What Travel Writers Say

Peak 2 Peak

© By Mike Keenan
Welcome Sign The PEAK 2 PEAK gondola ride, linking Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, site of the 2010 Olympic alpine skiing events, is so slinky sexy that you can literally see through the entire gondola revealing outdoor nature in its full and naked glory! Well, at least on the silver gondolas. Not that the red ones are shabby, but the elegant silver variety are equipped with glass bottoms. Correct. Not a ride for those afflicted with phobias.
     I stare downward through the glass as we glide smoothly, soundlessly at 7.5 meters per second, a journey of 11 minutes, time enough for two people to get married, which happened a few months past. And wedding party members need wait only 49 seconds for the next gondola.
     We cover the 4.4 km (2.73 miles) in a straight line. The view is incredible at the highest point above ground, 436 m (1427 feet) over Fitzsimmons Creek, covered with a frosty white blanket. What keeps us up? Between four sturdy towers, there are two types of ropes: track ropes, two stationary ropes that the cabin rides upon, each 56 mm in diameter and a single haul rope, 46 mm in diameter that pulls the cars along the track. Total length of the track rope with the sag is 4,600 m; total length of the haul rope loop with the sag is 8,850 m.

All Aboard  Arriving  Canadian Flag  Empty Gondola

     All cabins feature glass windows for less scratching then traditional Plexiglass, and they feature amazing year-long panoramic views of the valley for PEAK 2 PEAK will also operate in the summer, treating sightseers and hikers to stunning vistas of valley, creek and alpine landscape of Garibaldi Provincial Park. Wheelchair access ensures an inclusive operation.
     The brawny gondolas can brace against 80 km/hr winds, but today, the run is silky smooth. We span a great distance, but without gain in elevation, energy consumption is much less than a traditional lift. When the load is balanced, just the friction of the track and haul ropes need be overcome. That's why it's so soft and soundless. I check my companions. Everyone seems lost in Zen-like reverie. It would be a shame to break the spell by talking.
     There's a remarkable aircraft warning system employed here. For starters, when construction began, the track and haul rope line across Fitzsimmons Valley were identified on all aviation maps for the Whistler area and communicated through the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) service. Then, cutting-edge technology was developed in Norway, called OCAS (Obstacle Collision Avoidance System) and installed on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola which constantly scans the area with radar. If aircraft is detected, the radar alerts the system and immediately tracks the aircraft, calculates its speed, heading and altitude. If a collision hazard exists, the pilot is warned by flashing high intensity strobe lights and an audible warning transmitted over all aircraft radio frequencies. Wow! Reminds me of Q in a James Bond movie.

Gondola and Tower  A Happy Rider  Leaving  Over Fitzsimmons Creek

     The system is efficient, each cab able to accommodate 28 people per trip, therefore a capacity to transport 2,050 people each way per hour for a total of 4,100. But why do I see a tree perched on top of a tower? The tradition of placing a tree on top of a completed steel structure is called "Topping Out," a cherished custom of ironworkers whenever the skeleton of a bridge or building is completed, and in the case of the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, when a lift tower is completed. As the final beam is hoisted, a tree or a flag or both are attached to it as it ascends. Each of the four P2P towers at Whistler Blackcomb has sported the Swiss flag and a tree. The team that built the lift towers were from Switzerland. For some, the tree symbolizes the job went up without a major incident, while for others it's a good luck charm for the future.
     Whistler's ski community has always entertained Olympic dreams. The original visionaries built the ski area with the dream to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Whistler in 1968. Now, in 2010 Whistler will host the world as site for the Alpine (downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom, combined), Nordic (biathlon, cross country skiing, Nordic combined), Sliding (ski jumping, bobsleigh, luge, skeleton) and all Paralympic events except Sledge Hockey.

Panoramic View  Skier With View  Tower and Gondola  Typical View

     Amidst the spectacular Coast Mountains, only 75 miles or 120 km. north of Vancouver, the beautiful alpine village snuggles amidst magnificent mountains forming the greatest vertical lift in North America. Blackcomb rises one vertical mile with Whistler just behind at 5,020 ft. providing the longest ski season in Canada from November to August. Whistler has been rated the number one ski resort in North America by many publications
     What happens post Olympic Games? Whistler will continue to offer a world-class ski area to recreational skiers and will be a site for future international competitions and Canadian team training. VANOC has made quite an investment as improvements are estimated at $27.6 million. The federal government and that of British Columbia agreed jointly to fund new construction and upgrades. Soon, we shall see if it was a good investment.

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun. Click for Whistler, British Columbia Forecast

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Photo credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
Whistler, British Columbia
as seen on YouTube
Whistler Olympic Park: http://www.whistlerolympicpark.com/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_2_Peak_Gondola
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Whistler

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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