Its the economy stupid!
I have been coming to Whistler-Blackcomb for over a dozen years but this year I have found it to be a real eye opener. Whistler has typically offered very good value; it was not inexpensive but it offered something special and it seemed like a lot for the price. This year, I realized that Whistler has changed and now actually offers less for more!
The workers are cranky because they are struggling to survive in a place where a room rents for almost $4/hour of after-tax income based on near full-time employment. The restaurant food is still good but now costs 40 per cent more than it did just two years ago compared to the US dollar I am now earning.
The food on the hill has really dropped in quality yet it has gone up in price and thus offers much less value. Did you realize that a baked potato at the Glacier Lodge cost over $7 this year? Have the spuds been flown in from some exotic locale? Idaho? Did you see a lady pushing time shares at the restaurant on the hill? Did you have to argue with cashier for your season pass discount on food? That is pretty good service, eh?
It is no wonder that the visits are down for two consecutive years! I am not talking about the fact that the US dollar is not going as far this year. I do not buy the crap about Americans being afraid to travel after 9/11 or spending all their money on real estate. Whistler-Blackcomb likes to compare itself to the likes of Vail, Aspen, etc. and most of those places have seen increased visits this year.
If Whistler wants to compete with some of the greatest resorts they must compete on all facets and offer value to its visitors. Whistler is losing visitors because it no longer offers good value and people here should stop making excuses.
Lets look at some facts: First and foremost, Whistler has great terrain but it has a very marginal location. It is much harder and more pricey for most people (such as people from the Eastern Seaboard) to fly to Vancouver and then drive the surface streets plus Highway 99 compared to flying into Aspen or Vail.
Did I mention that Colorado is under 3 hours away from most of the US and Canada and United Airlines has a hub in Denver? On the other hand, Vancouver is located at the far and less populated end of the continent and it typically takes two legs and up to eight hours to get to Vancouver.