The ski and snowboard season is now underway and for Cooper Bathgate, 15, of Whistler it was a long overnight wait to be the first on the Creekside gondola. Cooper set himself at the front of the Creekside lift line at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, a full 25 hours ahead of the scheduled opening time.
“It was really cold and really long,” said Cooper.
As Cooper ended that sentence the lift attendants announced at about 8:15 a.m. that lift loading could begin. A crush of eager snow sliders swamped the attendants in a scramble to get into a gondola car.
Whistler Blackcomb’s VP of Operations, Bob DuFour, saw from a distance that a higher level of order was needed so he jumped in to help the front line workers get the energetic crowd better organized.
A few minutes before the Creekside gondola started loading a similar scenario played out in the village at the village gondola.
“I think this is the only ski area in the world where people will camp out the night before to ski some limited terrain but that’s how eager they are,” said DuFour after the initial chaos at Creekside eased. “At the Creekside you’ve got the old regulars. It’s good to see.”
DuFour said the early conditions are really good because of the snow that fell earlier this month combined with snowmaking that has been taking place for the last few weeks.
“We had that snowfall about a week ago, made the place look like a winter wonderland,” said DuFour. “The crews did an amazing job of managing the snow.”
The early opening lifts in operation are Emerald Express, Big Red Express and Franz’s Chair giving snow sliders access to Ego Bowl, Upper Whiskey Jack, Upper Franz, Papoose, Orange Peel and Pony Trail. The lifts will stop loading people at 2:30 p.m.
“We want to remind guests early season conditions will apply, especially off piste,” Doug MacFarlane, mountain manager at Whistler Blackcomb said through a news release issued in advance of the early opening day. “It is important to obey mountain signage, ski and ride on open runs only and stay within the operational area marked by “Temporary Boundary” signage. Guests should be aware there will be rocks and other hazards below the snow surface; we do not recommend skiing and riding outside the temporary boundary in any circumstances.”
The official opening day for Whistler and Blackcomb is Thursday, Nov. 28, the American Thanksgiving weekend.
Look for more coverage of the early opening at Whistler on Thursday online and in the print edition of Pique.