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Snowstorms lead to early opening

Whistler businesses hoping for banner winter season

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Whistler Mountain will open from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. with access on the Village Gondola and at Creekside to limited groomed terrain. The Creekside lift will close Monday and re-open Thursday next week for the rest of the season.

The snow falling fast and furious is also translating into fast and furious holiday bookings and ski shopping, making many in Whistler hopeful that this will be a boom season.

“The electricity in the village could light up this town, everybody has incredible expectations,” said Jeff Coombs one of the owners of two McCoos retail outlets which have been in operation since 1987.

“(This past weekend) we exceeded the sales we did at the same time last year and the mountain was open. People are hungry they want to get it on again.”

Coombs believes Whistler is definitely in recovery, after several years of challenges including poor weather, a strong Canadian dollar, and post 9/11 concern over international travel.

Les Pedersen, director of sales and marketing for the Westin Resort and Spa, said reservation lines were ringing off the hook.

“We had our biggest reservation weekend of the year,” he said.

“When the snow starts to fly the phones light up.”

The Westin, along with others in town, have also been marketing value packages regionally and internationally to draw visitors this year.

And Whistler-Blackcomb has been doing the same thing. The company has done over $22 million worth of upgrades including installing The Symphony Express with its 1,000 acres of new alpine ski terrain. It also lowered the price of youth and child passes and will extend the Edge Card deal until midnight Sunday.

“Yesterday we had a record single day for web traffic,” Stuart Rempel, vice president of marketing and sales for Whistler-Blackcomb, said Wednesday.

“We had over 60,000 user sessions on our website yesterday. We also had a record day of on-line sales yesterday for Edge Cards, the biggest day ever by an order of magnitude.

“We are seeing incredible interest and I think Whistler has a momentum going forward that is very exciting and I think it is around the improvements, and around value.”

Tourism Whistler’s Arlene Schieven said they are projecting at least a three per cent increase in bookings this winter.

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