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Originally published February 22, 2014 at 5:53 PM | Page modified February 22, 2014 at 5:58 PM

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Whistler-Blackcomb Resort getting some major upgrades and expansion

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Whistler-Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia continues to raise its slopes to a higher standard with upgrades and expansion almost becoming a yearly occurrence.

The mega-resort — the largest winter destination area in North America and located just four hours north of Seattle — recently announced a $12 million expansion.

“We’re just getting started on our (long term) expansion,” said David Brownlie, president and chief operating officer of Whistler-Blackcomb Resort.

“We see a lot of opportunity on the winter side with another 2,000-acre-of-land expansion available (on top of the current 8,100 acres),” Brownlie said. “Our non-ski business (summer time outdoor activities) is also very important to us.”

The Whistler-Blackcomb’s Village Gondola will get an upgrade in time for the 2014-15 winter season with new cabins at a cost of $6 million.

The well-trimmed cabins will shuttle up to eight passengers and their gear on outer racks, and boost capacity by 12 percent by adding four additional cabins for a total of 160, and a much better loading efficiency.

The current cabins have been in place since 1988 and can hold 10 people, but Brownlie says, “They’re lucky to get seven in comfortably.”

The new walk-in cabins are being built by Sigma (a company based in Veyrins, Isère, France) that specializes in the production of cabins for gondola lifts. The company is a subsidiary of Leitner-Poma of America, Inc., and were the original manufacturers of the Village Gondola.

The gondola will continue to operate through summer before closing in September and October to install the new cabins.

The gondola upgrades will also include a nice facelift to the outer and interior of the base area at the Whistler Village Gondola, and at the mid-Olympic Station and top Roundhouse Lodge terminal areas.

Another $5.9 million will go into the resort’s new technology platform that includes a radio-frequency identification system (RFID) with lift access control gates on main lift areas.

The RFID gates are expected to lessen wait time at lifts, and reduce lost dollars from lift ticket fraud.

This comes on top of the $18 million upgrades that included the Harmony 6 Express on Whistler Mountain and the Crystal Ridge Express on Blackcomb Mountain, which both opened this winter.

The huge resort – part of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics — sits on two mountainsides and has a total of 37 lifts (19 on Whistler and 17 on Blackcomb, and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola) with more than 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers.

Locally, the White Pass Ski Area will soon see an expansion to its nordic center, which was recently approved by the National Forest Service.

“There are many more people getting into cross-country skiing and snow shoeing in our area, which has been great to see,” said Kathleen Goyette, the White Pass marketing director.

Currently the White Pass nordic area offers18 kilometers of groomed double-tracked trails for all ability levels that wind through the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forests.

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