Whistler Blackcomb Snowmaking

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Stats:

Built: 1966 (Whistler), 1980 (Blackcomb)

Capacity: 65,507 skiers/day

Area: 3,307 hectares

Capabilities: 200+ runs, 38 lifts

LEED Certification Target: Silver

Awards:

One of Canada’s Top 30 Greenest Employers by MacLean’s Magazine, 2009

Only ski area in Canada to receive an “A” rating by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, 2007-2009

Silver Eagle Award for Excellence in Fish and Wildlife Habitat Protection, 2007

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Whistler Blackcomb Snowmaking

Whistler Blackcomb resort is consistently rated among the world’s best ski resorts. Whistler Blackcomb is the Official Alpine Skiing Venue for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Challenge

Enhance existing alpine ski facilities to meet modern Olympic and Winter Paralympic Winter Games standards with a minimal impact on the natural environment in time to allow for elite athletic training, and maximize its appeal and use for international events.

Actions

Whistler Blackcomb has always appreciated that taking care of the natural environment is both the right thing to do and vital for its business. In 1992 Whistler Blackcomb established an environmental management strategy with the goal of developing a model of environmental and social stewardship for ski and mountain resort operations. Most recently, tremendous efforts were made to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more about the numerous green initiatives, visit: Green Initiatives at Whistler Blackcomb.

In preparation for the Games, improvements to snowmaking technology have been ongoing since 2006 and include doubling the size of the reservoir, installing snowmaking pipe work, and pump station upgrades. An energy-efficient snowmaking system has been installed along the race courses in the Creekside area of Whistler Mountain.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) sponsored the install of several new electrical meters at snowmaking sites in preparation for the Games, to accurately track in real-time how much energy is being consumed during operations. This has allowed Whistler Blackcomb to respond to threshold alerts and has better equipped them to manage overall power consumption. 

Other actions include environmentally smart site selection for the men’s and ladies’ race course. This venue is located on existing ski trails within a major ski area and makes use of existing ski-hill infrastructure, such as chairlifts and gondolas. The race course’s alignments were changed in several areas to reduce the impact on streamside vegetation buffers. Proactive construction management helped avoid and minimize potential impacts to wildlife, aquatic and terrestrial habitat. For example, a tailed frog management plan was implemented during construction which guided the hand-salvage and relocation of hundreds of tadpoles and adult frogs to protect them from potential construction impacts.

Additionally, emphasis was placed on local employment, purchasing and contracting opportunities during the construction phase of this venue. All wood waste from construction of the race course was chipped and reused on-site for re-vegetation purposes.

Legacy

Snowmaking was paramount in preparation for the Games and Whistler Blackcomb had the opportunity to participate on the snowmaking enhancements design team. Approximately $17.6 million was spent by VANOC on snowmaking infrastructure, a significant legacy to the resort’s skiers and riders.

The combination of VANOC meters with Whistler Blackcomb’s existing metering program influenced the resort to further develop metering in-house by adding meters at several of the large restaurants and on the Peak to Peak gondola.  Increased power consumption knowledge, improved tools for tracking and verification and improved power management overall are all legacies of the Games. Whistler Blackcomb has also developed new metrics for snowmaking and has a better understanding of how much energy it takes to make snow at different temperatures. These improvements in equipment, installation techniques and higher standards for energy efficiency in snowmaking are all legacies that aid in operations planning and budgeting after the Games.

  
The legacies for visitors to Whistler Blackcomb will be the improved quality of snow and skiable terrain earlier and later in the season, typically when lift ticket and accommodation deals are the best. Whistler Blackcomb will be 100% open before and after the 2010 Winter Games and will be 90% open to the public for skiing and riding during the Games.

+ www.whistlerblackcomb.com