Whistler?s Peak 2 Peak Gondola recently came through Bellingham ? a hybrid Chevy towing a full-sized gondola cabin and a media team including Michelle Leroux, the head of the Peak to Peak PR program. We had a chance to sit with Michelle and learn more about the forthcoming opening of the Peak to Peak and what it means for skiers at Whistler-Blackcomb.
TSKJ: So how many people can you move on the Peak 2 Peak?
ML: There are 28 cabins that fit 28 people, so it?s moving 4,100 people per hour. But the odds of every cabin having 28 people are pretty slim.
TSKJ: When does it open?
ML: December 12.
TSKJ: And that?s been the goal the entire time?
ML: Yes. We knew in the summer that was what we were aiming for but we wanted to make sure that we had hit enough milestones in the construction process to feel confident about that date. We could conceivably open the lift opening day, but we want to have a bit of extra time to make sure everything is perfect. British Columbia Safety Authority is finishing all of their safety certifications this week and we do our final lift evacuation with ski patrollers next week. Then it?s just training and shining the cabins.
TSKJ: How would you evacuate from 1,300 feet?
ML: Well there are so many redundancies — there are redundancies for the redundancies for the redundancies, so the likelihood of an evacuation is slim to none. But, if the planets align and we do need to get people out of there we?ve got some rescue cars ? the whole process takes eight hours. These rescue cars go out onto the line via generators and winches, which are attached to the last two towers on either mountain. They go out to the first car, attach themselves to the first car and get winched back up. People are then put into harnesses and lowered down from the tower. Once that car is empty the rescue car detaches itself and uses a crane to get onto the other side of the cabin and moves to the next car.
TSKJ: Are they going to have to do that whole 8-hour process during practice?
ML: Yeah, they?ve already done it several times. Everyone has to be fully trained. We have a team of 40 people from lift maintenance to patrollers that are basically on call for rescuing.
TSKJ: How much is it going to cost to ride the gondola?
ML: The lift price has gone up, just like it has at every ski mountain in the world, but the cost is integrated. However, if you are a regional visitor and you buy an Edge Card or a seasons pass you would be able to choose if you want it or not. So there is the option this year, but the cost is actually pretty small. We don?t have our ticket rates published yet and I know it will be a little more than the usual ticket price increase, but it?s not a huge jump. I think people will be pleased.
TSKJ: A couple of the cars will have glass bottoms?
ML: Yes, two of them. Not the whole car though, there will be a railing and the middle will be glass, so you don?t actually stand on it. The glass bottom cabins are silver and the rest are red?we might even have to have a separate line up for it, but we?re not sure yet. It?s funny because we?ve already had three guys contact us because they want to propose to their girlfriends on opening day on the gondola. Plus, we already have a couple getting married as they go across.
TSKJ: Anything else you?d like to add?
ML: It?s going to be a tool for skiers and snowboarders and it will let you work the mountain. You can follow the sun if you know the aspects ? think about 8,000 acres of all these varying aspects that you can hit according to the weather. If you know what you?re doing, you?re going to kill it up there. Some people will just be like ?woo this is fun,? but the people that know the mountains will be able to work it like nobody?s business. That is the best aspect for core skiers.