The heaviest January snowfall on record may have Whistler-Blackcomb staff dancing in their ski boots, but it was a headache for Whistler Transit this past Sunday, with one bus in a ditch and several routes suspended overnight.
"Creekside turned into a nightmare," said Scott Pass, Whistler Transit manager, from his Function Junction office.
Between the two entrances to Nordic Estates subdivision, one 35-foot bus slid into a ditch after avoiding a stopped vehicle Sunday evening. No one was injured and a tow truck pulled the bus out.
Pass said service to Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates was halted at 7 p.m. "It just wasn’t safe to go in there," he said.
The Benchlands and staff housing areas were served all night, although service was considerably slower than usual. "In areas that normally would receive 15-minute service it was taking half an hour," he said.
Whistler Transit’s manager blames poor snow removal for traffic havoc.
"They (highway crews) need to be doing a better job on the main roads," Pass said. "If they know the snow is coming they should be dumping (sand) before it starts coming down."
The highway maintenance firm responsible for keeping the roads clear said they had seven sand/plow trucks and one grader working Sunday night.
"All we can do is the best we can do with what we’ve got," said Joe O’Connor, Mainroad Howe Sound Contracting quality manager. Mainroad is three years into a 10-year contract to take care of Highway 99 from Function Junction to 10 km south of Duffey Lake. Last summer the company closed its Whistler depot and its trucks are now based in Pemberton, although supplies are still loaded from its Alta Vista depot.
Environment Canada meterologist Darlene Langlois said the Whistler area received 34 cm in less than 24 hours on Sunday.
"The lowest visibility was around 7 p.m. and snowfall finally ended in early morning hours," she said from the Vancouver office.
The heavy snowfall helped Whistler-Blackcomb break a 14-year-old record. The mountains received 461 cm from Jan. 1 to 31, breaking the previous record of 459 cm set in January, 1992, said spokesperson Tabetha Boot. January 13 was the day with the largest dump of snow, 58 cm.
Local RCMP kept busy with 11 motor vehicle accidents Sunday night, two of which were multi-vehicle encounters. No injuries were reported in any of the accidents.
Whistler Transit said despite service delays passengers were unperturbed. "They were excited knowing there would be good skiing the next day," said Pass. "They were polite to drivers saying ‘good job, thanks for coming.’"
A further 60 cm of snow is expected to fall by the weekend. Both Whistler Transit and Whistler/Pemberton RCMP encourage drivers to travel only with appropriate snow tires.
"Don’t come up here if you don’t have proper tires," said Pass.