No plans to close mountains early, despite worst season on record 

Whistler-Blackcomb continues to assess situation; WSSF Gelandesprung postponed to next year

It’s official. According to Whistler-Blackcomb senior vice president Doug Forseth, the 2004-05 season is the worst ever for snowfall. "This will go down in the record books as absolutely the lowest snowfall we have had since skiing started on Whistler Mountain in 1966."

Although things look pretty grim up top and Whistler lost its ski out last week to warm weather, Whistler-Blackcomb has no plans to close either mountain early this season. Mountain managers are meeting every week to discuss the situation and are aware of the rumours, but are not ready to concede anything just yet.

"We haven’t changed any of our operating dates," said Christina Moore, manager of communications for Whistler-Blackcomb.

"Our strategy is to stay open as long as we possibly can, with as much open as we possibly can. With this weather it’s really hard to predict which way things will go, but it’s supposed to get cooler and there is still potential to make snow if temperatures drop."

Snowmaking staff would typically be laid off in January, but this year snowmakers are still on call. The reservoirs still have enough water stored to make a significant amount of snow.

Snowmaking and the Snowboard World Championships in January are being credited for the fact that Blackcomb still has a functioning ski out.

Most events are going on as scheduled. The Yeti Snowshoe Series National Finals, scheduled for April 2, were cancelled because of the lack of snow on the lower mountain. The race was originally scheduled to take place on the mountain bike park trails.

The B.C. Freestyle Ski Championships were moved from Davies Dervish and the jump site behind Glacier Creek Lodge to the Nintendo Terrain Park on Blackcomb.

The World Skiing Invitational and World Snowboarding Invitational, scheduled for the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival April 8-17, will take place as planned with slopestyle and superpipe events on Blackcomb.

The Red Bull Gelandesprung, the resurrection of a classic ski jumping event planned for the festival, has been postponed to next winter due to the low snowpack on the jump site. Organizers made the decision on Tuesday after touring the site with members of an international Gelandesprung organization.

"The decision to postpone was based on a degree of uncertainty about whether or not a safe and proper jump site can be constructed on Whistler Mountain’s Ridge Run in April with the current snow pack," said Doug Perry, president of W1 and the organizer of the WSSF.

"Building a Gelandesprung site is a science – a significant amount of snow has to be moved and shaped to create the perfect inrun, jump and landing geometry – and organizers want to make sure that if they build a gelande, it is done right."

Organizers are looking into the possibility of staging the event next winter, he added. "I will guarantee that Whistler Mountain has not seen its last Gelandesprung."

Blackcomb is currently scheduled to close on April 17, following the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. Whistler Mountain is scheduled to remain open until June 5, but the conditions will be re-evaluated every week.

The Horstman Glacier is set to open on June 6. No public halfpipe is planned for the glacier this year, and all camps are working on contingency plans if the glacier has to close early.

— With files from Clare Ogilvie.

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