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Olympic security won’t stop use of explosives

Avalanche control will continue, be integrated into Games security plans

Security will be tightened, but explosive avalanche control will go ahead on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains during the 2010 Games.

"We are consulting with Whistler Blackcomb with regards to the explosive sheds," said Cpl. Jen Allen of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit.

"And we are considering those explosives sheds in our security planning.

"This is for operational security reasons. But (Whistler Blackcomb is) going to remain in operation for the Games and certainly business continuity is a priority for the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit."

At Games time 90 per cent of Whistler Blackcomb will be open for skiing to the general public.

In an average year professional ski patrollers use 7,000 hand charges and 750 rounds launched by nitrogen-powered cannons to control avalanches. Most commonly, a team of trained ski patrollers places the explosives by hand. The explosives can also be dropped out of a helicopter or launched by a cannon or avalauncher.

Bernie Protsch, ski patrol manager for Whistler Blackcomb, said keeping the terrain safe for visitors is a key function. Avalanche control is an important part of Whistler Blackcomb's safety protocols.

"Because we have an avalanche hazard on either mountain when it snows... during the Games we will be carrying out avalanche control work using explosives because we have to make the area safe for our guests," said Protsch.

"We are a Class A avalanche area... and we probably have one of the most extensive avalanche control programs in North America at Whistler Blackcomb."

The storage, security and transportation of explosives on the mountains meet all federal regulations said Protsch.

Recently the doors to the explosives cache were upgraded and daily checks are done on the explosive magazines.

"We are meeting the federal regulatory expectation when it comes to the storage of our explosives, our caches are located in places so that they are not easy to get to, and we do the daily surveillance of the caches," said Protsch. "Games or no Games we have to do avalanche control work."

Discussions are continuing between the ISU and Whistler Blackcomb on the issue of security but Protsch believes there is little risk that the explosives could become part of an attack.

"I know that during the Olympics security will be very, very extensive," he said.

"Explosives are required to ensure public safety so we will have those, but during the Games I am sure that there will be very tight security to ensure that an anomaly will not happen."