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Saturday opening earliest in 20 years for Blackcomb



Blackcomb Mountain will open this weekend for skiing – the earliest opening in over 20 years.

"We are very excited," said spokeswoman Christina Moore taking a break Tuesday from skiing in the more than 70 cm of fresh powder which has fallen in recent days.

"But it is cautious optimism because we don’t want to jinx ourselves. This is fabulous though. The weather forecast over the next six weeks is really normal and normal is great."

Whistler and Blackcomb were hit with a freak rain event last January, which all but ended skiing for several weeks and impacted the whole resort for the balance of the season.

This year Whistler-Blackcomb officials are hoping strong snow will bring local and regional skiers back in droves. To help nature along Whistler-Blackcomb staff have been making snow at every opportunity. It’s expected that by opening this weekend there should be at least 85 cm of snow.

Deciding to open three weeks early is an expensive undertaking.

"The operating costs of opening this early are significant," said Moore.

"We will see some revenue for sure, but the main thing in the big picture balance sheet we know that it is a positive thing for the resort. The word has spread far and wide already that we are opening three weeks early and we believe it will benefit overall resort business this winter and that is how we have justified it and we do believe it is the right thing to do."

The Wizard Express, Solar Coaster Express, Jersey Cream Express and Catskinner chairs are expected to open Saturday. Early season pricing will be in effect.

Whistler-Blackcomb has also decided to extend the "book-by" deals, which ran out this week, to help capture more visitors in the coming months. Using this offer can save vacationers up to 35 per cent on their holiday. The new deadline for booking is Nov. 15.

Edge cards for B.C. and Washington residents are still available at early bird prices until Nov 18, which is also the last day for Edge Card holders and season pass holders to take advantage of $99 room nights throughout the winter.

Moore said Whistler-Blackcomb is committed to doing whatever it takes to make this a successful season. For the past few weeks snow guns have been producing snow whenever the weather was cold enough.

"Many of our guns now turn on automatically when the temperature dips, allowing us to take advantage of every snowmaking opportunity no matter what time of the day or night," said Bob Dufour, vice-president of mountain operations.

"The long range forecast over the coming weeks is for normal, or colder than normal temperatures plus normal or greater than normal precipitation. That is very good news for us."

Blackcomb will be the first B.C. ski resort to open this year, just beating out Sun Peaks which plans to open Nov 19.

"We were going to be the first in B.C. to open but we have been beaten to it by Blackcomb," said Christopher Nicolson, president of Tourism Sun Peaks.

"I am happy to hear (Blackcomb) is opening. It is really good news for the province. It is great to hear that Whistler is getting a good start to the season because that will be good for everybody."

Sun Peaks, which has had snow since Oct. 8, has about 30 cm at the mid-mountain weather station.

The cold wet weather has also helped Silver Star get ready to open its Nordic trails this weekend, with skiing set to start Nov. 24. Sister resort Big White is also scheduled to open at the same time as is Whistler Mountain.

"It is great to have Blackcomb open early," said Steven Threndyle, media relations officer for Silver Star and Big White. "…as Whistler goes so goes the industry to a certain degree. So believe me it is in everybody’s interests that Whistler has a great season."