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BusRide a response to Richmond School Board decision

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Whistler-Blackcomb introduces program to bring students to mountains

In the wake of the Richmond School Board’s decision to cancel ski-related field trips to this area, Whistler-Blackcomb has developed a BusRide program to encourage young adults back to the slopes.

Participants in the BusRide program receive a 10-day ski pass and transportation to and from Vancouver on a Gray Line buses on the days the program is in operation.

The program is open to all Vancouver students between 13 and 18 and is aimed at providing them with a simple transportation alternative.

The program costs $399 (plus tax), more than $220 cheaper than the cost of the same trip if a student was to organize it privately.

The BusRide program could benefit a cross-section of teenagers from the Lower Mainland but Whistler-Blackcomb’s regional sales manager, Shawn Owens, says it was primarily targeting the age group that had been affected by the Richmond School Board’s decision.

The Richmond School Board cancelled all ski trips to Whistler after it was found partly responsible for an on-hill accident in 2000 that left student Travis Murao a quadriplegic.

"This program has stemmed, in part, from what’s happened with the Richmond market," Owens said.

"It means that kids can still ski with us no matter what school system they’re in."

Owens said the issue of transport for teenagers was another major issue the program wanted to address.

"We understand that the hardest thing for youth, particularly when they don’t have their driver’s license, is getting to the mountain because a lot of the time they have to wait for mom or dad," Owens said.

"Through our partnership with Gray Line we’ve been able to solve a lot of those problems, because we thought we’d just run our own bus."

James Bishop, who worked with Owens and Graeme Leathem to develop the program, said it’s hoped the program will stimulate growth and promote loyalty to the Whistler area.

"For the last five to 10 years visits to ski areas have been fairly flat and this is another way we might be able to introduce and hopefully get more young people coming back," Bishop said.

The ski-industry has created a raft of programs in recent years to combat the fact that Canada has an ageing population and new ideas are constantly needed to keep the youth market interested in skiing and boarding.

Bishop said the BusRide program was a way of showing young people how important they are to Whistler-Blackcomb’s development.

"They (teenagers) have to know that we want them to be a part of our family and this program will hopefully show them that," Bishop said.

The program begins on Jan. 10 and runs every Saturday thereafter until March 27. Registration for the program closes Dec. 19.

The ski pass is valid for any 10 days during this season but the return bus trip is only offered to students who travel on the aforementioned dates.

The Gray Line bus will pick up students from locations in Kerrisdale, downtown Vancouver and the North Shore, and return to those locations in the evening.

Owens said interested students should call Whistler reservations at 1-800-766-0449 or check the details on the Internet at www.ridetribe.com.

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