Snowmaking crews hoped to turn on the machines this week in preparation for the Cafe de Columbia FIS Word Cup alpine races, Dec. 5 and 6 and the Dec. 10 Nokia FIS World Cup snowboard super G on Whistler Mountain. Snow guns are also ready to be fired up in the Blackcomb Nintendo Terrain Park, which will host the halfpipe and snowboard-cross events, Dec. 11-13. Blackcomb plans to open the halfpipe on Nov. 14. Snowmaking was originally scheduled to start on Monday, October 25, but warm temperatures have kept crews on hold for a week. Gregg Jarrett, Whistler Blackcomb’s snowmaking manager is not concerned about the delay. "The race date is one week later than last year which gives us extra time to help mother nature along if necessary. Our snowmaking equipment has been fine-tuned to increase efficiency and with the extra experience gained last year and the enthusiasm of the crews, I know we can get the course in shape on time." As of Wednesday, the start of the men’s downhill had a dusting of natural snow and the forecast was calling for cooler temperatures, which with assist snowmaking crews. Last year crews worked around the clock to make enough snow only to see the race cancelled at the last minute due to heavy snowfall and poor visibility. "Last year we met the challenge of El Nino and produced enough snow by race day," said Jarrett. "I don’t think we’re facing a threat this year." Whistler/Blackcomb and the W5 World Cup organizing committee have invested a total of $4 million in snowmaking and course improvement over the past three years. "FIS announced new safety regulations at the end of last season which meant we had to spend $120,000 on upgrading the ‘A’ netting along the course," said Owen Carney, chief of course. "This summer the Weasel Worker volunteers have been working hard to add another 25 per cent more netting along the entire length of the course." The World Cup events are part of the new Hongkong Bank Whistler WinterStart Festival, which officially launches the season with a packed program of events including live bands, film premieres from the world’s top snow sport film makers, ice carving, parades, a quarterpipe competition, industry parties and children’s activities.