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pass prices

By Amy Fendley Get your tickets, lift tickets for sale, come and get ‘em. Pssst... do you have an extra toonie? This week Whistler-Blackcomb announced lift ticket and season pass prices for the 1999/00 season, and prices have peaked yet again. The price of an adult unlimited season pass is $1,199, if purchased before the Sept. 30 early bird deadline. That’s up $40 from last year. Day passes have risen $2 over last year, to $59 (GST not included) for most of the season, which makes the mountain one of the most expensive in Canada. During the Christmas holidays and the Feb. 12-March 19 busy season adult day tickets increase to $61. The "premium pricing" on day tickets at high season was introduced last year. David Perry, vice president of marketing and sales for Whistler Blackcomb, says that the pass price increases for this year have been modest. "We don’t subscribe to increasing ticket prices dramatically, we’re careful about increases," says Perry. "It’s $62 U.S. to ski Vail or Aspen for a day, we’re $39 U.S. Our biggest push marketing wise is into the U.S. and Eastern Canada. We experienced more than 50 per cent growth out of the U.S. last year, largely due to the favourable exchange rate. We’re got a two-pronged message into the U.S: this is one of the best ski resorts in the world, and you get it for this amazing price. "We’re comfortable with our marketing strategy," he says. "It’s something our American competitors can not compete with, value." The price of a day ticket has traditionally been used to measure one ski area against another, but between tour packages and discount passes such as Whistler-Blackcomb’s Express Card, few people need to pay the full day ticket price. For those who miss the early bird deadline, a regular priced adult dual mountain ski pass will set you back $1,469 plus GST, but extra benefits have been added this year, including discounted accommodation rates and deals on ski school classes. Whistler skiers looking to hit the slopes for less may be interested in Whistler-Blackcomb's mid-week combo pass, priced at $799 (the same as last year) until Sept. 30. The pass gives skiers and boarders unlimited access to the slopes, Monday through Friday, with Express Card discount rates on weekends and holidays. The Express Card makes its return this season, offering a first day free and discounts from $8 to $24 per ticket throughout the season. The card will be available in town or at the Vancouver Snow Show for $63 per adult, $53 for youth or seniors, or $31 for children until Oct. 25. The card price goes up to $79 for adults after Oct. 25. However, for someone who has had a card or a pass within the last two seasons, the cost is $63. The parent pass costs the same as a regularly priced dual mountain pass and can be transferred between parents of kids aged 12 and under who wish to share their time with the kids on the slopes. Only one parent can use the pass at a time, but if both wish to hit the hill with the kids on the same day, the pass allows a second lift ticket to be purchased for the Express Card price. In addition to the regular adult unlimited dual mountain pass, early bird prices are $599 for seniors, $599 for youth and $369 for kids, if purchased before Sept. 30. Early bird single mountain passes start at $1,039 for adults. Those participating in the Chamber of Commerce's Whistler Spirit training course can also qualify for the Whistler Spirit Pass, formerly known as the Ambassador Pass, which is $1,069 for a full season and $549 for a young at heart/youth pass. A final cash-saving option will be available by purchasing tickets at Lower Mainland 7-Eleven convenience stores, where the Fast Tracks discount program will continue: $53 for adults, $45 for youth and young at heart, $27 for a child, and tots six and under are free. Season passes went on sale Aug. 15. Early bird season pass pricing is in effect until Sept. 30. Meanwhile, Whistler-Blackcomb has also slightly altered its volunteer programs. There will be less of them, and more paid positions to compensate. Perry says that quite a number of programs have been adjusted. "We looked at all the programs and felt that the line was getting blurred between paid positions and extra touch services," said Perry. "We’re not abolishing any service or task that needs to be done, we’re not decreasing the level of service, but we’ll be paying people wages." Whistler opens for the season on Nov. 24. Early season weather predictions forecast a winter similar to last year which brought a record 55 feet of snow to the resort.