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Callaghan operators pledge to work together this season



Whistler's two major cross country ski operators, once at odds and facing a growing rift between them, are now working together side by side.

This week Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) and the long operating small business Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures announced a Joint Venture Agreement under the name "Ski Callaghan," an about-face from last year when the two officially cut ties as per a WSL decision.

This season Nordic skiers can buy a single "Ski Callaghan" pass and access both properties as though they were one seamless ski area, for a total of 87 kilometres of groomed ski trail and 33.5 kilometres of snowshoe trails.

"We think this agreement is in the best interest of our customers," said WSL spokesperson Patricia Leslie, adding that by offering this product they hope to see an increase in sales and ultimately an increase to the bottom line. The Nordic legacy venue is operating with an annual million-dollar shortfall.

"We are doing it because we hope it to be financially beneficial," added Leslie.

Brad Sills, owner of Callaghan Country, said not only was this deal good for both operators but for the sport and the resort in general.

"I'm really happy that we've come to an understanding," said Sills.

"It's really good for both entities, for Nordic skiing and for the Whistler resort."

Sills added that the combined offering puts Whistler in the top echelons of Nordic skiing in North America.

"It stands to place Whistler in a dominant role in Nordic skiing," he added. "That's what drove us together to make it work."

The agreement heralds a new working relationship with the two partners. It lasts for five years with an automatic renewal for another five years — a long-term deal.

"We're pleased about that (commitment) and it's a revenue sharing model so there was considerable amount of time spent developing that model," said Leslie.

She could not reveal the details of that model.

Part of the deal, however, sees Callaghan Country grooming its trails and Whistler Olympic Park grooming its trails. There will be a new gatehouse.

When asked what changed in the last year, Leslie explained that a mediator was brought in over the last few months to broker the deal.

"We just thought that it was best to bring in a third party," she said. "Through that process we were able to reach an agreement that both parties were happy with."

In its first annual report, which covers the 2010/11 season, WSL reported expenses of more than $2.1 million at Whistler Olympic Park. Revenues were $1.08 million. More than 30,000 skiers visits were also reported.

Ski Callaghan passes will go on sale on Sept. 15. The adult early bird season pass will be $250. Day passes will be $22, consistent with the last year's rates.

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