15, skiers and snowboarders boarded the state-of-the-art gondola for the first time.
Among the first was the Canadian Olympic snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll.
Resort representatives said that the gondola opened on time since a few days before the resort finally got close to its seasonal snow levels.
The new pair of lifts and the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola have increased the resort’s overall lift capacity to more than 65,000 skiers per hour – by far the greatest in North America.
The whole project though is hardly finished, with several minor upgrades scheduled to be concluded by the end of the year and other changes planned for next year.