News » Whistler

Callaghan 'perfect' for Nordic events



Scenic valley chosen above other sites for snow, low wind, location

Although they looked at several different areas, the technical experts who spent the past year evaluating potential Nordic sites for the Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation kept coming back to the Callaghan Valley.

According to Richard Way, the manager of technical sports for the bid corporation, Whistler’s Brad Sills, owner of Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures (formerly Mad River Nordic Centre) guided the bid committee to the best location early on.

"We went there to see it for ourselves, and it was clear that this truly was a special place," said Way, speaking to the public at the latest Olympic fireside chat on Oct. 26.

Sills has kept snow records in the Callaghan since 1974, and a weather station that was set up last year "just backed up what Brad already knows and told us," Way said. "It was clear from the very beginning that this place would be hard to beat."

The Callaghan Valley is "a separate world" from Whistler, with its own unique climate and weather patterns. Hemmed in on all sides by mountains – Rainbow Mountain, Metal Dome and Powder Mountain – and ringed with glaciers, it’s generally colder and clearer than Whistler. It’s also protected from the wind and weather blowing up from Howe Sound, and has more snowfall on average than do surrounding areas.

At the proposed Nordic site near Alexandra Falls, there’s almost no wind, which makes it the perfect spot for a ski jump. The natural contours that already exist will form a natural amphitheater for many events, and the existing clearcuts can be used for facilities.

For all the criteria the technical experts used, the Callaghan was the clear winner. Those criteria include snow quality and quantity, terrain, visibility, wind, location in relation to medical services and the athletes village, and environmental impact.

"We didn’t want sports organizations just to approve of our site location, but to make it the best. We’re already working on getting the support from the technical delegates from international federations," said Way. "We not only want to feature the natural beauty of the land, and it is an incredibly beautiful spot, but also we’re showing our green technology."

Whatever facilities will be built in the valley will either be temporary or sustainable, within the parameters of The Natural Step framework for Environmental Sustainability, which the Bid Corporation has adopted.

Some of the ideas that Way is looking at include a micro-hydroelectric project, modular buildings that can be moved to other sites, turning the cross country ski courses into interpretive trails for future visitors, and an environmentally sound roadway into the valley.