After holding the line for the past Nordic season, cross-country ski and snowshoe fees at Lost Lake will see a slight bump this winter.
At Tuesday's regular meeting, council gave the first three readings to a bylaw amendment that would see daily cross-country rates rise from $20 to $21, and snowshoe fees go from $10 to $10.50. Both those rates will increase by 2.45 per cent a year for four years following the 2017-18 season.
A cross-country season pass will increase from $280 to $294 this season, while an early-bird pass will cost $235, up from $224. For snowshoeing, a season pass rose to $147 from $140, with an early-bird pass coming in at $117.50.
The price hikes are intended to align with other competitors in the region and account for rising operating costs at Lost Lake, which now includes approximately 25 kilometres of cross-country trails, 15km of snowshoe trails and 10km of multi-use trails requiring daily patrol and grooming by the municipality. Pricing remained unchanged for last winter following poor weather in the two previous seasons.
Council also approved an agreement with the Whistler Sports Legacies Society to provide Dual Area Passes for Lost Lake and Ski Callaghan Trails over the next four years. The pass comes with an average discount of up to 30 per cent on the Lost Lake portion of the ski area.
On top of that, passholders will be credited approximately one per cent of their pass price for each day that the ski area is short of 70 "skiable days," as determined by staff.
On top of its Monday community night, which grants users 50-per-cent off regular rates, council authorized a second community night on Thursdays. People can also ski Nicklaus North at half off the regular Lost Lake day ticket prices.
"With pricing going up, we also want to make we're maintaining affordability in the community," explained the RMOW's manager of recreation, Roger Weetman.
According to a Tourism Whistler survey, three per cent of visitors went either snowshoeing or cross-country skiing this winter. The total economic impact of Nordic sports in Whistler is approximately $2.3 million, according to the RMOW, although it should be noted that figure is not necessarily incremental.
"You just have to go out to the Lost Lake trails, the Callaghan trails and the multi-use trails on any given day and see the amount of use they get," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "(Nordic sports are) very important to Whistler."
Free transit Saturdays see 'overwhelming response'
Whistler loves free. That should come as no surprise, but ridership numbers over the past three Saturdays, when the municipality offered free service from 7 a.m to 8 p.m., proves it.
"We've had overwhelming response from people," said RMOW transportation planner Emma Dal Santo at Tuesday's meeting of council. The free service led to a peak of close to 450 rides per hour on Aug. 6, compared to 250 on July 23, before the pilot project began. It runs until Sept. 3.
The bump in ridership can also be attributed to an increase in service frequency — BC Transit provided extra buses between Cheakamus and the village, and Emerald and the village, on a 15-minute service schedule. On a typical Saturday, buses run every half-hour.
A full report on the pilot project is expected to come before the Transportation Advisory Group (TAG) in the fall.