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VANOC breaks ground for chairlift

Temporary lift to be sold to another resort following Games

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Work has begun on the new temporary chairlift that will ferry spectators to the Olympic alpine ski events at Creekside.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (VANOC) estimates that the lift will be used to its full capacity at Games-time in February, taking foot traffic from the base of the mountain to the Timing Flats area where the skiers cross the finish line on Whistler Mountain.

The high-speed quad can carry 2,400 people per hour, or almost one-third of the full venue capacity of 7,600 people.

It will be a short two-minute ride from beginning to end.

"We're going to make sure that we maximize the lift for transporting media, broadcast, spectators, work force - anyone who needs to get up to the Timing Flats," said Dick Vollet, the vice president of mountain operations for VANOC.

Other options for getting to the venue are simply walking up the mountain or using the shuttle service drop off which goes directly to the Timing Flats via neighbourhood streets.

The chairlift was never part of VANOC's original plans for the alpine venue but after the test events in 2008, and the issues around moving spectators to the venue, VANOC went back to drawing board.

"When we ran the test event back in 2008, it was very obvious to us that we needed to provide a couple of alternatives for people to get up to the Timing Flats at that venue and the chairlift was the most suitable option," said Vollet.

"It comes back to spectator experience.

"A chairlift is able to load and unload the venue much quicker and a much better experience for the spectators."

Whistler Blackcomb's manager of public relations, Christina Moore, said the lift is too short to be used permanently in Whistler. The lift line is just over 500 metres with 41 chairs.

VANOC is in talks to sell the lift to another resort after the Games but Vollet would not say which resort VANOC is negotiating with because talks are still ongoing.

"It's close to being done," said Vollet.

He would not say how much the lift costs other than to confirm that it was within VANOC's budget.

"The lift is within our project cost," said Vollet.

More than $27 million has been spent on improvements to the Creekside venue for the Games.

Whistler Blackcomb and Doppelmayr are co-managing the chairlift project with VANOC and site preparation began in early May for the foundations for the upper station.

An application has been submitted to the provincial Integrated Land Management Bureau and the parties are awaiting approval for that permit.

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