Snowmaking is an important part of early season preparation at Whistler Blackcomb in any given year. This year, while extra efforts are focused on readying the Alpine Skiing venue for the 2010 Winter Games, crews are also hard at work across both mountains to open up as much terrain as quickly as possible. And with Mother Nature’s cooperation, the mountains have been pounded with snow over the past few days, with more on the way.
This season Whistler Blackcomb’s snowmaking team is larger than ever, and is dedicated to providing an exceptional product for all guests while meeting or exceeding all criteria for the Games. Currently, over 160 snow guns are assisting Mother Nature to get a head start on winter with additional snow guns expected to be on-line within the next 24 hours as the freezing level continues to descend down the mountain.
"Our goal is to get as much quality snow as possible across both mountains for our guests early season", says Bob Pasch, snowmaking manager at Whistler Blackcomb. "More snow on the ground now not only helps us open up terrain early but also provides a thicker, durable base, benefitting the late season too".
With Opening Day just around the corner both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are currently under siege with snowmaking efforts. Currently snowmaking production is converting over 7,000,000 gallons of water into snow per day. This is equivalent to producing snow as high as a four-story building with a footprint the size of a football field, per day. As temperatures cool production levels can more than double. Priorities include establishing connector runs to the major lifts and restaurants, the development of children’s learning areas, construction of terrain park and special event features, and preparation of high traffic ski outs prior to the Christmas holidays, all in tandem with the Games race and training course preparations.
"Alpine temperatures have been working in our favour enabling us to keep our snow guns running", says Pasch. Snowmaking can start with temperatures as warm as -1 Celsius and production levels increase substantially with every one degree drop in temperature. "Our snowmaking crews are working 24/7 to ensure our product is the best it can be on both Whistler and Blackcomb for opening day", he continues.
And to assist snowmaking crews in their efforts, the Environment Canada Long Range forecast is calling for a strong weather system to roll through the Coastal Mountains bringing significant snowfall – potentially up to 60 centimetres – to the region over the next five days. The freezing level is expected to stay near the valley bottom, meaning optimal temperatures for natural snowfall and snowmaking across much of Whistler Blackcomb’s one-mile vertical rise.
Opening Day at Whistler Blackcomb is set for Nov 26, but if Mother Nature fulfills on the promises that are forecast, an early opening is always possible.