After an unusually mild season, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has decided it will close Blackcomb Mountain earlier than usual this year, with the final day of winter operations slated for April 19.
Whistler Mountain will remain open for spring skiing and riding until May 18, nearly a month longer than last year. Blackcomb stayed open until May 26 in 2014.
"We think that Whistler is going to be able to maintain a better ski product for a longer period of time than Blackcomb given the conditions," explained WB mountain operations manager Doug MacFarlane. "(Whistler) being a north-facing mountain, it doesn't get as much sun as Blackcomb does, so we're hoping it will last a little longer into May."
Lifts that will remain open on Whistler for the remainder of the ski season include the Whistler Village Gondola, Emerald Express, Big Red Express, Peak Express and the T-Bars. A new terrain park will also be built in Glacier Bowl, accessible from the Peak Express and T-Bars.
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola will stay open until April 19, after which it will close for regular maintenance until summer operations begin on May 23.
Between November 1 and March 1 this ski season, Whistler Blackcomb has seen only 470 centimetres of snow, below the 547 that had fallen by this time in 2014, which was itself an historically low snow year. Whistler Blackcomb's average annual snowfall, based on the previous 10 years of data, is 1,164cm.
MacFarlane credited advances in snowmaking technologies and the diligent work of WB employees for maintaining a strong skiing experience in less than ideal conditions.
"With the advent of today's technology, whether it's winch cats, the snowmaking technology, the experience of our groomers, snowmakers and operations team, it has really made this season what it is," he said. "If we experienced this winter in the early '80s, there's no way we'd be open."
The resort added a dozen state-of-the-art snow guns to its fleet prior to this ski season, and has doubled its snowmaking capacity in the last four years alone, to 270 guns.
"We're going to continue to see investments into our higher-elevation infrastructure," noted MacFarlane, adding that Whistler Blackcomb expects to reveal this summer's slate of investments into mountain infrastructure in the coming weeks. "It's a long-term game here, so we'll keep investing in snowmaking and in mountain infrastructure."
Blackcomb's early closure will also help the ski resort maintain its construction schedule for the planned $5.4-million renovation of the Rendezvous Lodge, MacFarlane said, set to begin April 7. The upgrades are intended to expand the lodge's restaurant seating capacity by 8.5 per cent and improve the overall guest experience.
The Glacier Creek Lodge, Horstman Hut and Crystal Hut will remain open until Blackcomb's final day of winter operations.