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Making the little things add up

Up close with Doug Forseth, Whistler-Blackcomb's head of operations



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DF: It could be next summer, we’re still working on that. There are other factors involved, we’re building a lift from Creekside to the Timing Flats, but we’re also looking at building a new lift from Creekside to Kadenwood for real estate operations. There are economies of scale there that would make more sense to do both projects at once.

VANOC and FIS would like us to put in the lift to the Timing Flats for the World Cup events in 2008, and we’ll be working on it over the winter.

Pique: Are there still plans to close the Village Gondola next year for upgrades?

DF: In next year’s capital budget there are plans to rebuild the gearboxes and drives, and other major components. It’s a major workhorse for us — it carries more people, works more hours, and is open more days than any other lift on the mountains. We should be spending about $5 million on that.

That’s why we’ll be closing Whistler early this year. We need about nine weeks to do the work and prepare for the summer season.

We’ll still follow the same pattern, just on different mountains. Blackcomb will be open through the spring and May, and will remain open in the summer for glacier skiing.

Pique: What about the recent purchase of Intrawest by Fortress. Has that had any impact on operations, or is it related to any layoffs?

DF: The recent layoffs were not Fortress-driven but Intrawest-driven. As we were being looked at by other companies, and got down into the shortlist, we were being asked a lot of questions that really focused on things we weren’t as focused on and made decisions regarding staffing that we would have made regardless of how things ended up.

There was not a big impact here for people; several positions that were opened up just haven’t been filled, while others who were in positions that were eliminated have found work in other departments filling other vacancies.

Pique: How involved is Fortress in day-to-day operations?

DF: We’ve met with Fortress, we’re a core business, and they want us to run that business well. We’ve had discussions over vision, core values, and they’re comfortable with what we are and what we’re doing.