Whistler, B.C., the unexpected prototype of today’s master-planned
ski villages, is getting ready to become an Olympic competition
The recent announcement naming Vancouver as the host city for
the 2010 Winter Games has given an automatic marketing boost to the
ski resort, located 75 miles to the north.
“We’re finding that, except for die-hard skiers and golfers,
most people from the United States don’t know as much about
Whistler as they do about Aspen and Vail,” said Sonya Hwang, a
spokeswoman for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Hotel. “The Olympics
will definitely put us on the map.”
Alpine events such as downhill skiing and sliding events such as
the luge will take place on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, which
are located side by side.
Nordic competitions, such as the biathlon and cross-country
skiing, will be held in nearby Callaghan Valley.
Tourism Whistler’s Web site, www.mywhistler.com, is already
touting its Olympic venue status with links to a 2010 update page
and an accommodations inquiry form.
But tourism officials note that they still have plenty of time
to ramp up marketing efforts, according to Catherine Adams of
“It’s still seven years away,” she said. “We’ll market with the
Olympics angle more heavily after the 2006 Games in Torino,
Much of that effort will be focused squarely on the U.S. market,
British Columbia’s No. 1 source of international visitors.
Statistics solely for Whistler are not available but British
Columbia as a whole drew more than 5 million overnight U.S.
visitors in 2002, generating nearly $2.5 billion in revenue. And,
during the 2001-02 winter season, U.S. visitors mostly from the
West Coast provided 40.6 percent of the province’s room nights,
according to Adams.
Right now, officials are focusing on infrastructure. Whistler
has 5,400 lodging units, mostly in condominiums, hotels and
townhouses. But an estimated 17,000 people, in addition to the
athletes, are expected to visit Whistler each day during the
Approximately $467 million in capital improvements, including
construction of an athletes’ village, will have to be completed
before the Games. In addition, a Nordic center has been proposed in
the Callaghan Valley and a luge facility on Blackcomb Mountain,
The winning Olympics bid was a long time coming.
More than 40 years ago, when the mountain opened to skiers, four
Vancouver businessmen envisioned Whistler as a Winter Olympic Games
site. But it wasn’t until 1978 that a town center was built,
serving as a catalyst for additional development that would
transform the base area into one of North America’s first ski
villages. Now Whistler has accommodations, boutiques, restaurants,
bars and other apres ski diversions, all within walking distance of
Contrary to popular belief, however, the Vancouver-based
development company that owns both mountains did not pioneer the
village concept. Christopher Nicolson, a spokesman for Intrawest
Corp., said the company simply took the idea and ran with it, using
Whistler as a model for resort areas such as Mont Tremblant,
Quebec; Copper, Colo.; and Mammoth, Calif.
Still, the Olympics announcement is a coup for Intrawest, which
is in the midst of spending approximately $72.5 million to
transform the mountain’s original base area into Whistler
The mixed-use development, scheduled for completion in 2005,
will have accommodations, shops, cafes and residential units. It
already has two new hotels, the 121-room Legends, which opened two
years ago, and the 84-room First Tracks Lodge, which opened in
2002. The groundbreaking for another 70-unit property, which has
not been named, is scheduled for next summer.
Other developers are also busy in the village.
Among the pending projects:
" A 240-unit Four Seasons Resort, which is scheduled to open in
" Whistler’s second Pan Pacific property, an 83-suite hotel, set
to open in December 2004.
" The First Nations Cultural Centre, expected to open in
mid-2005. The attraction will have a museum, crafts market and
other facilities highlighting the native Squamish and Lil’wat
Also, the expansion and renovation of the Whistler Conference
Center is scheduled for completion later this month.
Despite the built-out look of Whistler Village and the extensive
Olympics plans, Whistler’s tourism officials are not ruling out the
possibility of additional expansion.
“We still have room for more after these developments,” Adams
Activities in Whistler
Adventure Zone (at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, not far from
Whistler Village), aerial sightseeing, all-terrain vehicles,
backcountry tours, beach volleyball, bungee jumping, camps,
canoeing/kayaking, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, golf,
heli-fishing, heli-hiking, heli-rafting, hiking/ climbing,
historical tours, horseback riding, Hummer tours, in-line skating,
jet boating, mini golf, mountain biking, mountaineering, paintball,
nature tours, outdoor swimming, rafting, rock climbing, sailing,
sightseeing tours, skateboarding, zip line ecotours, and
Aerial sightseeing, avalanche courses (excellent for skiers,
snowboarders, snowmobilers and those frequenting the backcountry
areas), backcountry tours, bald eagle viewing, bungee jumping,
camping, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, fresh tracks skiing/
snowboarding, heli-skiing/heli-snowboarding, ice climbing, night
skiing/ snowboarding, outdoor skating, skate-skiing, skiing, sleigh
rides, snowboarding, snowcat tours, snowmobiling, snowshoeing,
telemark skiing, winter fishing, and zip line ecotours.
Getting Around in Whistler
Tourism Whistler: 877-991-9988; www.mywhistler.com.
Where to Stay: Whistler has 115 lodging options, including
hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, condominiums, townhouses and
executive-style homes. Many are commissionable.
Its 16 hotels include the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Pan Pacific
Whistler, Westin Resort & Spa Whistler and Holiday Inn Sunspree
Transportation: Whistler is 75 miles north of Vancouver, in the
Coast Mountains of British Columbia. Direct and nonstop flights
serve Vancouver International Airport from several western cities,
including Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Rental cars, scheduled coach service, taxis and limousines are
available for transfers between the airport and Whistler’s
Skiable terrain: 7,071 acres on two mountains.
Number of lifts: 33.
Number of marked runs: More than 200.
An Insider Says: Clients won’t need a car if they plan to stay
in or near the village. A free shuttle makes several stops
throughout the village every six to eight minutes from 8 a.m. to
Also, the WAVE (Whistler and Valley Express) has scheduled bus
service throughout Whistler’s neighborhoods from the village bus
Fares are $1.50 Canadian dollars ($1.09) for adults and $1.25
Canadian dollars (91 cents) for children and seniors.
Planning Ahead: The 2010 Olympics will be held Feb. 12 to