A clearer Olympic picture 

Mountains open, schools maybe not, during Games

By Alison Taylor

Whistler-Blackcomb will have roughly 80 per cent of its terrain open to the public throughout the 2010 Olympics but will have no public parking for its guests.

That means those who are willing and able to take the bus, and who are not working or volunteering for the Olympics, could have the mountains practically to themselves during the Games.

“The mountains are open,” assured Doug Forseth, senior vice president of operations, who was one of a handful of guest speakers at the latest meeting hosted by the local school district.

“(I) don’t think we’ll be busy.”

More and more details of what the resort will look like during the 2010 Games are filtering out to the community as the school district faces one of its biggest decisions this year — should the high schools close for close to a month over the Olympic Games?

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games will be putting in a formal request to School District No. 48 in the next month asking that the four corridor high schools shut down for close to a month to house some of the thousands of volunteers needed for the Games.

“We are sensitive to the fact that this has a big impact,” said Brad Beattie, VANOC’s manager of workforce operations. “This is your decision and the school board’s decision.”

Roughly 20 to 25 concerned parents attended Monday night’s meeting at Whistler Secondary.

Parent Linda McGaw expressed concerns about her son, who will be in the graduating class in 2010. The graduating class should be the primary concern, she said.

A decision has not yet been made but school trustee Andrée Janyk said they hope to make the decision by June after reviewing feedback from a survey, which will be distributed in April.

There are still several unknown factors as parents consider the implications of closing the high schools — is there flexibility on VANOC’s dates, what are the impacts on the provincial exams, can the schools stay open with VANOC using just the gymnasiums?

Whistler-Blackcomb, however, appears to have a very clear understanding of what VANOC will need for the Games.

Forseth explained that every single day parking lot, from one through to the new lot nine, will be used by VANOC. Creekside parking will not be available either.

“Our agreement with VANOC is what is ours is theirs,” Forseth said.

In addition to the parking lots, VANOC has asked for restaurant space. The Raven’s Nest, Chick Pea and the majority of the Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain will be taken over for Olympic-related uses, in addition to the GLC and Merlin’s.

One of Whistler-Blackcomb’s big concerns at the moment, said Forseth, is finding work for ski school professionals during February 2010.

He expects Christmas and Easter to be typically busy on either side of the Olympics but February 2010 will likely be very quiet with skiers, particularly destination skiers, as accommodation is at such a premium during the Games.

Talks are underway now over how ski school staff can be gainfully employed during this expected slow season.

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