Whistler-Blackcomb brings in the big guns 

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On the Whistler side of things three air compressors have been added to their snow making capabilities.

Unlike the fan guns on Blackcomb, the Whistler guns are fuelled by air pressure from compressors. About a week ago a portable air plant was installed to allow crews to operate more guns at the same time.

There is also a big push on Whistler to get beginner runs near Olympic open before Christmas.

If the conditions are right and it gets cold enough, the snowmaking crews could be running up to 180 guns at a time between the two mountains.

Combining the new guns and the additional air compressors, Whistler-Blackcomb has increased its snowmaking production capacity by 20 per cent.

Two years ago, during a lean snow year, the mountain made 750-acre feet of snow. One acre is roughly the size of a football field.

If this year proves to be another lean year like the 2000-01 season, the added snow firing power means the mountain can make more than 900-acre feet of snow.

Sitting under a huge map of the mountains at the snowmaking centre, Pasch outlines the systematic operation involved in making snow and creating more terrain. It’s not just the snowmakers who are involved. It’s a team effort with the mountain managers, patrol weather forecasters and groomers all comparing and analyzing the weather forecasts.

The map on the wall above Pasch is titled "Snowmaking at its Best." There are small dots representing snow guns scattered over it. Each dot can light up when its corresponding gun is turned on. This light-bright effect gives staff some idea of where snowmaking efforts are being concentrated at any given time.

Snow is made between 650 and 1,900 metres, which is essentially from the bottom of the mountains to just above the Rendezvous.

Early in the season the guns start making snow near Catskinner and Jersey Cream Chairs on Blackcomb and Emerald and Franz’s Chairs on Whistler.

They make their way down the mountain as more and more terrain is added and more chairs are open.

The guns are fuelled by three reservoirs on the mountains, which hold a total of 36 million gallons of water.

"Over the course of the season we’ll have less pumping capacity as the flow in the creeks drops so we’re unable to replenish reservoirs to full capacity," said Pasch.

But the guns will convert somewhere between 100 to 150 million gallons of water into snow by the end of the season.

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