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Public sliding applications not impacted by safety audit



A safety audit of the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre has no relation to applications currently before the B.C. Safety Authority to offer skeleton and bobsleigh runs to the public at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Keith Bennett, the president and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies, confirmed that the safety audit - as recommended by the B.C. Coroner's Service following the death of a luge athlete before the Olympics - will not hamper their ability to draw visitors and locals in through the Skeleton Experience and Bobsleigh Experience tours.

"(The B.C. Safety Authority application) is a completely independent process, and focuses on things that are very different than what the audit will be focused on," said Bennett. "It's more questions like who's doing (the tours), what's the safety program, how are the sleds built. When you're bringing people in, how do you describe it to them."

The proposed Skeleton Experience would allow people to slide down the last six of the 16 corners of the Whistler Sliding Centre course. The Bobsleigh Experience will include the bottom 10 corners.

Because of the shorter distance and no running starts, speeds aren't nearly as high as they are for high performance athletes.

"Anything that comes out of the audit will probably benefit the public ride program, but in that program the speeds are so much lower and the starts at such a lower level that the things (the B.C. Coroner's report) is concerned about are not a factor," he said.

Whistler Sport Legacies hopes to get approval to run guests through the Skeleton Experience by late February or early March. The price has been set at $130 for two runs. Bobsleigh likely won't be approved until the following season and will be priced at $140 for one run - the cheapest tour of its kind in the world.

As for the audit, Whistler Sports Legacy has issued a Request for Expressions of Interest on Dec. 1, closing on Dec. 31. Soon after they hope to issue a more formal Request for Proposal to complete a safety audit of the track.

Bennett says the goal is to have a completed audit by August, so any recommended changes can be incorporated into the track before the start of next season.

"I don't think there will be any drastic changes, I don't think we can do that, but there might be some small changes," he said. "It's hard to speculate what might come out of it."

The Whistler Sliding did make some changes over the summer, slightly modifying the exit of Corner 11 and entrance into Corner 12.