The snow Mother Nature
recently decided to dump on Whistler may have skiers and snowboarders smiling,
but it’s a bit of a mixed blessing for people responsible for getting the
mountain ready for races.
As of Wednesday morning, 18
centimetres of new snow had been added to the snowbase on Whistler Mountain
within 48 hours.
Weasel workers – the
volunteers who prepare for alpine ski races – have had lots of help getting
courses in the Creekside area of Whistler mountain ready for the Pontiac GMC
Canadian Championship, which started Wednesday and runs until Monday.
This year, the Vancouver
Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) has brought in its own grooming
crews, armed with lots of new equipment, including 16 brand-new snowcats, to
lend a hand.
Gillian Tiffin, VANOC’s
grooming manager for Creekside, explains that events like the Pontiac GMC
Canadian Championship and the FIS World Cup, which will be in Whistler Feb.
19-24, are good training opportunities for their grooming crews.
“It’s a test event for the
Olympics,” Tiffin explained. “We’re getting prepared for what’s to come and
trying to get everything sorted out.”
The events they are
preparing for are gradually increasing in magnitude, allowing grooming crews to
take baby steps towards preparing for the 2010 Games.
“This week is definitely
preparing us for World Cup and World Cup will be preparing us for the
Olympics,” Tiffin explained, adding that the Peak to Valley race last weekend
was their first real test event.
This is the first time Wild
Card, Jimmy’s Joker and Lower Franz’s have been used as a race course, and
crews have had some challenges with the new terrain, which has many different
fall lines, coupled with lots of twists and turns in the run.
“It’s definitely been
challenging from a grooming perspective,” Tiffin said.
Recent cold weather, high
winds and dry snow have made the crews’ work a bit more difficult.
“We’ve had pretty cold
temperatures, and the snow has been very cold with not a lot of moisture in it,
so it tends to not bond as well, and although that makes for great recreational
skiing, it doesn’t make a great racetrack,” Tiffin explained.
Owen Carney has been
involved with the weasel workers since the early 80’s, and now works as alpine
chairman, working to choose courses and coordinate grooming efforts.