Dec 1, 2002 | Marmot, Winter 2002

Mount Washington Pre-Season Pass Sales Increase from 15% ~ 50%

The Hawk High Speed Six Pack is ready to whisk 2400 skiers and boarders per hour to the lower West Basin, increasing intermediate terrain dramatically.

Excitement has been building all summer at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, as construction crews have been installing the much-anticipated Hawk six-pack chairlift. And the proof is in the ticket sales. Nordic (season’s passes) has grown another 50 per cent over last year and alpine has grown about 15 per cent in terms of overall volume, Marketing Director Karen Bonell said. It’s pretty tremendous growth. We budget for an increase. If you get five per cent, you would be happy. With 15 per cent on alpine, we’re ecstatic. Mid-week season’s passes have seen the most growth on the alpine side, she said. We’re looking at 25 per cent there. I think that shows we’re moving in the right direction in terms of our planning.

The Resort gained momentum last year with the opening of the million-dollar Raven Lodge Nordic Facility, and hopes to ride that wave with the opening of the Hawk. It’s a spate of unparalleled success for the 23-year-old Alpine Resort.

When the Sunrise Quad chair opened in the early 90s – the first major expansion since the ski hill opened in 1979 – there wasn’t the instant fascination with the new lift that the Resort saw two years ago with the Eagle Express high-speed quad. Part of the problem in the 90s was that the public had been told for years that Sunrise was going to open, but the project was stalled, explained Resort General Manager Peter Gibson. People were skeptical; then the first year Sunrise opened, with then-B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt riding the first chair up – snow was scant. When the Eagle Express opened December 2000, the parking lot was so full people were abandoning their cars kilometres down the road to get into the lineup. The resort eventually fired up the lift early to accommodate everyone. Mount Washington never really experienced a let-up after that, Gibson said.

Our season’s pass numbers are really encouraging, he said. In four years we’ve virtually doubled our season’s pass sales. And it’s still an affordable day’s entertainment. While a report came out in Ski Canada magazine in October that Canada is now one of the world’s most expensive places to ski, that’s not the case with Mount Washington, Gibson said. I think they’re very fair, he said. Our day pass, compared to the Okanagan and Interior, is very reasonable. Adult day passes are $45 plus tax (last year they were $45 including tax). Night skiing passes are almost half that price, at $29.

As another example, an adult ski pass costs $589 (Early Bird) plus applicable taxes, which means the break-even point – the point at which someone needs to ski before they are skiing for free – is 14 days. While the first official skiers haven’t even loaded onto the Hawk yet, Gibson and other resort staff are already thinking of expansion – albeit cautiously. We are looking at expanding into the McKay Lake side of the mountain, but it’s premature to speculate how soon that will be.

Once we get into the new year we’ll know which season this lift will go in, Gibson said.

The resort is already examining run alignments for McKay Lake, an area they call The Outback. They’re looking at a fixed-grip triple chair that would run from Little Washington to the lake. Runs in The Outback would be double black diamond and skiers and riders would access this terrain from off-loading the Eagle Express.

Staff are also busy pricing out a new lift for the new terrain, Public Relations Director Dave Hampshire said. Although the Resort tore down its old Red Chair to build the new Hawk, they sent the Red to Mt. Timothy instead of hanging onto it.

The reason why we didn’t store the old Red Chair for this area is we need what’s termed as a top-loader for that terrain, versus a bottom-loader, Hampshire said. The old Red Chair was a bottom-loader, which meant that the hydro and drive mechanism is loaded at the top of the lift.

The hydro for the lift would run from either the top of The Eagle or Hawk to the summit of Little Washington, where the drive mechanism for this new chair would be located, he said.

The cost of running power all the way down to McKay Lake at the level required to operate the new lift would be very costly due to distance.

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