By Claire Piech
Despite a three-metre snowpack, the multi-million-dollar overhaul of the Whistler Village Gondola has moved ahead quickly and the lift will be reopening on Saturday, June 30.
The Whistler Village Gondola has been undergoing upgrades since the skiing season ended in April, including the addition of a new gearbox, electric motors, and grips for the cabins.
“You will definitely be able to feel the difference, even though you won’t be able to see the difference when the gondola opens up next week,” said Tabetha Boot, regional public relations supervisor for Whistler-Blackcomb. The upgrades, she added, will make the gondola run smoother.
The $5 million project is part one of a two-stage process to improve the two-decade old gondola. Next year, Whistler-Blackcomb plans to either refurbish or replace the gondola cabins.
Fortunately the large snowpack on the mountain this year did not have a huge impact on the work, according to Gord Shellborne, lift maintenance supervisor for Whistler Mountain. He estimates at most construction was delayed by about a week due to plowing.
Snow will still be on the ground, however, when the gondola reopens later this week for Whistler-Blackcomb’s summer hiking and sightseeing program, called Peak Adventures. That snow will make most of the 18 hiking trails inaccessible for the time being.
“It is definitely going to be a different product this year,” said Boot. “There are not going to be nearly as many trails, but there will be a lot more snow, which will make it unique.”
Boot was not able to predict which trails will be open for Saturday’s Peak Adventures program launch but said by the end of July, a large number of trails will open as the snow melts.
She added that Whistler-Blackcomb will plow a trail between the Village Gondola and the Peak Chair while the snow is still on the ground, to make access easier for visitors.
The Village Gondola will run daily until Sunday, Sept. 23 rd and then on weekends until Thanksgiving Monday, Oct. 8.
As part of the Peak Adventures program, Whistler-Blackcomb will host a barbecue every Saturday during the summer in the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain. Boot said the barbeque capacity this Saturday is 600 people and tickets usually sell out for every barbecue.
Visitors to Whistler Mountain this summer will also be able to view the construction site for the Whistler terminal of the Peak to Peak Gondola.
Whistler-Blackcomb has built glass fencing around the construction site so that visitors can get a more interactive experience while ensuring their safety.
A sample cabin for the Peak to Peak Gondola will be on display throughout the summer near the construction site. Visitors will be able to walk into the cabin and watch a short film on the architectural achievements of the future gondola.
Construction on the Peak to Peak Gondola project began in May and is scheduled for completion in December 2008. The $51.4 million gondola will unite Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, setting world records in both length and height.