Stay safe on opening day 

Plenty of new snow and no real base means 'sending it' is probably not the best idea

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOEL BARDE - STAY SAFE Whistler Blackcomb's senior director of mountain operations Doug MacFarlane advises a cautious approach as the season gets underway.
  • Photo by Joel Barde
  • STAY SAFE Whistler Blackcomb's senior director of mountain operations Doug MacFarlane advises a cautious approach as the season gets underway.

Whistler Mountain is open for business, and it's looking good.

With frigid temperatures and plenty of fresh snow — over 30 centimetres within the last two days — it's tempting to send it.

But according to Doug MacFarlane, senior director of mountain operations with Whistler Blackcomb, that might not be the best idea.

"(The terrain) is not what it was when we had three or four metres of snow in April," explained MacFarlane.

A cold front has dumped two metres in the last week, making for "the best opening" MacFarlane has seen in 29 years.

But unlike in April, when a solid base has had time to develop, the snow right now is "unconsolidated" and "pretty bottomless."

That means hazards — like stumps, road systems, rocks and creek beds — pose an issue, especially for riders looking for fresh lines in forested areas.

"If you're going to venture into a forested area, there are hazards," said MacFarlane.

MacFarlane advises skiing with a partner and warns about getting overly confident.

"Do a lap first, at kind of slow speed, and then you can charge the next time," he said.

Pique spoke with MacFarlane outside of the Roundhouse Lodge on Nov. 16, amid the rumble of avalanche bombing.

"What we're hoping to do is potentially allow people to venture outside of our area boundary into our alpine terrain," he explained.

"But first we need to do avalanche control within there."

Avalanche closures — which look different than ski area boundaries and are extremely important to respect — will be in effect on terrain that is generally within ski area limits.

"If you knowingly go in (a closed area) and you just blow through the signage, you can lose your pass for up to a year," warned MacFarlane.

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