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Seventy-five hours of valley snowmaking makes fun for families

RMOW snow guns hard at work to create tunnels and toboggan runs



Cool temperatures, perfect for making snow, have set the stage at Whistler Olympic Plaza for family fun in the Snow Zone with more than 250 dump trucks of manmade snow already moulded into tunnels and tobogganing runs.

The winter wonderland has been packed with activity since it opened for American Thanksgiving weekend, priming the area for the opening of the other big draw — the outdoor skating rink on Saturday, Dec. 12.

"The skating rink project at Whistler Olympic Plaza is a prime example of Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding supporting tourism growth in resort communities," said Shirley Bond, B.C.'s minister of jobs, tourism and skills training and minister responsible for labour, of the $7 million in RMI money that comes Whistler's way via the province every year. "The skating rink provides a fun outdoor experience for visitors and is another reason for British Columbians to consider a winter staycation in Whistler and enjoy what this beautiful part of our province has to offer."

While the rink has become a popular staple attraction in Whistler with thousands of skaters every year, the neighbouring Snow Zone has been evolving over the past three years.

In 2013, the municipality borrowed snowmaking guns and a water pump from Whistler Blackcomb to test opportunities to make snow. Two basic mounds were made halfway through the winter, which was off to a slow start weather-wise.

Last year, the municipality bought two used snow guns and built a water pump to increase street water pressure from 140 psi (pounds per square inch) to gun pressure at 400 psi. Permanent electrical infrastructure was also installed to power the guns and the pump. But, it was yet another challenging weather year and the snow was slow to come.

This year, however, with cool temperatures in November, the municipality was ready to go.

From Nov. 17 to 25, roughly 2,500 cubic metres of snow (or 250 dump trucks full) were made with the two snow guns. The snow was then transformed into two four-metre high mounds with two long toboggan runs (37 metres) and two shorter runs (18 metres).

The work was done in 75 hours when the temperatures hovered between -4 and -10 °C.

The Snow Zone was busy over the American Thanksgiving weekend with lots of families taking advantage of the daytime temperatures and the clear skies.

Meanwhile, the countdown is on to Saturday, Dec. 12 when the free outdoor skating rink once again opens for business for the fifth year running.

The community is welcome to the official opening at 11 a.m. when Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden will skate with members of the Whistler Skating Club and the Whistler Minor Hockey Association. The skating club's synchronized team will also perform.

To sweeten the deal further, there will be cupcakes and face painting.

The skating will continue from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with closures for ice cleaning from 2 to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Skating is free of charge, skate rentals are $5, strollers are welcome and helmets are available, also free of charge.