Shadow over Whistler Olympics

27th January 2010, by Chris Gill

Up for grabs?

Up for grabs?

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games are due to take place from 12 to 28 February in Vancouver and Whistler, in far western Canada – and the final British team was announced in London on Tuesday. But the company that owns Whistler, the famous developer Intrawest, is in serious financial trouble, and reports are circulating of all sorts of radical plans.

It is reported by the Calgary Herald and others that creditors of Intrawest, owed something between $1 billion and $2 billion, have announced their intention to auction the Intrawest debts on 19 February, half-way through the games. But a recent Intrawest release speaks of “misleading media reports”, and a spokesman is reported to have told Associated Press that “the public notice of auction that appeared in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal is standard practice for lenders during refinancing discussions” – in other words, that it is a kind of last resort.

Intrawest sold several assets last year to help make its debt payments, including the sale of Copper Mountain to Powdr Corp, owner of Park City, Killington and a handful of smaller resorts, and the sale of its interests in Les Arcs and Flaine to Pierre & Vacances.

There seems no reason to think that the refinancing of Intrawest will have any impact on the games. What may be more of a concern is the famously extreme weather of this coastal region, which can mean very heavy snow (or very heavy rain). Just over a week ago the resort got 70cm of snow in 24 hours, and its total for the season so far is approaching 10m/400in - an exceptional figure for a whole season, never mind the end of January.

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