By Andrew Mitchell
The Showcase T-Bar is down temporarily until a tower pole can be repaired, a process which could wrap up as early as today (Thursday, Feb. 22) if there was no damage to the base of a tower after being struck by a sliding snowcat early Sunday morning.
According to Whistler-Blackcomb, a veteran snowcat driver was making his way across the top of a ridge during Sunday’s heavy snowstorm when he went over the edge. The snowcat slid down the slope, as the driver worked to turn his tracks perpendicular to the mountain to slow it down. He did manage to turn the machine, but momentum carried it into a lift tower, badly denting the metal tube.
There were no injuries and the snowcat is already back in service after some minor repairs, but the incident forced Whistler-Blackcomb to close the Showcase T-bar on a powder day, mid-way through the President’s Day long weekend. The result was a perfect powder day for people willing to hike and traverse to get to Blackcomb Glacier, but some inconvenience for visitors.
According to Whistler-Blackcomb spokeswoman Christina Moore, an excavator was on-site on Monday to clear an area around the tower and assess the damage.
“There’s about a four-metre base out there, and we’re not anticipating any structural damage to the base of the tower because of the height of the snow,” she said. “We do have a replacement tube that we’re manufacturing ourselves with some steel we brought up from Squamish, so, if there is no damage to the base, the best case scenario is that the lift could be back up and operating as early as Thursday.”
If there is damage to the base, Moore could not say how long it will take to get the lift up and running. Whistler-Blackcomb is committed to getting the lift open as soon as possible.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual for the glacier. Avalanche control will continue in the area, and ski patrollers will continue to patrol the area as part of their regular rounds. The only difference until the lift is repaired is access, and who’s willing to hike for their powder turns.