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Olympic venues expected to boost visitor numbers

Tourism Whistler still looking at how to incorporate venues into marketing

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The early opening of the Whistler 2010 Olympic venues will boost visitors to the resort.

That’s the belief of local businesses associated with the venues, Tourism Whistler, and the government.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” said Ian Goldstone co-owner of Cross Country Connection, which has won the right from the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) to run the Nordic ticketing, rentals, lessons and snack concession at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley.

“It is a case of build it and they will come.”

Goldstone sees the Nordic venue as a great legacy for cross-country skiing not just in the Sea to Sky corridor but also in B.C.

“If you haven’t even considered cross country skiing it will now cross your mind,” he said.

“And it will cross everyone’s minds and everyone will go up (to the Nordic centre). The quality of trails is exceptional, the variety of trails is exceptional.”

In all there are about 36 kilometres of trails open, with one-third of those being moderate. In January, five kilometres will be lit for night skiing.

Tourism Whistler is also working on plans to incorporate the Olympic venues in its messaging.

“For this year it will be fairly minimal,” said Jodi Westbury, director of research and product enhancement for Tourism Whistler.

The organization didn’t want to market the venues, especially Whistler Olympic Park, without being sure it was going to be open to the public.

“It is something we are actively working on in terms of getting content together and working with tour operators and really continuing to know the market a bit better,” said Westbury referring to the current marketing plans.

“Certainly there are great prospects with that.”

VANOC has said publicly since the summer that the venue would be open to the public this season.

Westbury said the Nordic centre would fit particularly well into marketing the resort as a year-round destination as there are plans for cross country bike trails for the summer.

Skiers and riders are already on the 2010 alpine runs. The men’s and women’s races will be run generally on the Dave Murray Downhill and Franz’s, respectively.

“This is super exciting for us,” said Tabetha Boot of Whistler-Blackcomb.

“It is a pre-legacy and people can ski down them now and if they are not able to return in 2010 it will be pretty exciting to say to family and friends as they watch an event on TV, ‘hey I skied down that run.’

“It is really exciting for anyone who has an opportunity to come ski them.”

Whistler-Blackcomb has posted signs at each of the main access areas and on the mountain identifying the runs as Olympic venues.

Completing the Whistler portion of the Olympic and Paralympic venues this far out also helps the province said Colin Hansen, Minister for Economic Development, adding that staff are working hard to get the message out that B.C. is a good place to come and do business.

“We don’t want to be in a position in 2011 to be saying if only we had positioned ourselves to take advantage of the fact that the world spotlight was on us,” he said.

“I think we are doing everything we possibly can, I just think that there are things that we haven’t thought of that we could do more of.”

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