In February, 1966, Whistler Mountain (originally called London Mountain) opened for skiing with a four-person gondola, a double chairlift, two T-bars and a day lodge. On Monday, August 8, 2016, Colorado-based Vail Resorts purchased Whistler Blackcomb Holdings for $1.05 billion US ($1.4 billion CAD).
Naturally, Canadians (especially those in British Columbia) are wondering what this friendly American takeover of BC's biggest resort will mean for them. The immediate good news is that, starting in the 2017-2018 season, Vail Resorts plans to cut the price of a season pass dramatically (nearly in half) and also fold Whistler Blackcomb into its popular 13-resort Epic Pass (priced at $809 US, compared to the current $2,000 price tag for WB season passes). Additional perks of the Epic Pass include discounts for lodging, food and other experiences through out the year. This is a fairly major change as Whistler Blackcomb was previously a member of the Mountain Collective pass, a similar program that enabled pass holders to visit 14 iconic resorts across North America at relatively low cost.
According to Vail Resorts, offering lower prices, access to multiple resorts and other benefits has generally had a positive impact on the company's bottom line. Following the launch of the Epic Pass program in 2008, a price cut from $1,500 US to $600 US saw the number of season pass holders dramatically increase from 40,000 to over 500,000 today. In addition to reduced prices and increased incentives, Vail Resorts has announced that it wants to continue operating the resort with local Canadian management and retain as many of the current Whistler Blackcomb employees as possible. The $345-million Renaissance Project will also remain on track, which will help diversify the local tourism economy and elevate the resort's core sports: skiing and mountain biking (there's also a covered water park and roller coaster in the works).
Meanwhile, Aquilini Investment Group's intentions to build a $3.5 billion ski resort at Garibaldi in Squamish resort have not been deterred by this recent development in the skiing industry. This plan was recently approved by the provincial government, despite opposition from Whistler Resort Municipality and Whistler Blackcomb.
*Featured Image Credit: Tim Gillin