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The next big thing?

Peak to Peak Gondola would become tourism icon, revolutionize the way mountains experienced



One of Whistler’s most pervasive rumours – the one that has a gondola suspended high in the sky linking Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains – may actually come true.

Whistler-Blackcomb has submitted an application to the province, through Land and Water B.C., to build an estimated $40 million-$50 million gondola from Whistler Mountain’s Roundhouse to the Rendezvous on Blackcomb.

The cable will stretch almost four and a half kilometres across the sky and span the Fitzsimmons Creek valley in a gentle bend, allowing riders to capture a unique, 360-degree bird’s eye view.

It will take just 10 minutes from one side to the other. That, said Dave Brownlie, chief operating officer for Intrawest Mountain Resorts in B.C., will revolutionize the way guests enjoy the two mountains.

"Once you ride it and understand it’s 10 minutes from one side to the other, it will absolutely provide more choice, more opportunity for your ski or snowboarding day," he said this week.

While providing a better guest experience was key to the decision to pursue this project, the gondola attraction is also expected to grow business to Whistler-Blackcomb and to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

"We think that this would be a phenomenal win for everybody, not only the mountain resort business but the community and the tourism business to this resort in general," said Brownlie. "We really do need to take that next step in our product and development life cycle and I think there’s a lot of people really looking for… the next big thing."

There’s no doubt it’s big.

The Peak to Peak Gondola will set three world records. It will have the longest stretch of free span at 2.9 km – there will be no tower support for that distance. It will have the highest vertical drop, at 415 metres, from the bottom of the cable sag to the valley floor. And it will be the longest continuous lift system in the world, linking the Whistler Village gondola to lifts on Blackcomb.

It will also be the first of its kind in North America.

"It’ll become a tourism icon, much like the CN Tower or Niagara Falls," said Stuart Rempel, senior vice president of marketing and sales.

The community got its first look at the project during a presentation at Monday’s council meeting. While some councillors such as Nick Davies offered praise, others were more reserved in their comments.

"I keep feeling like our resort is becoming more and more like an amusement park," said Councillor Ken Melamed.

A self-admitted Luddite and "ski purist," Melamed said he was one of those people who thought the Peak Chair was a bad idea. Skiers should have to hike for their powder he said.