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Peak Chair reconstruction on track for winter Thousands of tonnes of rock blasted to improve access By Andy Stonehouse A day of light snow on the top of Whistler Mountain last Sunday provided quick evidence that the summer season is waning, but mountain planners say their plans for new lifts in the high alpine continue on schedule. Rod Macleod, slopes manager for Whistler/Blackcomb, said rock blasting work is largely completed and now crews will concentrate on installing towers and stringing cable along the new Peak Chair, a Doppelmayr high-speed detachable quad lift. "We've got a lot of the concrete poured and the new Peak Chair top station is being put together right now," he said. "Within a month, it's all going to look pretty good." Crews have been hard at work on the mountain since closing day, widening and reconfiguring the peak of Whistler Mountain to allow for easier intermediate-level access to runs in Whistler and West Bowls. The loading area at the bottom of the Peak Chair has also been changed to allow skiers and boarders to board the chair without cutting across the tracks of riders on the T-bars. Construction crews have also carefully removed the old triple-seater Peak Chair and are in the process of reinstalling it where the Little Red Chair once ran, collecting skiers at the flats at the bottom of Old Man and Fisheye and unloading them near the top of the Redline Express chair. Alignment of the new Peak Chair will remain the same as the old chair, although there will be no mid-station unloading point. Macleod said the most impressive part of the entire project has been the quantity of rock blasted out of the mountaintop, although skiers won't notice a lot of changes when they immediately get off the new chair. "We plowed to the peak in May and began drilling and blasting in June, and we removed about 10,000 cubic metres of rock from the top. We also blasted about 30,000 cubic metres of rock off the cliffs near the top of Friday the 13th. It's quite spectacular — the cut bank is 20 metres high." Rock work along the back ridge of the peak has expanded the width and the grade of the road down to the Saddle and Burnt Stew Trail, allowing an easier descent. "It's all downhill now, and low-intermediate skiers can now get into Burnt Stew more simply. There's no walking, so there'll be a big difference for snowboarders. It also enabled us to drive the concrete trucks and even tractor trailers all the way to the top to unload the steel structure." Heading in the other direction, Macleod said there was never a particularly easy way for skiers and boarders to access West Bowl, so the new changes will be welcome. "We've created a new run off the top of the peak that comes out near the junction of Bagel Bowl and West Bowl, so there's no more traversing or skiing over rocks to get in there. We maintained a 45 degree steepness all the way down, which makes it an intermediate run." Macleod said the new run will also allow a better access point for future run expansion planned between West Bowl and Creekside. "The new Peak Chair will have two times the volume of the old chair, so we've made it easier for getting people off the top. I think we've raised the whole level of skiing." Future mountain plans also call for the possibility of a restaurant to be built at the very peak of Whistler Mountain, although no work will be done this year. Reconstruction work at the new $9.2 million Roundhouse Lodge also continues on schedule.