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Making the little things add up

Up close with Doug Forseth, Whistler-Blackcomb's head of operations



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There’s a chance we could open the area earlier, but not knowing what the alpine snow conditions would be like we decided on Dec. 16. We usually have enough base by then and it’s prior to Christmas, which is important.

Pique: Has the Symphony Express generated a lot of attention for the resort?

DF: It’s one of a combination of things that is drawing response from the public this year. We sold a record number of early bird season passes this year, and while we don’t have the final numbers on our Edge Card sales, we’re tracking around where we were at this time last year, and we set a huge record last year.

These sales were driven by a couple of things. One is that we had a great year last year with snow, especially with the record snow in January. Another is Symphony, people seem to be very excited about that.

We were very careful to ensure that the area kept its look and feel. For example, we dug the tower footings in May when there was still snow on the ground, so we didn’t have to build any roads into the area.

We did logging by helicopter, and kept cutting to a minimum as we were going for a natural, gladed feel for the area, although we did build a run at the boundary for less experienced skiers and for safety, to prevent people from going out of bounds. There was very little disruption to the ground cover, we had a very light footprint.

The main run is Addagio, which is the widest run, and the other main run is just being called Founder’s Run on the maps. We’ve taken the whole concept of fundraising to this run… and every year the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation will auction off the right for people to put their own name on it for the rest of the year.

The only exception is this year, when the run will be dedicated to Jeff Harbers. He was the first president of the American Friends of Whistler who died in a plane crash this summer. In his honour the run will be called Jeff’s Ode to Joy, which has a story behind it. He had two small children, and his daughter was doing a piano recital. Jeff was not a musical guy, but he learned the piano to be able to do a duet of Ode to Joy with her. We feel the name sums up Jeff’s passion for music and skiing.