Much more than the Games this winter 

Pass sales surpass last year as Whistler Blackcomb prepares for season

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Still, with most residents working or volunteering during the Games Whistler Blackcomb is pushing the idea that February will be an opportunity for skiers and riders to enjoy the mountains with few others - especially on powder days.

Whistler Blackcomb has also made improvements in a number of areas over the summer. There's nothing on the scale of a Symphony Chair or the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, and guests may not notice all of the changes, but investments were made in a number of areas.

Snowmaking

Whistler Blackcomb has doubled its snowmaking staff, mainly to ensure that alpine courses are ready for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Typically the department would hire approximately 26 workers for the start of the season, most of whom are laid off by January when Mother Nature takes over. Going into this season there are more than 50 snowmakers, working around the clock until the start of the Games. Crews are already at work at higher elevations, and roughly 60 snowguns were running this week.

The snow making machines on the downhill course at Whistler Creekside are all air-water machines. They were chosen to run up and down the course as they allow snow to be made even if it is as warm as -2 C.

Crews will be working to make dense snow so that the race surface is fast and hard. That way the last racer gets the same experience as the first racer.

"It comes down to the snowmaker adjusting how much water is going out," said NaTai Perdue of the snow maintenance crew.

"If you want a harder race product you put more water out and if you want to keep it dry and fluffy then you just put less water out."

The race courses will be set to go by New Years's Day 2010 and will be inspected by the International Skiing Federation (FIS) before the races.

Concerns have been voiced following the official announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that this will be an El Nino year. That usually means a warmer and wetter winter. But, said Perdue, for Whistler it can mean a very snowy year.

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