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Whistler Blackcomb's $345M plan to be 'weather independent'

Caroline Floyd

Thursday, April 7, 2016, 9:53 AM - Temperatures soaring to July-like levels this week in British Columbia have people hanging up their winter gear and heading out to enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer for the warm season. With a dramatic new plan to attract visitors year-round, Whistler Blackcomb wants to be a part of the B.C. summer landscape.

Known as The Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance, the three-phase plan includes improvements for both summer and winter recreation, but focuses on making the destination a "weather independent", four season resort - as the website puts it, a place where "guests won't have to stop playing when Mother Nature doesn't co-operate."

The first phase of the plan, which still requires approval from municipal and provincial governments, and the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, kicks off with the addition of The Watershed Indoor Adventure Centre, a 163,000 square foot facility that will be home to a 50,000 square foot water play area, indoor/outdoor pool, spa, deep water surf wave pool, and numerous waterslides.

The proposed layout for The Watershed Indoor Adventure Centre. Image courtesy Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance.

Blackcomb Adventure Park features a mountain roller coaster, rainforest agility course, and trampoline park, along with the addition of night skiing and snowboarding to the existing mountain activities. Another facility is designed to cater to up-and-coming extreme sport enthusiasts, with mountain bike, BMX, and skateboard opportunities.

Future phases will focus on renovating and upgrading the resort's existing services, with both on-mountain and base area improvements.

Speaking to CBC News, Whistler Blackcomb CEO Dave Brownlie said the proposed project reflects several decades of planning. "It was identified that we needed to strengthen our tourism business on a year-round basis. We needed to provide some resiliency over and above what we had for volatility of weather," he said, speaking of the resort's plan to deal with the concerns of a changing climate. "It's about what happens in May and June and September and October, when we are not so busy."

While Whistler is on track to record fairly average total snowfall for the 2015-2016 season, the past two winters have been lacking; a trend that has marked roughly half the years of the past decade.

Dr. John Pomeroy, a hydrologist with the University of Saskatchewan, told The Globe and Mail that, over the past 50 years, climate change has already shortened the spring ski season anywhere from four to six weeks at many hills in B.C. and Alberta.

Whistler Blackcomb isn't the only B.C. resort making way for new warm-season entertainment. Scheduled to open this May, Revelstoke Mountain Resort is introducing a single-rail mountain rollercoaster of its own. The Pipe Mountain Coaster runs over a 279 metre drop and allows riders to control their speed, maxing out at 42 km/h.

Sources: Whistler BlackcombCBC News | Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Globe and Mail

Watch: Sunshine Village skiers making the most of the melt season in the Slush Cup

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