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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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One of the things they want to do is see the resort grow, and I know they are on the hunt for other (resort) properties, which we think is great and will only create a higher visibility for the brand. It will also create opportunities for people to grow within the resort group.

This is Fortress’s first involvement in ski areas, of 75 other companies. They’re very diversified.

Pique: Is there an advantage for Whistler-Blackcomb, now that Intrawest is no longer on the stock market?

DF: No doubt a public company is always looking to position itself for the next quarter report, and is in the earnings per share game. The goal is still to profit, but the company can take a longer-term vision how to grow and manage the company for success, which is a huge benefit for us.

Pique: Will it have an impact on the proposed Peak to Peak gondola?

DF: That’s still a work in progress. Fortress has indicated interest, but we’re not in a position yet to say, “yeah, it’s a go.” They have given us the attitude to keep the ball rolling, so it’s definitely not dead. I expect this thing’s going to get done… and in the next 60 days we should have some kind of an answer. Fortress is doing their fact finding, their due diligence on this, to make sure they make a good decision.

Before, when we were a public company, there was always the debt issue, and looking for a partner made things a lot more complicated. Our approach will be different with Fortress — if we decide to do it, then we’ll do it, and won’t worry about partners.

Pique: Last year Whistler-Blackcomb made the decision to change marketing plans to focus more on regional visitors and the value message. Will this year’s marketing be similar?

DF: One of the big priorities for us is to grow our destination business again. We had a record year last year within the regional market, and we’d like to keep that going on a price and value basis.

The destination market is down for many reasons. One of the main ones is probably the exchange rate, which is why travel to Canada is at an all-time low. Whistler is not unique in that sense; everywhere else in Canada is experiencing the same thing.