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Epic snow draws crowds to Whistler Blackcomb

WB reminds people to ski safe in the gladed runs

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Whistler visitors and residents alike are sending thanks to snow god Ullr this week after welcoming over 80 centimetres of fresh powder to the slopes - 41cm of which fell on Dec. 29.

"It has been an amazing week, and an amazing way to wrap up 2016," said Lauren Everest, public relations and communications manager for Whistler Blackcomb (WB).

"Yesterday (Dec.30) was a bluebird powder day for everyone, so it was a magical day on the mountain, absolutely."

With flurries today there will be a trace of new snow to add to the base of 215 centimetres (7ft). The forecast for New Year's week is sunny with temperatures dropping to the negative mid-teens Celsius - bundle up!

"Conditions on the mountains have been fabulous and it's really great because we keep getting all this snow, and the temperatures have been staying really cold, so the snow has been really great," said Everest, who spent much of the busy holiday season helping out at the Roundhouse.

While Everest said Whistler Blackcomb does not reveal skier numbers there is no doubt that the mountains have seen some of their busiest days in recent memory. That has resulted in some pretty significant lift line ups, but overall Everest said the experience has been positive for most people.

"I think the vibe in the village and on the mountain from all of our guests has been really positive," she said.

The crowds to get up the mountain and even in and out of the resort have led to traffic snarls both on foot at the gondolas and in cars.

The busiest time to upload this week has been between 9:30 and 11 a.m. Everest suggested getting into town and up the mountain early and then staying in the alpine. When it's time to go either beat the crowds and leave before 3 p.m. or "stay in town for some dinner or shopping," urged Everest and head down in the early evening.

With all the fresh snow WB has been working hard to keep safety top of mind for mountain users. Warnings about the dangers of tree wells have been posted to the snow phone and on the liftie boards.

"In any period where we are receiving heavy snowfall the dangers associated with tree wells definitely escalate," said Everest.

"Just be really smart if you are skiing in the trees. Don't get too close to them. Make sure you are skiing with a friend at all times and that you remain in visual and verbal contact with them, so that if one of you does end up in trouble you can help each other out.

"Having a whistle on your jacket, or backpack close to your mouth, so you can blow on it if you end up in tricky situation is also important.

"We do really all need to work together to teach people about tree wells. It is a real hazard that exists... inbounds, so the more we can educate everyone and get them making smart choices and riding in groups the better."

Everest reminds anyone heading out beyond the ski area boundary to be prepared to self-rescue and or an overnight stay. Only those guided or trained in backcountry touring should be out of bounds.

"Make conservative choices," said Everest. "The conservative choice is always the right choice. If it doesn't feel right don't do it. You can always come back another day."

For more on tree well safety go to: https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/pwdr-stash/blog/winter/mountain-tips/safety-first-tree-wells and www.wikihow.com/Escape-a-Tree-Well-when-Skiing.

For avalanche conditions go to www.avalanche.ca.

For backcountry information go to https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/mountain-info/backcountry.

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