Whistler Blackcomb's ongoing Harmony/Crystal lift development project has encountered some construction obstacles over the summer, but planning ahead for the unexpected has allowed the project to remain ahead of schedule and on budget.
"Have there been challenges? Yes," said Arthur DeJong, manager of mountain planning and environmental resources for Whistler Blackcomb during a site tour with
Pique last week.
"Did we anticipate having challenges? Also yes. Did the challenges slow down parts of the project? Yes, but it's nothing we didn't expect and nothing has stopped us so far... By the time winter comes we'll be long done, and ready to ski these new lifts."
DeJong explained that at least four of the current towers on the existing Harmony Express lift line will need to be replaced because of the added weight of six-seater chairs. However, he said it was anticipated that this could happen at the start, and Whistler Blackcomb doesn't expect any major delays as a result of the tower replacement.
"Our intent was to use as much of the existing infrastructure as possible (but) it's a larger lift and going from a four to a six-seat we had to strength-test all of the towers," said DeJong.
"That's when we recognized that towers needed to be replaced and the concrete footings increased."
In that sense, DeJong described the new project as a hybrid. Four towers and tower pads on Harmony will be replaced with new ones, while the existing tower tops, lift cable and terminal stations will be used for the Crystal Ridge chair. All of the towers on the Crystal Ridge Chair will be new, as will the terminal stations for the Harmony Express.
Two companies, POMA and Doppelmayr, are working on the project, as well as contractors from Whistler Excavation, Coast Mountain Excavation and Whistler Blackcomb. Over 100 people are working on the project at any given time.
Another challenge emerged in building the new base station for the Harmony Express.
The project includes the construction of a lift barn to house the chairs overnight, but the work site has presented a few unexpected challenges. The northern side of the site where the lift terminal is being built is rocky and easy to build on, but that is not the case for the south side. While digging out the site, crews discovered a large amount of subsurface water sitting on layers of compacted clay — far from ideal when it comes to building a permanent structure that could have a few metres of snow on the roof six months a year.
The solution involved digging more than 5,000 cubic metres out of the area and letting the clay base below dry out in the sun.