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Peak 2 Peak excites first passengers

Record-breaking lift between Whistler and Blackcomb draws thousands

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For Whistler dentist James McKenzie and wife Janis, the 11-minute ride from Blackcomb to Whistler on one of the glass-bottom gondola cabins gave them just enough time to renew their wedding vows.

“We wanted to renew our vows, and it was wonderful,” said James McKenzie.

Said wife Janis: “It was unbelievable. We got married up on Whistler 11 years ago and this just all fell into place, and we did it in 11 minutes.”

Paralympian and coach of the B.C. Disabled Ski Team, Phil Chew, was also in the first gondola.

“It was smooth,” he said. “You didn’t even feel going over the towers, and even though it wasn’t the clearest day you could see 1,400 feet down to the bottom of the valley to Fitz Creek.”

“I think it will be great for skiing. At the beginning I didn’t know what to think of it, but now I can see the potential. I can see that it is really going to make a big difference.”

The gondola has the longest unsupported span for a lift of its kind in the world at 3.024 kilometres. It is also the highest lift of its kind off the ground.

Even Dan Doyle, the head of venue construction for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, came to Whistler to take a ride.

“It was phenomenal,” he said.

“What a great thing to bring to Whistler. I wanted to come to see it because I am an engineer, and this is a phenomenal feat. Look at the towers, look at the cables, and the cars. It is fantastic.

“We think the Games are going to show the world what Whistler Blackcomb is all about, and now we will be able to show them this as well. It will be great.”

Whistler Blackcomb’s Brownlie could hardly contain his excitement in announcing the opening Friday.

With an ear-splitting smile he told the huge crowd that when he first heard of the idea from Hugh Smythe he just smiled and went back to work.

But once the 2010 Games were awarded and Whistler Blackcomb consistently drew over two million skier visits, they knew they had to look to the future.

“At Whistler Blackcomb we have always dreamed big, and we have always been bold, and the Peak 2 Peak is all about that,” he said to an appreciative crowd.