'Make Whistler Great Again': Thousands sign petition calling for improvements at resort
WHISTLER, B.C. -- From lift lines to food quality to ticket prices, the skiing experience at Whistler Blackcomb has gone downhill since Vail purchased the resort – at least according to a new petition that's already collected thousands of signatures.
The petition is part of a "Make Whistler Great Again" campaign co-founded by Ben Cherniavsky, a Whistler resident who has been skiing at the resort for the last 20 years.
“By bringing this out in the open our hope is that we’ll get Vail to pay attention to these concerns,” Cherniavsky told CTV News.
According to the Make Whistler Great Again website, the campaign's goal is to "raise awareness in the community around the deteriorating operations on the mountain and the disintegrating value of a lift pass."
Cherniavsky said change is inevitable – he's seen many changes over the years – but he would have hoped that "as it gets busier, it gets bigger and the ability to manage those crowds is improved."
Cherniavsky told CTV News the opposite has happened. According to him and the thousands who have signed the petition, it takes longer to open up terrain, lift lines are busier, and snow making has decreased.
Prices have also gone up. A day pass is now $189, up significantly from $130 which was the cost in 2017. Vail purchased the resort in August 2016, and since then has upgraded some chair lifts and installed a new gondola.
Cherniavsky said the American company seems they forget about locals. “[Vail prices] their product in U.S. dollars, they black out Martin Luther King day for Edge Card holders,” said Cherniavsky.
He added that “even the app shows temperature in Fahrenheit.”
Marc Riddell disputes the claim that they aren’t catering to their local crowd. He told CTV News they have decreased the price of local deals like the Edge Cards and seasons passes for Whistler Blackcomb. Riddell said to get the best deal, buy your lift ticket before arriving.
“We’re going to give you the best possible deal if you pre-commit,” he explained. And if you’re planning to ski multiple days, then buying a package ahead could lead to 50 percent savings. However, customers choose to buy at the ticket window, the price remains, and there’s no discount if there are variable conditions.
Whistler had a challenging start to the season, and Riddell said without snow making capabilities, the mountain may not have opened until mid-December. November and December had the lowest snowfall in 30 years, then in January they set a record, with 477 centimetres, and it all came at once.
"What that makes for is a very volatile snow pack,” Riddell explained. “It means we can't operate safely in terrain we would normally be in by the time we're in January."
On the questions about staffing levels, food quality and customer service, Riddell said staffing levels have gone up: "We’ve created 300 more jobs and we have more staff on the payroll than we had prior to Vail Resorts."
“We know that people are passionate about this place. They want us to do better, and we want to be better,” he added.
Cherniavsky called the petition and website a “positive” campaign.
“We’re not out with a wrecking ball to make problems for Vail,” he explained. “We’re in fact hoping this raises their awareness of what’s happening here in the local market, in the community and we want to see some positive changes and we think that’s win-win.”