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- From: kausarhussain
Just the mention of the word sends images into the mind. Military units driving through deserts, windswept mud brick villages and broken arid urban landscapes. When I mention the possibility of going skiing in Afghanistan it can get some strange responses. Forget about the risk, the first question is, “Is there any snow?”
Whilst it is true that much of Afghanistan is desert or semi-desert and that it hardly ever rains, it does snow. In the mountains it snows a lot. The snow is the lifeblood of Afghanistan. As it melts, it flows through the rivers that fill the canals that irrigate the fields. A good snowfall ensures that the people of small rural communities will have a good harvest and can feed their families and livestock. A poor snowfall often leads to a drought and a famine. However, the snow in Afghanistan is both a blessing and a curse. Heavy snow cuts off villages in the mountain and every winter people freeze to death or are crushed by avalanches.
Families wait for the snow to melt hoping to survive the winter until they can reap the reward that the snow will bring in the summer. For thousands of years there has been nothing for the people to do in the winter except wait for the Spring....until now.
This winter young men from the villages of Kushkak, Jawzari, Ali Baig, and of the valleys of Qazan and Dukani and Foladi will pull on home made skis, crafted from wooden planks, with edges made from flattened tin cans and with poles snapped from a nearby tree. Some will be selected for training to represent their valley in a competition to see which valley can produce the best skier. They will be given modern ski gear to use. They’ll be taught how to ski, and they’ll receive basic training in first aid and avalanche awareness — skills they can take back to their village and potentially use to save lives.
A handful of young men from Bamian, in Central Afghanistan have already begun guiding foreign skiers - both ex-pats from Kabul and visitors from around the world who are trickling into the region to try out Afghan skiing first hand.
So how did this happen?
At the beginning of the winter of 2010 almost no-one had skied in the province of Bamian. The valley's chief claim to fame had been the giant Buddha statues carved into the cliffs overlooking the town of Bamian. Tragically the two statues – which were about 1400 years old – were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 robbing the world of two of its most important ancient Buddhist relics, and robbing the people of Bamian of one of their key sources of tourist income. For Afghans, Bamian province was also well known for the lakes of Band e Amir – a series of five lakes formed by natural travertine dams, that appear like a mirage in this high, arid landscape. In the summer Kabuli families come here to picnic and to escape the dust and heat.
Bamian is also home to the Hazara people. The Hazaras are recognisable by their Mongoloid features. They’re Shia Muslims, unlike most Afghans, who are Sunni. In popular tradition they are reputed to be the remnants of the Mongol armies who came to the region with Genghis Khan. Historically they have been looked down upon by the ethnic Pushtuns and Tajiks who make up most of Afghanistan’s population. Some radical Sunnis — such as the Taliban — have seen them as heretics because of their Shia faith. Modern Afghanistan has always been ruled by Pushtun kings or Pushtun dominated governments who have tended to overlook the Hazaras. However, there have been important changes in Bamian since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It is no Shangri-La — there is little electricity, the province is one of the poorest in the country and by any standard it ranks as one of the least developed places on the planet. However, for the first time in decades there are signs of progress and positive change.
Ten years ago, Bamian province had never had a hospital, a paved road, or a university. Now these all exist. There are still many problems, of course, but the Bamian valley is relatively secure and there is none of the anti-government fighting that plagues large parts of the rest of Afghanistan.
An international development agency, the Aga Khan Foundation, saw the potential of promoting tourism in Bamian as a way of giving the people of the province an additional source of income. The Foundation has helped to develop guest houses, organise cultural festivals and provide information about the places of interest in and around Bamian.
That’s fine in the summer when tourists come to the valley, but what about the winter, when guest houses lie empty? Well, the people of Bamian fall back on their timeless winter pastime of just surviving and waiting until the Spring.
But taking their cue from other mountainous developing countries it was clear that any winter income was better than none so the Aga Khan Foundation began the Ski Bamian programme. With no infrastructure or lifts, the idea was to make the Koh-e-Baba mountains a new destination for ski-touring.
In 2010 two American skiers were employed for the winter to map out potential routes. They brought only their own equipment so the Afghans had to get creative if they too wanted to ski along with them. Anyone with a small knowledge of Afghan military history will tell you that not having state of the art equipment never stopped the Afghans with competing with foreign powers. Skiing with no ski equipment was not an insurmountable problem. Strips of wood with battered oil tins for edges were formed - - so, the bazaar ski was born.
It quickly became clear that the mountains of Bamian were perfect for skiing and in 2011 a foreign ski trainer arrived to train the first batch of Afghan ski guides. It was early in 2011 that Ali Shah met Nando the Italian ski trainer at his village of Khushkak. Ali Shah was fit, young and spoke good English. Nando asked him what he wanted to be?
“An engineer” said Ali Shah.
“Why you wanna be an engineer? In Kabul there are a thousand engineers. You shoulda be a mountain guide. It's the best job in the world. You spend your whole life in the mountains with beautiful women.”
It may not have been a textbook interview but Ali Shah is now Afghanistan’s best ski guide and Nando's singular teaching style set the basis for the success of the project.
During 2011 and 2012 the annual Afghan Ski Challenge race (Rule number one — no weapons) was organised by a Swiss journalist and has became a focal point for the ski season (www.afghanskichallenge.com). With most Afghan Challengers having only one month’s ski training the Swiss organisers thought it an unfair challenge. They divided the race into Afghan and non-Afghan categories. The challenge is a classic ski touring route which includes skinning up as well as skiing down. They were right to divide the competition as most of the Afghans had finished before the foreigners had even got to the top.
With donations from western organisations like gear4guides (www.gear4guides.com) there is now a well equipped ski rental shop in Bamian serving the local community and the ex-pat and international skiers that trickle in.
My connection with skiing in Afghanistan began in 2009 when I bumped into a Scottish lad who worked for an Afghan aid agency. Ken was hiking with his girlfriend in the Wakhan region of Afghanistan in the far North East and I was leading a group of trekkers. The Wakhan region is the only other part of Afghanistan safe enough to consider these types of outdoor trips.
He told me of a group of British and French skiers working in Afghanistan who regularly skied near Kabul in the winter and if I was serious about being an Afghan tour operator then I should be offering ski trips to Afghanistan. I said I'd join him on a trip that winter.
On the first trip I made we took one of our regular drivers, Ali. For someone who has never skied it is quite hard to explain what we planned to do. Once we loaded up the poles and skis he had a rough idea of what we were up to and wanted to help. At the bottom of the Salang Pass, which crosses the spine of the Hindu Kush, Ali stopped at a small teahouse and ordered food for all of us. As any Afghan will tell you the best thing for breakfast if you are going to spend all day in the snow is Cow’s Foot. Boiled for hours, this gelatinous lump of bone, fat and gristle is never appealing to non Afghans and the French skiers particularly do not like it. We made a quick note that for the commercial trips, we wouldn’t let the drivers choose the dining options.
But it was then that I saw how skiing was something that really appealed to all the Afghans who saw it. Standing next to Ali as we watched Ken fly down the slopes, he was awestruck. “He is a Djinn,” was Ali's response. Hazaras believe there are mountain spirits and clearly Ken was one.
In the tea house where we stopped on the way back, Ali regaled the owners with the tale of Ken's exploits. Ken was described as a Djinn and I as a Boz (a goat). I hoped it was a way to describe my sure footedness in the mountains but I think it was more to do with my erratic skiing style.
In keeping with Afghan tradition, the story was heavily exaggerated but it started a long discussion about skiing, mountains, snow conditions, avalanches and Afghanistan’s future.
It was not only Ali who became a convert. I realised that, Cow’s Foot aside, this was an awesome way to experience Afghanistan in the winter. Skiing was something that was very foreign but the snow and the mountains was a common factor that could bring people together as it had done in that tea house. I also thought Bamian could be the perfect place for skiing.
It has not always been smooth. A few elders in one or two villages are suspicious about the skiing fuss. They worry the young men will hurt themselves – preventing them from doing the hard farming work - or that skiing will be the thin end of the wedge and they'll get caught up in other foreign un-Islamic ways. This generally does not stop the young boys from hiking up the hills and skiing. “The only say it is bad because they don't know how to ski,” said one boy from Jawzari village.
All the trailheads start from the villages and we have a code of conduct to help ensure that skiers behave properly. The Aga Khan programme representatives have discussed the skiing idea with all the local villages. We pay our respects to the village leaders and maybe take a cup of tea. There are many ways in which thoughtless skiers can cause offence, generally to do with women. In a country where the majority of people are illiterate and there is very limited access to the media, in these isolated rural communities, rumour is often taken as fact. If someone tells a man that the foreigners took a photo of his wife and put it on display in Kabul he will probably believe it. So Rule Number One is – Don’t take pictures of the women. Ever.
Cultural sensitivity is key to the future of skiing in Afghanistan.
When guiding a group of snowboarders last winter we spent a good hour discussing with the headman of one village what we wanted to do in their valley. The snowboarders were professional and were heading to a steep area that had not been ridden, so the villagers were suspicious. It took a great deal of persuasion until he agreed and let us pass around his village.
As we walked around the village we were watched closely by the men on the rooftops, with no smiles or handshakes. We travelled far up the valley and soon the snowboarders were making jumps from the top of large cliffs. On the second attempt one of them failed to make his landing and crashed in a huge cloud of snow. Suddenly huge cheers rang out from the village below. All the village stood watching on the house rooftops. They liked all the action, but they liked the crashes best of all.
On the way back down there was still staring and silence but we knew the ice had been broken.
We went back to that area for three days and by the end we were inside drinking tea and joking with the local people.
The key to a successful trip is that the Afghan villagers have a positive experience as well as the visiting skiers.
Afghanistan has always presented a contrast of lifestyles. An abiding memory of my first visit back after years away was of an old man and a young boy herding sheep down an unmade road. With his turban and billowing shalwar-kameez — a long, loose shirt and trousers, the man looked almost Biblical. A closer inspection revealed that his son was wearing a Megadeath t-shirt (presumably a charitable donation). The road they were walking along had a traffic calming feature – a half buried tank caterpillar track to stop cars speeding through the village. Introducing skiing to a small valley in the Hindu Kush seems to build on such contrasts.
A typical night is spent in rooms heated by wood fire stoves called Bukharis. These are very efficient heaters. You fill them to the maximum before bedtime. It might be -25C outside but we would be sitting in our rooms in shorts and a t-shirt. As the night passes and the fire burns out the temperature plummets in the room and at dawn we'll be inside sleeping bags and the glass of water by the bed will have a layer of ice.
Breakfast could be eggs or pancakes. Where we stay, the cook was trained at a US agency guesthouse. He knows exactly what hungry Westerners like to eat. Recently married, he returned to Bamian from working in Helmand province. The wages are much lower in Bamian but it is safer. In Helmand he always had to carry his ID card to get into the compound. However, if the Taliban stopped him and found this ID card he would be killed.
On a very cold night the diesel will freeze in the vehicles used to take us to the mountains. We'll drink tea whilst a fire is built under the engine to defrost it, and perhaps watch the daily UN helicopter coming in to land at the Bamian military base, managed by the New Zealand army.
Once in the villages at the top of the valleys, when we start to skin up we'll be invited in for tea by the village elders. Depending on the weather we'll either accept or continue uphill to make the most of the snow. I'll remind people that they should always remove their shoes when entering a house, never speak directly to the women -– and above all, no matter how serious their latest case of Kabul Belly, NEVER to fart in a room with their Afghan hosts. This is perhaps the greatest social faux pas of all.
Often we'll be joined for all or part of the day by the local youths on their home-made skis. Making light work of skinning up and paying little or no attention to our avalanche warnings. they just laugh – “Inshallah” – if God wills it
There is not much to do in the evenings. Alcohol is forbidden, but there is plenty of hearty traditional Afghan food and drink - kebabs, rice and hot drinks. With alcohol forbidden, we like to call this the Apres- tea scene.
Skiing will not solve all the problems in Afghanistan. It won't solve the problems of Bamian but in a few small valleys in the Hindu Kush they are making a small positive impact to a handful of people and that is something worthwhile.
Interested in traveling to Afghanistan, be smart and read up first. Amazon.com has some grea books on travel and history throughout Afghanistan.
• Kausar Hussain is a guide and operations manager for Untamed Borders and arranges ski trips to Bamian every year. http://www.untamedborders.com www.facebook.com/untamedborders
- Blog post
- 3 months ago
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- From: jeremybenson
If you were at a lodge in BC, you would be crushing it.
“All you focus on is waking up, skiing all day and getting ready to do it again the next day,” says James Heim, “With the skiing being so close to the lodge you literally roll out the door and can be skiing amazing lines in no time.” Heim, a BC resident and star of numerous films by MSP and Sherpa’s Cinema, has been on three film trips and numerous personal trips to backcountry lodges around BC. Matchstick Productions has filmed several segments at Golden Alpine Holidays’ Meadow Lodge with the likes of Heim, Eric Hjorleifson, and Mark Abma. Other film companies have followed suit, Candide Thovex and Sweetgrass Productions both made trips to Icefall Lodge to film last winter. Filming at a backcountry lodge is great because, “The whole crew is already out in the mountains and so close to great filming terrain,” says Heim, “You can't get caught up in day to day life, instead you focus solely on getting out there and shooting.”
Sure, backcountry lodges are a great place to film a sick segment, but they are an equally great place to go shred with your friends for exactly the same reason. Here’s the basic idea: Get a group of like-minded friends together and rent a lodge for a week. Jump in a helicopter, get dropped off at the lodge. Wake up, eat, go skiing, eat, go skiing, eat, sauna, drink beer, sleep, repeat for one week (in roughly that order). Stephane Reindeau, a Revelstoke resident and owner of Tough Guy Productions, has spent time at various lodges around BC and says, “The backcountry lodge environment allows you to enjoy gourmet cuisine and fine camaraderie, in the middle of beautiful mountains, and the powder skiing is unparalleled. This is the dream, and the experience is unprecedented.” That’s weird, I’m pretty sure I’ve had that same dream…
Look, it's BC powder!
The Canadian Province of British Columbia is home to some of the most dramatic and remote mountains in North America. In addition to countless cat and heli-skiing operations, BC is home to roughly 30 commercial backcountry lodges. Backcountry lodges have played a part in BC’s rich mountain history and they continue to evolve with our modern backcountry skiing boom. From the Coast Range to the Rockies, there are lodges and huts littered throughout western Canada’s mountains.
The Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association’s (BLBCA) website lists 27 commercial lodges that offer skiing. Most are privately owned and operated while the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) manages some. Countless other hike-to or sled-to lodges exist throughout the mountains of BC, but that’s another story entirely. Generally situated at or near treeline, these lodges provide an ideal base for mountain exploration. When it’s storming you can ski the trees and lower elevation terrain around the lodge. If it’s clear you can head up high and access alpine peaks, chutes, and glaciers. Most lodges are so remote that they are accessed exclusively by helicopter. Icefall Lodge, for example, is a 20-minute heli-ride away from the nearest heli-staging near Golden, BC. Twenty minutes in a helicopter is a damn long time, prohibitively far to walk, so you can rest assured that no one else will be out in your zone.
The Icefall Lodge in British Columbia.
Larry Dolecki, owner and head-guide of Icefall, started his lodge because, “there is so much terrain in BC, but you are limited by road access. The helicopter gets you out there, then there is no one else around.” With groups ranging between 12-16 people, depending on the lodge, there is plenty of snow and terrain for everyone. “You show up and ski right out the door, no driving, no racing for first tracks,” says Dolecki, “Atmosphere is a big reason lodges are becoming more popular, sharing powder with a group of friends.”
Lodges are typically rustic, they are located in the middle of nowhere after all, but they do offer many of the creature comforts we’ve all become used to. Electricity is standard at pretty much every backcountry lodge, and in BC style this is usually from some sort of “green” energy source. Most lodges use hydroelectric or solar power to charge their batteries and when all else fails, they have a gas powered back-up generator. Wood stoves provide heat for the living areas and drying out skins, boots, and other soggy ski gear. Some lodges also feature a designated drying room where all the stinky ski gear can dry by propane heat and fester in its’ own stench. A few modern backcountry lodges have indoor toilets, but many still utilize the good ol’ frosty outhouse. Most lodges pull their drinking water from nearby fresh water sources, many have holding tanks and running water, while others rely on human power to bring water in buckets, either way it’s some of the best tasting water you’ll ever have. Wood fired saunas are common, and when coupled with a watering-can hot shower is the perfect way to wind down after a long day hiking for face shots. Some lodges even have satellite internet so you can maintain your status and give your friends the F.O.M.O.
You could be skiing powder in Canada right now.
All lodges are different, but most offer both guided and self-guided skiing. Some lodges require you to have a guide, and with avalanche paths longer than most ski areas it can be nice to have someone with terrain familiarity showing you around. Guides are often included in the price, or they typically run around 300-400 bucks a day, when divided among a group ends up being pretty cheap to have someone break trail for you all week. Depending on your group’s level of backcountry savvy you may be able to opt for guiding yourselves, a slightly less expensive option.
As for food, the full spectrum of options is generally available, from catered gourmet to do-it-yourself. I love eating mac-n-cheese and quesadillas all week with my bros, but having someone cook for you is undoubtedly easier and way better, albeit slightly more expensive. Waking up to hot coffee and breakfast, and coming home to soup and snacks before a delicious dinner everyday is worth a couple hundred bucks in my book. There are catering companies in BC who specialize in lodge trips and will prepare your week’s worth of food, boxed up and with recipes, to take with you on a self-catered trip to save you the hassle of figuring it out for yourself.
Skinning with your friends is the best.
Plan ahead, lodges tend to book out early nowadays, so making your reservation up to a year in advance may be necessary. In fact, a couple of the ACC lodges, like Fairy Meadows and Kokanee Galcier, are so popular that they work on a lottery program for reservations. Group leaders can usually book an entire lodge, then fill it with their favorite shredding partners. Booking the whole lodge is the most cost effective approach and brings the price per person down significantly. You can often book just part of the lodge, or help to fill a partially booked week, in which case you’ll be sharing with other folks who are there for the same reasons you are, so they’re probably pretty damn cool. Expect a catered and guided week to cost around $1,800-$2,200, far cheaper than a week of heli skiing, and arguably as much or more fun.
If you’re planning a trip to a backcountry lodge in BC, here’s a few helpful tips. Canada is not part of the United States, you’ll need identification to enter, I suggest a passport. Flying to Canada is expensive, and getting around once you’ve landed can be a pain. I recommend driving whenever possible, this saves on airport transfers, car rentals, baggage fees, and you can bring groceries and a small amount of alcoholic beverages with you.
Things are more expensive in Canada, so bring the maximum amount of alcohol allowed, a case of beer, or 3 bottles of wine, or a 750 ml of liquor per person, they will probably check at the border. If you’ve had a DUI in the last 5 years, don’t even try to cross the border.
Bring earplugs, one loud snorer can keep you up all night, every night, and the better you sleep the harder you can charge.
Avalanche training and experience traveling and skiing in avalanche terrain are a must; hire a guide if you are the least bit uncertain of your skills. Know your gear and how to use it. A backcountry lodge trip isn’t the right place to try out your new backcountry boots for the first time because, as James Heim says, “There’s nothing worse than being in an amazing location for a short time and spending most of that time either fixing your gear or practicing avalanche rescue when you could have done that before hand.”
Do some online research or talk with friends who’ve been to a lodge to find the one that best suits your needs, there are lots of options. Lodge operators are extremely helpful for planning and can assist with finding guides, catering, and details like lodging before and after and your trip.
My backcountry lodge experiences have resulted in the best ski trips that I’ve ever been on. The stress free environment, comfortable lodging, and access to incredible terrain are without equal. In my opinion, there isn’t a better a way to spend your money on skiing and spend time in the backcountry.
A few helpful online resources:
Going on a backcountry hut trip, be sure to load up on Avalanche Safety gear available at: backcountry.com
- Blog post
- 4 months ago
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- From: sinle036
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- Blog post
- 11 months ago
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- From: media-75233
After blowing up in your face with SNOWJOB, the NOWAMEAN crew is opening the "PIGEYE". A pure, raw and uncut movie showing snowboarding in its true element, featuring your new favorite riders to hate or love.
Featuring: Antonin Chamberland, Axel Théorêt, Cameron Hill, Dillon Ojo, Émile Veilleux, ERIC, Fred Lacroix, Gab Bélanger, Jo Truchon, Jonat St-Marie, LP Dorval, Max Verville, Nic Marcoux, Nicolas Roi, Nic Tremblay, Phil Tardif, Russell Beardsley, Thomas Gagné and Vince Roi.
Presented by: ARNETTE
Sponsored by: CAPITA, CELSIUS, COAL, DRINK WATER, EMPIRE, GLOBE, ETNIES, HOMIES, ILLUSION BOARDSHOP, INSTANCE, LRG, SIGNAL, SPIN LIMIT, STEPCHILD, UNION, 32 and 686.
- 11 months ago
- Views: 20
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- From: shayjohnson
Drink water. It’s such an absurdly simple concept but it seems to have been forgotten in a world of action-packed, adrenaline seeking athletes who crack open an energy drink before dropping a cliff or at the end of their contest run. In this day and age, you are more likely to see your favorite athlete drinking caffeine, sugar and taurine than hydrating themselves with a glass of water. However pro-snowboarders Austin Smith and Bryan Fox didn’t want to be sucked into an over caffeinated lifestyle and created a company to bring attention back to drinking water.
It all began in 2011 when Smith and Fox noticed the abundance of energy drink influence in snowboarding. Instead of focusing on the negative, they wanted to do something more positive to spread the word and began to write “drink water” on their snowboards. “We don’t sell water. We just drink it.” said Austin Smith. Thanks to word of mouth and influential snowboard friends, the Drink Water message began to leak out.
It started with T-shirts, stickers and hoodies with a simple logo above a simple saying, Drink Water. The word kept spreading like wildfire so Bryan Fox and Austin Smith brought in Bryan’s brother, Stephen Fox, to hold down the fort while they traveled around the world for powder. Since then they’ve added other products like coaches jackets and pin packs to help spread the message. Each item they sell is packed by hand with a handwritten note and help gives back to sustainable water systems.
“The response has been beyond encouraging.” said Manager Partner Stephen Fox. “From people telling their friends, to kids saving lunch money to order a sticker and pin pack off our website, to folks spreading the word on the digital social networks, to people all over the globe emailing us or placing orders, to Terje putting a sticker on his board before his winning run at the Baker Banked Slalom, to global brands reaching out with support and collaboration ideas, we're honored to be part of what feels like a worldwide community statement.”
What once began has a two-man idea has grown to include other recognizable faces in snowboarding to help spread the statement and support the cause. Snowboarders Louif Paradis, Jake Olson-Elm, Josh Dirksen, Curtis Ciszek, Jake Kuzyk, Scott Blum, Blair Habenicht, Keegan Valaika, and Scotty Wittlake. In addition to snowboarding, athletes from skateboarding and surfing have taken notice to help spread the word. In addition, anyone who shares the same idea of drinking water is considered part of the movement and helps promote the idea of a healthier living.
Not only is drinking water good for your health, but when you buy a Drink Water product, you help spread the cause and give back to the world. Drink Water donates 10 percent of profits to Water.org, an organization that helps communities design and construct their own sustainable water supply systems.
“We chose to support Water.org for a few reasons. Globally, nearly a billion people lack access to clean drinking water,” said Stephen Fox. “Water.org is drilling wells to solve this challenge, and then, crucially, creating cooperative ownership for each well so that the local community members own the access to the water, rather than warlords, thugs, or corrupt governments. If you are interested, learn more about the global water crisis at water.org.”
After a year of making a statement, Fox and Smith continue to do their part to help promote a healthier lifestyle and have received positive responses for their work. For the future, Fox explains “we’re hoping to affect the way people think about liquid consumption.” It certainly sounds like this simple message might just be enough to remind us all that hydration and health matter more.
- Blog post
- 1 year ago
- Views: 436
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Whistler Blackcomb readies for Whistler Blackcomb readies for the Olympics with it's most exciting season yet
- From: media-75233
September 15, 2009
WHISTLER BLACKCOMB WELCOMES THE WORLD TO EXPERIENCE ITS MOST EXCITING SEASON YET
Olympic spirit is hitting Whistler Blackcomb as the ski resort embarks on its most exciting season yet, which includes the launch of a landmark renewable energy project and continued enhancement of the guest experience. After nearly five decades of Olympic build-up, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are finally coming to town and Whistler Blackcomb is hosting the men’s and women’s Olympic and Paralympic Alpine Skiing events.
If there’s any time to visit the resort, it’s the 2009.2010 season, when accommodation packages offer great savings, the mountains are expected to be quieter than usual and the Olympic energy is electric.
To mark this momentous season, whistlerblackcomb.com is offering a best price guarantee on its Early Booking Deal. Guests can save up to 39 per cent by booking their vacation by November 15, 2009 and also receive the peace of mind that they are getting the best deal of the year. If guests find a better deal later in the season, Whistler Blackcomb will take care of the difference. Lift and lodging packages start at just $88 CAD per person per night. Visit www.whistlerblackcomb.com/bookearly for more information.
“This is going to be a monumental winter season for Whistler Blackcomb. Excitement is mounting for the 2010 Winter Games and we are thrilled to showcase our world-class mountains and PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola to the world,” says Stuart Rempel, Senior VP of Marketing and Sales, Whistler Blackcomb. “With our early bird season pass only $1,099 - the lowest price in a decade - and great savings on accommodation packages, there is no better time to visit. It will be a once in a lifetime experience to be at Whistler Blackcomb during such an inspiring time.”
As Whistler Blackcomb prepares to welcome the world this winter, operations crews are putting in extra efforts to ensure that snowmaking infrastructure, lifts, and trails are in top shape for the upcoming season. Meanwhile, the company’s various divisions are demonstrating innovation and leadership as they put the finishing touches on guest programs and products, including a few new and interesting initiatives.
Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project
This winter marks the launch of a renewable energy project that will offset the total annual energy consumption at Whistler Blackcomb. The Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project will produce 33 gigawatt hours per year - the equivalent amount of energy required to power the ski resort’s winter and summer operations including 38 lifts, 17 restaurants, 270 snowguns and countless other buildings and services.
The Fitzsimmons Creek area is an ideal location for a successful Run-of-River project. The creek has an abundance of water, the necessary vertical drop, it is not a major fish-bearing stream, and the creek water is not used recreationally within the project area.
This summer, crews installed and buried 3.5km of pipeline, which will carry the water from the intake at Fitzsimmons Creek all the way to the powerhouse, near the Whistler Sliding Centre. This month, project crews are doing concrete work on the intake structure, backfilling, grading and seeding for re-growth over the buried pipeline, and erecting the powerhouse. The 450m-long transmission line will also be installed and buried this month. Commissioning and commercial operation date is expected to occur later this fall with the anticipation that the Run-of-River project will be producing power by Christmas.
“The Fitzsimmons Project represents a very meaningful step for us in doing what we can to address climate change inside our own operating footprint,” says Arthur DeJong, Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager, Whistler Blackcomb. “I look forward to the day this winter when we begin to generate power out of the Fitzsimmons Project. It has been a long and challenging road, and we’ve made great gains, but this project is still only one of many steps that we need to make to become truly sustainable.”
Snowmaking maintenance crews are preparing Whistler Blackcomb’s extensive snowmaking infrastructure for the upcoming season. The network of 270 snowguns converts an astounding amount of water to snow. Imagine an American football field packed with snow that stands 650 feet high. On average, Whistler Blackcomb uses between 130 and 180 million gallons of water per season to produce snow. With the 2010 Games around the corner, the team expects to have the Olympic Downhill Courses race ready by January 1, 2010.
"Whistler Blackcomb has doubled its snowmaking crew, adding additional snowmaking staff who have been hired to work specifically on the Olympic downhill courses. Doubling our manpower will help us keep the slopes in top shape for the public, while preparing the race courses for our New Year’s Day target,” says NaTai Perdue, of the Whistler Blackcomb Snowmaking Maintenance department.
The lift maintenance crew has been working with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC) to install a temporary high speed quad chairlift in Creekside. The lift carries approximately 2,800 people per hour and will be used to transport spectators and media to the Alpine Skiing venue during the Winter Games.
Meanwhile, the lift maintenance crew - which recently celebrated two employee trades industry awards - has been conducting routine preventative maintenance on Whistler Blackcomb lifts throughout the summer and into the fall. “Crews put in approximately 50,000 hours of preventative maintenance annually, and much of this work takes place throughout the summer and fall when fewer lifts are running. This ensures we’re ready for opening day on November 26,” says Wayne Wiltse, Whistler Blackcomb’s lift maintenance manager.
Food and Beverage
Whistler Blackcomb’s food and beverage team continues to focus on fresh, regional ingredients as it evolves its menus to reflect guest desire for nutritious, fresh, and high quality products. Locally grown potatoes, trans fat free muffins, 100 per cent Angus Beef Burgers, Ocean Wise fish products, and Organic Seattle's Best Coffee, plus the introduction of Odwalla and Fuse Juices, are all part of the initiative to encourage healthy eating for active lifestyles.
The two full service alpine restaurants, Steeps Grill and Christine’s Restaurant are carving out their own niches with unique mountaintop full service dining experiences. Christine's continues to evolve its menu by serving up gourmet comfort food in response to great guest feedback on the concept last season. Steeps offers a menu that reflects the fine food available in British Columbia and regional wines in flights, by the glass or bottle, as well as the Winemakers' Après series, which is entering its second season. The five après events, hosted by winemakers from BC's award winning wineries, are paired with a delicious five-course meal.
Whistler Blackcomb’s restaurants are also leading the way in sustainable work practices as they work to decrease hydro consumption, and better last year’s recycling and composting efforts that saw waste output decrease by over 46 per cent. Food and beverage also plans to expand its highly successful reusable cup program to Horstman Hut, Crystal Chair and Chic Pea restaurants. By supplying reusable plastic Coca-Cola cold drink cups and Seattle’s Best coffee mugs to the Rendezvous, Roundhouse and Glacier Creek lodge the department reduced its single-use cups by 833,100 cups from 2008 to 2009.
Staff are stocking this year’s brand new rental fleet, including 1,700 brand new skis and boards from top brands, such as Salomon, Burton, Rossignol, K2, and Atomic. In addition, there are 1,000 new pairs of boots and 750 sets of brand new kids’ equipment.
Meanwhile, guests can take a memento of the 2010 Games home with them after visiting Whistler Blackcomb’s Olympic store. The 4,500-square-foot Olympic Store, located at 4253 Village Stroll in the Deer Lodge, carries Olympic and Paralympic merchandise from clothing to collectibles to the ever-popular mascots.
Ski and Snowboard School
This year, Whistler Kids and Ride Tribe programs are introducing the FLAIK GPS tracking system. The real-time tracking unit is comprised of a GPS tag worn by skiers and riders that provides extra safety and allows guests to track their day on the mountains. Data includes what runs guests were on and how much vertical they achieved and can help them decide what areas of the mountain they want to visit in the future.
Ski School is launching a brand new teaching DVD, designed as a visual tool to help guests improve their skiing technique. The DVD focuses on turns, ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert, and also includes bonus material on drills and exercises that skiers can practice independently to help bring their skiing to the next level. Guests who take a lesson will receive a discount on the DVD.
And, if guests need even more reasons to visit Whistler Blackcomb this season, here are a few more:
1. The mountains are open - The mountains are fully open outside the Games period and then 90 per cent open to the public during the competition period. Three of the four base areas, accessing both mountains will be open during Games time, and the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola will transport skiers, riders and sightseers between both mountains in just 11 minutes.
2. Create your own fresh tracks - Traditionally, host mountain resorts see fewer skier visits than usual during the Olympic period, which is perfect for those who want to shred.
3. Once in a Lifetime Experience – This is a once in a lifetime experience to capture the Olympic buzz in Whistler. When else will you be able to rub shoulders with world class athletes and cheer on your home team in their quest for Olympic gold?
4. Gain Bragging Rights – Ski or ride the famous Olympic and Paralympic Downhill courses before or after the Games and brag to your friends. Olympians will be racing down those very courses in February and March at more than 120km per hour.
5. No ticket needed to experience the Winter Games – You don’t need an Olympic ticket to be at the heart of the Games. Whistler Live! features free entertainment via a network of outdoor performance sites and programming throughout Whistler Village. Creating an unforgettable Canadian cultural experience for spectators of all ages, Whistler Live! sites include: Whistler Medals Plaza, Town Plaza, Village Common, Village Square, Mountain Square, and Skiers’ Plaza.
For package information, snow and weather reports, and details about visiting Whistler Blackcomb during the Games, please visit whistlerblackcomb.com or call 1-800-766-0449.
Proud to be a venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games
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