Whistler Blackcomb to add indoor water park, roller coaster, and night skiing in $345-million plan

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The Whistler Blackcomb landscape/David McColm, taken on Dec 30, 2015

A massive $345-million development plan with new “weather-independent experiences” promises to provide Whistler Blackcomb with a major boost by turning it into a year-round resort.

In a press release, Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. announced today that its so-called ‘Renaissance’ plans will build new major attractions and activities and revitalize its village areas.

“Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance is the most progressive investment in our history and will leverage our tremendous success building our non-ski business.  Renaissance will further diversify our revenue and enhance the activities available for our guests while elevating Whistler Blackcomb’s core skiing, mountain biking and sightseeing experiences and continuing our evolution as one of the industry’s leading four-season mountain resorts,” said Dave Brownlie, the President and CEO of Whistler Blackcomb, in a statement.

“This is a very exciting growth initiative that, we expect, will increase year-round visitation to Whistler, insulate our resort from variable weather conditions, and strengthen Whistler’s position as one of the premier mountain resort destinations in the world.”

The ambitious expansion and improvement plans include:

  • A 163,000-square-foot indoor water park with a wave pool, water slides, deep water surf simulator, hot and cold pools, bowling, cliff jumping and rock climbing experiences, food and beverage facilities, retail amenities, and other weather-independent activities.
  • A gravity-fed, year-round mountain roller coaster.
  • A suspension bridge and viewing platforms atop Whistler Mountain.
  • A major night skiing area.
  • Improved snowmaking facilities on Blackcomb Mountain.
  • New high-speed lift to replace the Magic Chair and connect Blackcomb’s upper and lower bases.
  • A tree-top ropes course.
  • New snow school learning zones.
  • Big improvements to the existing sightseeing, hiking, and mountain biking experiences, including a challenging Grouse Grind-like ‘Blackcomb Grind Hiking Trail’ from the base to the lower peak area.
  • Expansion of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park into the Whistler Creekside area, including 50 kilometres of new downhill mountain biking trails.
  • An indoor action sports training facility.
  • A complete revitalization of Blackcomb’s base area in the Upper Village, with an upgraded day lodge and skiers’ plaza, new snow school facilitiy, and luxury real estate development with 60 town home residences totalling 160,000 square feet.
  • A two-storey parking facility at Blackcomb’s upper Base II.

These elements will be constructed over three phases, but approvals from the municipal and provincial governments as well as local First Nations bands will be required before the shovels can start digging.

If approved, the first of the new outdoor and indoor mountain adventure experiences, including the water park, will be constructed during the $90-million initial phase. Other elements of the Renaissance, such as a new day lodge, the luxury residential developments, and new parking facilities will be completed in the second phase at a cost of $105 million.

The final phase, currently budgeted at $140 million, will see the reconstruction of Blackcomb’s base area in the Upper Village, with the upgraded day lodge and skiers’ plaza and the transformation of the base area into a vibrant, upscale village community. The remaining elements of the new mountain adventure experiences, such as lift upgrades, will be constructed in this phase.

The proposed plans will allow Whistler Blackcomb to improve its ski and snowboard capabilities while also diversifying its offerings, so that its business is less dependent on snow activities. Although snow levels have been optimal this past winter season, the same cannot be said for the 2015/2014 winter season when warm weather hampered skiing and snowboarding.

In recent years, the resort has faced growing competition from other local attractions, including the Sea to Sky Gondola’s sightseeing attractions and mountaintop hiking trails and suspension bridge.

Over the long-term, Whistler Blackcomb could face intense competition from Aquilini Development Group’s Garibaldi at Squamish resort project. The $3.5-billion project on crown land between Alice Lake Provincial Park and Garibaldi Provincial Park includes 124 ski runs over 668 hectares of terrain, three gondolas, 18 chairlifts, and three mountain lodges. The proposed village area plan could accommodate up to 22,000 people in 1,700 hotel units and 5,736 housing units.

Earlier this year, Garibaldi at Squamish received its environmental assessment certificate, with 40 legally binding conditions, from the provincial government. Further approvals from the District of Squamish are necessary before construction can begin.

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Kenneth Chan Deputy Editor & Social Media Manager at Vancity Buzz. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, and anything else that makes a difference in the lives of Vancouverites. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]vancitybuzz.com
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