Whistler and Blackcomb mountains were officially united today with the grand opening of the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. Skiing, riding and sightseeing on the mountains has forever changed at Whistler Blackcomb and guests came from far and wide to be part of the momentous occasion.
The gargantuan Doppelmayr 3S gondola is an engineering feat, breaking three world records and setting up to be Canada’s newest tourism icon.
"The PEAK 2 PEAK gondola is an iconic new attraction that further cements Whistler’s reputation as one of the world’s top tourist destinations,” said Premier Gordon Campbell. “It will help to build excitement and drive new economic opportunities and growth as we count down to when BC hosts the world during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games."
Special guests included Kevin Falcon, Minister of Transportation and Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of State for Sport.
“An impressive feat of engineering, with a minimal environmental footprint, the spectacular PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola will confirm Whistler’s international reputation as a tourist destination and one of the premier ski resorts in the world,” said Lunn. “It will provide a thrilling experience for visitors when we welcome the world in 2010 to cheer on the athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.”
The snow was falling as guests gathered at the Whistler and Blackcomb PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola terminal buildings to celebrate and ride the gondola. Celebrity emcees Steve Podborski, Mike Douglas Tara Teigan and Kristen Robinson kept the crowd entertained on both mountains, while Gondola Girls, live DJs, mascots, free cake and hot chocolate added to the mountaintop festivities.
Red Bull gave wings to the celebration by literally dropping in. Famous freestyle skier and adrenaline junkie, Shane McConkey, surprised onlookers by base jumping out of the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, despite the snowy weather. Word of this stunt had been swirling for weeks, but the rumour could never be confirmed until today.
The twenty-two guests who rode the first cabin from Blackcomb to Whistler certainly did have the “Ride of Their Life.” This group ranging in age from three to 90 years old, was nominated by the community for their various contributions to Whistler Blackcomb and for the passion they have for the mountains. Long-time local, George Huxtable, 90, was thrilled to see his two grand-daughters waiting for him with signs at the end of his ride.
The first Sky Cabin from Whistler to Blackcomb was filled with 21 guests who purchased their seats through an auction benefiting charities in the Sea to Sky region, including the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. A total of $22,000 was raised for community organizations in need.
Elvis even managed to return to the building and had a “hunka hunka burnin’” gondola ride.
In Whistler Village, guests received commemorative posters designed by pro snowboarder/artist Vanessa Stark and participated in the Grand Après, which included a special children’s performance by Norman Foote.
More than 10,000 people tuned in to watch the action via a live webcast on whistlerblackcomb.com. Three-hundred employees at the Doppelmayr/Garavanta Group factory in Wolfurt, Austria held a party to celebrate the launch and watched the webcast on a huge projector as they toasted the completion of this mind-blowing lift. Highlights will be available online later today.
On top of all of the other excitement, love was in the air. Jay and Janice MacKenzie of Whistler Dental Group renewed their vows 11 years after they tied the knot on the mountain. The Whistler Dental Group won their own gondola for having the best PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola decorations of any Whistler business.
There were also two secret marriage proposals. Congratulations to all the happy couples.
“Today is an historical day for Whistler Blackcomb. The launch of the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is a once in a lifetime event and the skiing, riding and sightseeing experience on the mountains is now forever changed” says Dave Brownlie, President and Chief Operating Officer of Whistler Blackcomb. “We are thrilled so many people could make it out in person or online to share this special day with us. Now that the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is open, we invite guests to come and see how it can help them make the most of their day at Whistler Blackcomb.”
Celebrations will continue well into the night as partygoers fill Whistler Blackcomb’s three bars: Merlin’s, the Garibaldi Lift Co. and Dusty’s Bar & BBQ