Hikers take note: Whistler Blackcomb may soon create a trail from the top of Whistler Mountain to the iconic Black Tusk, according to Arthur DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager.
The trail extension would be approximately seven kilometres long and entirely within Garibaldi Provincial Park, said DeJong.
If built, hikers would go from Whistler Mountain towards Russet Lake before dropping down to the south aspect of Cheakamus Lake and heading to Helm Creek Trail and Black Tusk.
The route would be an intermediate-to-expert hike because of steep grades.
But while the trail has been in B.C. Parks' master plan since the early 1990s it does not currently have the money lined up to build it, said DeJong.
Whistler Blackcomb would like to see that trail developed soon, so the company is considering contributing capital towards the project.
"B.C. Parks are very constrained on resources," said DeJong. "We recognize that and in our master planning we are looking at possibilities that are beneficial to both us and the public."
He said in the past Whistler Blackcomb has built trails in provincial parks, so there is a possibility B.C. Parks will be amenable to that again. For example, both the High Note Trail and the Decker Loop were built in the provincial park but paid for by Whistler Blackcomb.
"This isn't new," said DeJong. "This isn't speculative. This is what we have done in the past and are looking at in the next best steps."
Discussions with B.C. Parks have been taking place for some time now.
"It is the natural next linkage, if you will, between our trails and B.C. Parks' trail system," he said.
And the Black Tusk hike isn't the only one on Whistler Blackcomb's radar. The company is also looking at building another trail - possibly next year - from the peak of Flute down the Flute shoulder and back into Singing Pass.
"Another trail could happen very fast, specifically next year," said DeJong. "The distance to do Musical Bumps all the way to Singing Pass and back down to the village is quite long. This would make that maybe half the distance."
DeJong said while no timelines have been nailed down, Whistler Blackcomb is starting to crystallize both projects, with concept maps and environmental assessments in the works.
"A lot of that information is going to be completed by the fall," he said.
Both hikes are part of Whistler Blackcomb's larger plans to develop an extensive multi-day hiking route through Garibaldi Provincial Park.
DeJong said he wants to put Whistler on the map in terms of destination hiking, similar to what has been done in the Andes and New Zealand.
"In terms of the economic resilience to our resort, we have to look well beyond just the skiing and snowboarding industry," he said. "If we can build a world-class, nature-based alpine summer experience, it can create a larger attraction to our region, and it doesn't cost a lot to do it. It is very light in terms of the capital required."
He imagines the hiking trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park becoming part of an "incredible west coast trail system."
"The more we build a critical mass of nature-based experiences and alpine-hiking experiences, the more competitive the resort becomes in the global market for this," said DeJong.
"If Whistler Blackcomb benefits from an alpine hiking trail of global status, the whole resort benefits. That is the way we need to think. It is branding and putting our region on the map as an international destination for it."
He added, though, that Whistler Blackcomb definitely wants to respect the wishes of B.C. Parks.
"In the utmost respect to B.C. Parks, it is B.C. Parks' land and we would only work in alignment with B.C. Parks' wishes," said DeJong.