By Amy Fendley Wood will begin taking flight from Whistler Mountain in mid-August, in a multi-million dollar effort to glade four Whistler Mountain ski runs. A total of $12 million will be spent on the two new high-speed quad chairs, Fitzsimmons Quad and Garbanzo Express, being installed on Whistler this summer. The lifts will give skiers another access point from the main village, and better access to more than 200 acres of varied north-facing mid-mountain terrain. An additional $8 million will be spent on cutting four new gladed runs in Garbanzo Basin on Whistler Mountain’s north side and general infrastructure improvement on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The new glades will offer advanced tree skiing and boarding in a relatively weather-protected zone. "Skiing through the tall hemlock forest is a real Whistler experience," said David Perry, vice president of marketing and sales for Whistler-Blackcomb. "The entire pod of terrain accessed from this chair will be the perfect place to ride on stormy days." Not exactly a bargain basement price, but the several million dollars being spent to glade the new runs is the best option for Whistler-Blackcomb as it tries to prevent habitat destruction on the mountain. Heli-logging was chosen over other conventional means of logging because it is efficient and environmentally-friendly. "Conventional systems of logging, such as ground-based systems, use skidders and cables and are very linear," says Arthur DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager. "That sort of system would clothesline everything in the area. "With a ground-based system, you also have to build roads, which is very harmful to watersheds. We wanted a means to take some trees out that would be the least impactful, so as to not damage the under-storey. This way we can go wherever we want." An unconventional means to creating unconventional runs. DeJong says that the gladed runs, which utilize existing runs as access points, will "zig-zag" a lot, and will feature several benches. With the use of one helicopter and three ground crews, this year’s ski-tree project will select only 3,900 cubic metres of mountain hemlock, in comparison to the 10,000 cubic metres that would result if a conventional run was cleared — conventional in this case meaning a trail entirely cleared and devoid of forest. At the lower mountain lift line, tree removal is minimal. Here the trees, red cedars, are larger and habitat is denser. "There are a number of low-impact ground-based systems that have come out of Europe," says DeJong. "But our slopes are too steep, nothing can climb ’em. All of the glades are above 1,200 metres." The two new chairs are also being aligned so that they do not interfere with Crabapple or Alder Creek, both of which run through the midstation area serviced by the new lifts. When the mountains open for the 1999-2000 season on Nov. 24 it will take approximately 5.8 minutes to ride the Fitzsimmons Quad, which can carry up to 2,600 skiers per hour. From the top of this village lift, guests will connect to the Garbanzo Express, which will have the highest vertical rise of all Whistler-Blackcomb chairs, at 660m (2,200 ft.). The seven-minute ride ends where the Black Chair currently off-loads. The Garbanzo Express will provide access to north-facing slopes, including the new gladed ones, in an area historically known as the Garbanzo Basin. The new quad chair will also better services runs such as Papoose, Pony Trail, Dave Murray, Bear Paw, Tokum, Seppo’s, Raven and Ptarmigan. With the addition of the two new quad chairs, the triple Black Chair, installed in 1980, will be taken down. Whistler Blackcomb will have 15 high-speed lifts - the most high-speed lifts at a single resort in North America. With a total of 33 lifts, Whistler Blackcomb’s new lift capacity will increase to 59,000 skiers and riders per hour. Name suggestions for the four gladed runs are welcome.