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Whistler Blackcomb is a ski resort located in Whistlermarker, British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker. The resort is owned by Intrawest, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group.

Description

The two previously separate ski areas of Whistler and Blackcomb were integrated into one operation in 1997 after Intrawest merged with Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. Ticketing, pass, and access control systems for the two ski areas were fully integrated in 2003.

Together, Whistler and Blackcomb form the largest ski area in North America at , 54% larger than that of Vailmarker, the next largest, which has . Both mountains have some of the largest lift-serviced vertical skiing in North America, with Blackcomb having the most at 1,565 m (5,133 ft), but marketed as one mile (1.6 km) . Whistler has slightly less vertical at 1,530 m (5,020 ft). The highest lift elevation, on Blackcomb, is 2,240 m (7,349 ft).

The mountains are accessed from the valley by two gondolas from Whistler Village (Excalibur and Whistler Village Gondolas), a four person detachable chairlift (Wizard Express Chair) at the base of Blackcomb Mountainmarker, a four person detachable chairlift at the base of Whistler Mountainmarker in Whistler Village and by a gondola at the Creekside base approximately four kilometres by road south of Whistler Village.. Travelling from one mountain to the other, while staying in the ski area, was only possible at the valley elevation before 2008 when Whistler Blackcomb connected the two mountains at approximately 1,800m (6,000 ft) with the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. This lift opened on December 12, 2008. The lift has a total length of 4.4 km (2.73 mi) and the longest unsupported span for a lift of its kind in the world at 3.02 km (1.88 mi) while also having the highest ground clearance for a lift of its kind, 436m (1,427 ft) above the valley floor.

The primary skiing terrain starts about 1/3 up the mountain. A ski-out to the valley is usually possible during the months of December through April. The mid- and upper- areas are serviced by 10 high-speed detachable chairs and 5 fixed-grip lifts made by Lift Engineering, Doppelmayr and Poma lifts. 3 T-bars service the Horstman Glacier and the Whistler alpine regions and take skiers to the entrance to Blackcomb Glacier. The overall lift capacity, 65,507 skiers per hour, is the greatest in North America, although only slightly greater than Vail Ski Resortmarker in Coloradomarker.

Whistler Village, which is part of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, a geo-political entity not directly associated with Intrawest's operation, is situated at the base of the Whistler Mountain Village Gondola and Blackcomb Excalibur Gondola. The Village incorporates community services, shops, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, hotels, condominiums and vacation properties. The Village is 675 m (2,214 ft) above sea level, and is located 137 km (85 miles) from Vancouver International Airportmarker.

Whistler Blackcomb will host the alpine skiing events for the 2010 Winter Olympics, including the men's and women's Olympic and Paralympic alpine skiing disciplines of downhill, Super-G, giant slalom, super combined and slalom.

Whistler Mountain

Whistler Mountain, originally named London Mountain, has a summit elevation of 2182 meters (7160 ft) and is the right most (southern) mountain when looking at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski area from Whistler Village. Whistler currently has 7 high speed detachable quad chair lifts, 2 gondolas, 2 fixed grip chair lifts, 2 t-bars. and the drive station for the Peak 2 Peak Gondola connecting it with Blackcomb mountain to the north. There are 4 on hill restaurants, as well as a children's ski school facility and children can sign up for a five day lesson called "Adventure Camp". The total vertical drop is 1530 meters (5020 ft) and skiable inbound terrain. It is served by two base areas: Whistler Creek, the original base, on its southwest flank, and Whistler Village on its northwest flank.

The Whistler Mountain ski area is the older of the two mountains, having been opened in 1966, 14 years before Blackcomb Mountain.

History

1966–1997

Whistler Mountain opened for skiing in February, 1966, with a gondola lift, double chairlift (the Red Chair) and T-bar, all built by GMD Mueller. The new mountain won instant acclaim for its vertical drop, good snow conditions, and huge alpine area. The only problem at the time was the road—it was a dirt logging track, which was only plowed on Saturday, to the detriment of Friday travelers.

The Blue and Green chairlifts were added in 1970, providing lift access to additional terrain. The Roundhouse, an on mountain lodge and restaurant, was also constructed in 1980. This new lodge provided respite for cold skiers who had survived the long ride up on the Red Chair.

In 1972 Whistler Mountain added the Olive and Orange chairlifts. A parallel lift to the Green Chair to alleviate crowds came in 1974, and the Little Red Chair came in 1978.

Major changes were seen in 1980 with the opening of Whistler Villagemarker and a new competing ski area, Blackcomb Mountainmarker, north of Whistler Mountain's original base. To ensure its guests could continue to easily access Whistler, a succession of three triple chairlifts, the Village, Olympic, and Black Chairs were built that carried skiers from this new village to the Roundhouse Lodge. Whistler's original base began to be referred to as Whistler Creek, or Creekside after the creek that runs through the area.

The next major addition came in 1986, when the Peak Chair to the summit of Whistler Mountain was constructed. This lift opened up Whistler Mountain's alpine terrain and made Whistler the largest alpine ski area in North America.

In response to Blackcomb Mountain's construction of three high-speed quad chairlifts, Whistler Mountain undertook one of the biggest ski-lift construction projects ever realized in Canadamarker at the time, the construction of the Whistler Express Gondola. Carrying passengers 1,157 m (3,795 ft) vertically and 5 km (3 mi) horizontally over 63 support towers, the lift opened on November 24, 1988.

In 1990 Whistler Mountain began upgrading its aging fleet of fixed grip chairlifts with the addition of its first high-speed quad chairlift. The Green Chair Express, which replaced the Green Chairs, was built by Lift Engineering (Yan), and substantially cut long lift queues in the Green area of the mountain.

A year later, Whistler Mountain replaced three double chairlifts and the original Creekside gondola with two high-speed quad chairlifts, the Quicksilver Express and Redline Express lifts, also built by Lift Engineering.

1994 saw the removal of the Blue Chair, and the construction of the Harmony Express, built by Poma, which started from the base of the former Blue Chair , but ran all the way to the top of Little Whistler Peak.

In 1995, tragedy struck. On 23 December 1995, the lift operator on the Quicksilver lift pressed the button to make a routine stop, to allow a fallen skier to get out of the way of the unloading ramp. Instead, the emergency brake activated, sending shockwaves down the cable. Grips on at least two of the chairs slipped, and caused chairs to slide down the cable and slam into each other. In all, eight were injured, and two were killed
in one of the worst ski lift accidents in North America. The disaster ended up causing the bankruptcy of the lift's manufacturer, Lift Engineering.


1997–present

In 1997, the Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation was bought out by Intrawest, which had owned Blackcomb Mountainmarker since 1986. Big changes were made on Whistler Mountain. The Quicksilver lift was replaced with a Poma gondola, the Creekside Gondola, while the Green Chair Express and Redline lifts were removed and replaced with Doppelmayr high speed quad chair lifts, aptly named the Emerald Express and Big Red Express lifts, and the original Roundhouse was demolished and a new lodge built in its place.

Around this time Intrawest began marketing the two mountains as one large ski area under the name "Whistler-Blackcomb".

1998 saw the replacement of the Peak Chair with a high-speed quad. The original Peak Chair was renamed to Franz's Chair and moved parallel to the Big Red Express chair with a return station approximately half way up the Big Red Express lift line.

The Black Chair was replaced with a high-speed quad (the Garbanzo Express Chair), and another was added (the Fitzsimmons Express Chair) in 2000, following the line of the long-gone Village Chair. The top of the Fitzsimmons and the bottom of the Garbanzo are co-located in the Village Gondola Olympic station area, providing extra lift capacity from the Whistler Village to the top of the mid-mountain zone in addition to the gondola itself.

Whistler-Blackcomb's 2006/ 2007 season saw the construction and opening of the Symphony Express, a high speed quad chairlfit that begins towards the bottom of the Symphony Amphitheater and carries riders to the top of Piccolo. Symphony Amphitheater is the basin between Harmony and Flute ridges and was named by Whistler-Blackcomb.. One of the original names suggested for this lift was the Piccolo Express.

In the summers of 2007 and 2008, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola was constructed and opened on December 12, 2008 for the first time. The first summer operation day was June 6, 2009.

Summer of 2009 sees the construction of the Timing Flats Express, a new Doppelmayr CTEC high speed detachable quad chairlift out of Whistler's Creekside Base. It will be primarily use for foot passengers for the 2010 Olympics, but may be available for skiers and riders to use after the games. Ride time is approximately 2 minutes with 8 towers to cross over. The lift is only temporary and in the summer of 2010, it will be dismantled and trucked to Sunshine Villagemarker, Alberta and will be installed in a location TBA.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park

Aerial View of the Whistler Bike Park


The Whistler Mountain Bike Park celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008. Having consistently grown since its inception, it sees an average of 100,000 bikers each summer.

The Whistler Mountain Bike Park uses the Fitzsimmons and Garbanzo quad chairlifts, as well as the Whistler Village Gondola to shuttle bikers to around midstation, at 1,200 m (4,000 ft). The park has 47+ trails for all skill levels totaling 250 km + of trails. There are smooth trails with gentle banked corners for beginners, steep twisty trails for intermediates, tight trails with jumps and stunts for advanced riders, and challenging trails with giant jumps, drops, and root-strewn terrain for the experts.
Riders waiting in the Fitzsimmons chairlift line


During the summer, high speed quad chairlifts (Fitzimmons and Garbanzo) used by the bike park have every second chair replaced with a bike rack during the summer. These racks fit four bikes, three in grooves and one on a hook on the side of the chair. The bikers then get on the next chair which is a normal passenger carrier.

The bike park has two zones: the Fitzsimmons Zone (the lower zone) and the Garbanzo Zone (the upper zone). All riders take either the Village Gondola or the Fitzsimmions quad to the Olympic Station area. Then intermediate and advanced riders can take the Garbanzo quad up further to the Garbanzo zone. Garbanzo riders can then return to midstation or Whistler Village, the base of the bike park. From the top of Garbanzo to the village is an impressive 1100 m (3,600 ft) vertical descent; eclipsed only by the more expensive guided descents from the top gondola station or the top of the Peak Chair, the highest accessible point on the mountain. "A-Line" is the most well-known track. The Boneyard Slopestyle Course is part of the Fitzsimmons Zone and is located at the very bottom of the bike park, visible from the the base of Whistler Mountain. The Boneyard features a collection of high-intermediate and advanced slopestyle features, including drops, dirt jumps, and more.

The park hosts two large, annual mountain biking competitions/festivals: Crankworx is held in the summer; Harvest Huckfest is held in the fall. The mountain is frequented by professional mountain bikers such as Wade Simmons, Andrew Shandro, Richie Schley, Francis Hopcraft, and Anne-Caroline Chausson.

Blackcomb Mountain

Blackcomb Mountain logo, 1980-1985
Blackcomb Mountain opened in 1980, under the partnership of Fortress Mountain Resorts, then a wholly owned subsidiary of Aspen Skiing Company, and the Federal Business Development Bank of Canada, with four triple chairlifts (later named Cruiser, Stoker, Catskinner and Fitzsimmons lifts) and one double chairlift supplied by Lift Engineering. The competition of this mountain was not initially appreciated by Whistler Mountainmarker. Indeed, the mountain was considered "new kid on the block" into the early 1990s.

In 1982, "Chair 6" (later rebranded Jersey Cream) opened in the Horstman Creek drainage. In 1983 Blackcomb acquired a used T-Bar from Fortress Mountain and installed it on a south-facing slope, in full view of Whistler Mountain. This 7th lift was coined 7th Heaven T-Bar and gave access to high alpine and glaciated terrain. It also gave Blackcomb the highest lift-serviced vertical drop of any ski area in North America, although somewhat less than the company's claim of 1 mile (5,280 ft, 1,609 m).

In 1986, the mountain's assets and real estate rights were bought by fledgling real estate developer Intrawest Corp which immediately underwent massive upgrades on Blackcomb. That year, Blackcomb installed three high-speed Doppelmayr detachable quad chairlifts, moved the 7th Heaven T-Bar to Horstman Glacier, and installed a second T-Bar on Horstman Glacier, called Showcase. The T-Bars were installed in anticipation of summer skiing and eventual access to Blackcomb Glacier (at that time completely within the boundaries of Garibaldi Provincial Parkmarker). The new Wizard and Solar Coaster quad lifts cut the lift ride time from base to alpine from 45 minutes to 15. The Rendezvous Restaurant was re-dubbed Base 2 and the moniker moved to the restaurant at the top of the Solar Coaster lift.

The Wizard Express quad lift at the base of Blackcomb mountain


In 1989, Lift 6 (Jersey Cream) was replaced with a Doppelmayr high-speed quad and the Yan triple lift was moved to the newly opened Crystal Ridge area of the mountain.

In 1992, the Glacier Express was installed, running from the base of the Jersey Cream quad lift to the toe of the Horstman T-Bars. This lift's construction was followed by the building of the Glacier Creek Restaurant- the largest building on Blackcomb Mountain.



In 1994, Blackcomb made its last major lift expansion with the replacement of the Stoker, Cruiser, and Fitzsimmons lifts with the high-speed Excelerator quad chair and Excalibur Gondola. The second is dubbed by some as the "gondola to nowhere" since it doesn't connect with any restaurant or access additional terrain. However, it allowed rapid alpine access for skiers in Whistler Village, who previously had to take 4 chairlifts to Rendezvous (Fitzsimmons, Stoker, Cruiser, and Jersey Cream, with 3 of those being slower chairs). The Excelerator also opened up a vast area of intermediate-difficulty terrain to the left of Solar Coaster and below Jersey Cream that was previously neglected and under-utilized, because skiers who travel those slopes frequently had to go all the way to the bottom of the mountain, which is over-skied and icy.

Blackcomb is the location of the world famous "Couloir Extreme" run, which is one of the top ten steep in-bounds runs in the world according to Skiing Magazine. Originally called the Saudan Couloir by local skiers even before it was part of the ski area, the company eventually had to drop the name when extreme skier Sylvain Saudan complained about the unauthorised use of his name.

In 1996, Intrawest purchased Whistler to create Whistler Blackcomb as it is known today.

Whistler Blackcomb's Tube Park

For the 2005-2006 ski season Blackcomb mountain opened the Tube Park to allow for recreational tubing at the resort. The tube park is located at Base II on Blackcomb Mountain alongside the Village Run.

Lift incidents

Quicksilver Express grip failure, December 23, 1995

The lift operator on the Quicksilver lift pressed the button to make a routine stop, to allow a fallen skier to get out of the way of the unloading ramp. Instead, the emergency brake activated, sending shockwaves down the cable. Grips on at least two of the chairs slipped, and caused chairs to slide down the cable and slam into each other. In all, eight were injured, and two were killed
in one of the worst ski lift accidents in North America. The disaster ended up causing the bankruptcy of the lift's manufacturer, Lift Engineering/Yan. The cause was found to be a design fault in the Yan detachable grip.


Excalibur Gondola Collapse, December 16, 2008

The Excalibur gondola had a major malfunction on December 16, 2008, when the upper portion of one of the lift towers detached and collapsed, causing several of the gondola cabins to drop near to the ground, leaving 53 people trapped on the lower section of the lift line. Firefighters rescued passengers from a cabin dangling over Fitzsimmons Creek, and from another gondola that landed on a bus shelter. The third cabin had crashed into the trees, narrowly missing a condominium. Twelve people suffered minor injuries. According to Whistler-Blackcomb, a joint in the tower separated due to the buildup of ice from water that had seeped into the tower.. The undamaged upper half of the lift running from Blackcomb's Base 2 was reopened on Saturday 20 December. After repairs were made to the collapsed tower, the whole lift was back in service on Wednesday 24 December.

Harmony Express grip failure, February 18, 2009

A single grip on Whistler's Harmony Express failed and fell off the haul rope overnight on Wednesday, Feb. 18 / Thursday, Feb. 19. The lift operations team was experiencing some problems with the lift during the day on Wednesday. The fallen chair was found overnight by a grooming machine operator at Tower 11. Upon inspection the next morning, maintenance crews discovered that a sheave train component on the downhill side had failed. This caused a compression sheave train arm to deflect into the path of a carrier, ultimately resulting in the release of the carrier from the cable. Further investigation revealed that the failed component was the 'articulation arm mounting bolt'.The lift has been inspected since the accident. All similar bolts on the Harmony chair have since been replaced. All terrain in the Harmony Zone was still accessible while the lift was closed, via the Peak chair with a small hike from the top of the Saddle Run. Symphony Bowl was open with a ski out all the way to either the Emerald or Garbanzo Express Chairlifts, past the base of the closed Harmony Lift.

The lift re-opened on Sunday, February 22, 2009. The affected chair #37 was not in operation for the rest of the season.

Whistler T-Bars summer maintenance incident, August 31, 2009

On Monday, August 31, 2009, two Lift Maintenance employees were injured when the lift began to move, after being given the go-ahead while a maintenance person was safety-harnessed to the tower. The person remained attached to both the tower and the maintenance carrier while the second employee was un-secured in the carrier. The safety harness ended up pulling so hard on the maintenance carrier, the carrier became detached from the cable and dropped to the rocky ground below, severely injuring the worker in it. The employee hanging from the tower only received bruises.

XXI Olympic Winter Games

During the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Whistler Mountain will host the alpine skiing events. The men's skiing will take place on the Dave Murray Downhill course, while women's skiing will take place on a new course, which starts on Wild Card, cuts across Jimmy’s Joker to Franz's Run and connects at the bottom of the Dave Murray Downhill.

Whistler Blackcomb says the mountains will remain 90% open to the public during the 2010 Winter Games.

The Whistler Sliding Centremarker will host bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton events. Meanwhile, Whistler Olympic Parkmarker will host Olympic and Paralympic biathlon, Olympic and Paralympic cross-country skiing, Nordic Combined and ski jumping.

Whistler, as a host venue, has undergone massive changes in order to create the sport venues and house the athletes and staff. $600 million have been spent to improve the drive from Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway down to about two hours, improve safety, and increase traffic capacity. Other money will go towards upkeep of stadiums and renovations on local mountains in and around Vancouver.



Major events

Peak2Peak Gondola Grand Opening - December 12, 2008

Photographs

Image:Whistler Panorama -2007.jpg|A panorama of Whistler BlackcombImage:Blackcomb Mountain-2007.jpg|A view of 7th Heaven on Blackcomb Mountain from Whistler Mountain.Image:Blackcomb 1.jpgImage:Whistler Mountain 1.jpgImage:Whistler Mountain 3.jpg

See also



References

  1. Intrawest: History
  2. Accurate Lift-served Vertical Feet Totals
  3. Nixon, Emily Disaster and Emergency Management: The Quicksilver Chairlift Incident, Graduating Essay, University of Victoria, Geography Dept., April 2004
  4. Symphony Amphitheatre & the Symphony Express
  5. http://www.piquenewsmagazine.com/pique/index.php?cat=C_News&content=Tbar+accident+1636
  6. Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project


External links




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