On the Hill: To the best snow! | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: To the best snow!

Kristin Jackson
The Seattle Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

WHISTLER, B.C. ” For skiers and snowboarders, the new record-breaking gondola at the Whistler ski resort in British Columbia ” dubbed the “Peak to Peak Gondola” ” will let them move quickly between the upper-level runs of Whistler and Black­comb; they’ll no longer need to ski to the bottom of one mountain and take a series of lifts up the other to get to high­alpine runs. For summer visitors, it will mean a scenic ride and quick access to hiking on both mountains.

The gondola will travel between Whistler’s Round­house Lodge and Blackcomb’s Rendezvous Lodge, both skier hubs at about 6,000-feet elevation that already are served by many lifts.

While not truly at the peaks of the mountains, the lodges give fast access to the highest lifts. It will take 11 minutes to get between the two mountains on the gondola, with a cabin departing every 49 seconds.

There has been some criticism by Whistler politicians and environmentalists, both of tax breaks given to Intrawest for construction of the gondola and of its intru­sion on wilderness views up the undeveloped Fitzsimmons Valley from Whistler village. Brownlie said the gondola will be about 2 1/2 miles up the valley from the village.

The gondola will be built by Doppelmayr, an Austrian­based company that builds ski lifts. A similar mountain-to­mountain gondola opened a few years ago at the Kitzbuhel ski resort in Austria. While not quite as giant as Whistler’s, Intrawest officials say it has helped boost skier visits there. They hope their gondola will do the same for Whistler/­Blackcomb.

The resort suffered a drop in U.S. visitors ” a major portion of its market ” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, some poor snow years and the continued decline of the U.S. dollar that makes trips to Canada more expensive.

Whatever the gondola’s impact on skier and sightseer numbers, it may have one other long-term effect. With global warming threatening ski resorts ” and Whistler already prone to soggy snow on its lower-elevation runs ” the new lift will join the highest and best-snow parts of the mountains.

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