A lot has happened since May, when the last cross-country skiers in the Callaghan Valley stepped out of their bindings and turned their minds to summer activities. With the Olympics and Paralympics in the record books, work has been going on behind the scenes to create a lasting legacy at Whistler Olympic Park and make it a place capable of hosting the top athletes in the world, a destination for the growing Nordic skiing market, and the centre of activity for a larger Nordic community that stretches across Sea to Sky and beyond.
"There's a lot of changes, and we're going to be working harder and harder to ensure that we become the leading (Nordic) ski resort in North America," said Lindsay Scott Durno, the director of Whistler Olympic Park on behalf of Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies Society.
Visitors to the park are going to notice a lot of changes this year. The most obvious one is the fact that Whistler Olympic Park and Callaghan Country will no longer exist as separate entities. Instead, they have formed an agreement that results in a single resort with over 90 kilometres of groomed cross-country trails - including the high alpine trails at Callaghan Country that are the first to open and last to close in the region. This year the opening day is Nov. 13. Closing day is May 1 for the highest Callaghan Country trails. If the snow arrives on time and sticks around as long as usual, that means almost six months of Nordic skiing.
The new area has been branded as Ski Callaghan, as the lines between the two resorts have been completely erased. Whistler Olympic Park will be handling all of the grooming and ski patrol for Callaghan Country, while Callaghan Country's backcountry lodge - still managed separately - will be booking guests through the cross-country day lodge.
Most of the parking areas have been closed, including the Callaghan Country lot, leaving one parking lot for cross-country and a small lot for biathlon. There is a single point of entry for all visitors to the area, whether they're skiing, snowshoeing or just there for the day.
The remaining parking areas, Scott Durno explained, will not be plowed but instead pressed into service as ski areas; only two of six lots remain open for vehicles. Most of the lots will form a new flat and open trail called Never Ever, which features a roughly five km loop for people who are absolute beginners to Nordic skiing, giving them a place to practice their skills and take lessons.
The large parking area near the ski jumps is being converted into a play park with bumps, dips, berms and small jumps for people to play on - similar to what a pump track or trials park would be for mountain bikes.