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Servants of the snow

It’s a dream job, not a snowjob, with WB’s Snow Phone team



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"That spot seems to be a bit more protected. We used to use a plot at the bottom of Harmony but we found it wasn't a good average," said veteran patroller Tindle.

The Whistler Mountain weather office near the Roundhouse is also an official Environment Canada reporting station, and Tindle has been forecasting from here for 15 years, looking at different models to anticipate the coming weather.

The daily readings on snow base and new snowfall come in from Tindle and Horvath from the Pig Alley Weather Station, and the Snow Phone crew update their message for the 7:30 a.m. update, and throughout the day.

VANOC, too, is watching the weather here.

Those big weather events that fuel Whistler legends and keep ski patrol busy doing avalanche control are on VANOC’s radar too. But for slightly different reasons.

A 40 cm snow day, low heavy cloud, or the Pacific Ocean sub-tropical jet-stream that comes bearing pineapples, have the potential to wreak havoc on an alpine skiing event, and VANOC’s logistics people are trying to plan for the contingencies.

In May, a committee completed an Operational Weather Impact Assessment, producing daily Operations Centre reports based on real-time conditions during February and March 2007, as if the Games were happening then.

The lessons learned? The biggest issue is the biggest wild-card.

The report said: “Weather would have been our biggest issue during this period and must be considered in all operational planning.”

Weather conditions can change the competition schedule, causing postponements, delays and cancellations. Transportation operations would be affected. Broadcasting arrangements would be impacted, with possible screening conflicts arising out of competition delays. Volunteer morale would suffer under inclement conditions. Spectator experience may be negatively impacted. Temporary built infrastructure might be challenged beyond its capacity.

The greatest impacts, had the Olympics run against a backdrop of 2007’s weather, would have been on the alpine skiing events.

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