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Snowstorms lead to early opening

Whistler businesses hoping for banner winter season

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By Clare Ogilvie

Whistler Mountain will open this Saturday, a week ahead of schedule, thanks to heavy snowfalls in the last 10 days.

  As much as 130 centimetres of snow could fall by the end of this weekend in the alpine, on top of an 84-centimetre base.

Jesse Melamed, 14, wants to be the first person on the gondola when Whistler Mountain opens this week for skiing and boarding.

“Me and my friends are going to go there and stay overnight so we can be first up,” said Melamed, the youngest son of Whistler’s Mayor, Ken Melamed.

He will be carrying on a family tradition by camping out to secure a good spot for first tracks, since his brother Dillon has done it for the last two years.

“Hopefully we won’t be too tired to enjoy it,” quipped the teen.

This is the second year in a row one of the local mountains has opened early thanks to wet weather systems dumping snow. Last year Blackcomb Mountain had its earliest opening in 40 years with first tracks starting Nov. 5.

Whistler-Blackcomb spokeswoman Michelle Leroux said the powder is thigh deep in many places.

“It is nice and cold up there and the snow is really light and I was sinking in up to my thighs, it felt bottomless,” said Leroux.

“It doesn’t look like the early season up there, it looks very wintry.”

Another storm front was expected to move in overnight bringing more precipitation and wind. It was also expected to bring warmer weather with Environment Canada forecasting the freezing level to rise to 2,000 metres mid-week.

“There is potential for it to be fairly wet but even if it is coming down as wet heavy snow that is good as it sticks to the rocks,” said Leroux, adding that the freezing level is expected to drop to surface again by the end of the week.

Despite the strong base Leroux said people should understand it’s still early season conditions.

“People will not want to venture beyond the ropes, but there will be sections people can hit that will be ungroomed so you should be able to get some powder turns in by Saturday,” she said.

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