Skiers and boarders hoping to access Piccolo Amphitheatre last Sunday afternoon on Symphony Express may have been disappointed.
At 12:08 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 4, Whistler Blackcomb decided to close down the high-speed quad on Whistler Mountain after discovering a fault in the lift's tensioning system. Lift operators spent 37 to 40 minutes unloading people and then shut down Symphony Express for the rest of the day.
Whistler Blackcomb's president and chief operating officer David Brownlie said the mechanical mishap should not cause any serious alarm and the mountain operators decided to close down the chair only because of the time of day.
"Based on the time of day and when that lift generally closes, we thought we should take our time and work through this," said Brownlie.
"We wanted to make sure that we understood the issue and the problem and the solution before opening it up to the public."
Brownlie said Symphony Express, which opened three seasons ago, is different than Whistler Blackcomb's other Doppelmayr-made lifts and operates with some unique components.
"You obviously want to take the necessary precautions you need to take to ensure safety, which is ultimately the most important thing," said Brownlie.
"We just said, lets take our time, do it right, and get people back into the Harmony and Emerald and Peak area and all the other wonderful places that were open."
The chair was back in operation on Monday morning.
Ski season ends early this year
Starting this winter and for the foreseeable future, Whistler Blackcomb plans to end the skiing season at the end of May instead of in June.
David Brownlie, president and chief operating officer for Whistler Blackcomb, explained the new May 24 Victoria Long Weekend end to the season is meant to create a more defined distinction between the winter season and the summer season.
"We really want to have a date where we end our winter season and start our summer season, and we need to have some clarity on those dates to plan our lift maintenance scheduling," said Brownlie. "That is key, that we have some hard dates and we plan around those."
Brownlie added that if you look at Whistler Blackcomb's business levels during that time over the last couple of years "that is probably a good time for everyone."
Traditionally, Whistler's ski season has stretched out into June, making it one of the longest ski seasons in North America. Most other ski resorts close during April and May.
Last year, the last day for skiing and riding on Whistler Mountain was May 31, an earlier closure than expected due to the lack of snow. During the 2007-08 season the mountain closed on schedule on June 8.