Snow in Olympic year not a problem 

But snowmaking equipment may still be needed

By Vivian Moreau

Dave Reynolds wants to make himself perfectly clear — he never said there won’t be snow for the 2010 Winter Games.

Reynolds is a former BCIT instructor and climate change expert currently working on his Ph.D. in geography at the University of Calgary. Earlier this week CBC Radio credited him with saying his research indicates weather conditions will be too warm for natural snow on Whistler for the 2010 Olympics.

“I said they might have a snow problem at the lower levels at Whistler,” Reynolds said from his Calgary office.

At 750 metres, Reynolds says Whistler’s base is much lower than most other B.C. and Alberta ski hills, pointing out the base of Sunshine Village in Banff is only 200 metres lower than the top of Whistler.

A hydrologist, Reynolds created the city of Calgary’s climate change policy as well as the government of Alberta’s think tank Climate Change Central. He has studied glaciology for the federal government and taught in BCIT’s fish, wildlife and recreation program. He recently completed an MBA and spent this summer gathering data toward a Ph.D. dissertation.

His research focuses on how snow-dependent businesses in Lake Louise, Banff and Jasper will adapt to climate change over the next 20-50 years. For businesses to survive diversification is the key, he said. Reynolds and his research assistants surveyed businesses to find out what they knew about climate change, what effect they think it will have on their businesses over the long term and whether they have they done any strategic planning.

“In other words, if the ski hills were to close in 25-50 years from now what would our ski shop businesses be doing?”

Unlike Whistler, the three mountain park towns he studied don’t have many options.

“They don’t have base development and don’t have the option for base development given they’re in national parks,” he said. With the parks being prime grizzly bear habitat, other sports activity such as mountain biking can’t be developed, but environmentally-friendly enterprises are being explored. He said guided environmental tours that take groups up via lifts with nature interpreters are more in keeping with park directives.

Climate change will continue to have a marked effect on the business directions in which ski hills head and ski areas in the Coast Mountains are particularly vulnerable, he said.

“The closer the base of the ski hill is to sea level the greater the effects of climate change will be over the next 20-50 years — not next year, not four years from now… If I were a part of the snow management team for the 2010 Olympics I would be worried about keeping snow on the lower slopes. To determine as to what and where the snow line will be come 2010 is anybody’s guess.”


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