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Blackcomb’s avy forecasters start everyday at 6am. This gives them a chance to read weather updates and make a plan for any necessary avy control that has to happen. The rest of the patrol staff starts between 7 and 730 depending on how much control work needs to be done. They gather at the patrol offices at the top of Solar Coaster for their morning meeting at 730. This gives them a chance to address any issues that may have arisen the previous day, and to get a full weather update.
Whistler Blackcomb is one of the safest places in Canada for the month of February. That said there are enough explosive scattered around the mountain to blow up the athlete’s village. As part of the additional security for the games, the WB ski patrol has instituted the FOB program. The FOB is an electronic key that records access information at all of the explosives bunkers around the mountain. This helps ski patrol keep a record of what is going on at each bunker.
Inside the Blackcomb patrol offices avy control staff keeps track of the mountain with detailed charts and photos. The photos on the wall identify some of the major avy paths on Blackcomb Mountain.
Whistler Blackcomb receives a slightly more stable maritime snowpack. That said, their steep terrain is extremely avalanche prone. Preventing slides requires intimate knowledge and diligent observation of the snowpack. The avy forecasters at Blackcomb keep meticulous charts to track the the snow throughout the season.
Blackcomb mountain ski patrol stores their ammonium nitrate based explosives in these bunkers. They have several setup in strategic locations in order to facilitate avy control.
This hand line is used by Blackcomb Patrol for avy control is areas where exposure or access are issues. Blackcomb ski patrol has several other active avy control techniques. Cornice blasts, hand charges, avalaunchers, and heli bombing are all used depending on access and desired results.
Stewart checks the depth of the sun crust on an early morning patrol lap. With weather being unseasonably warm and sunny, (perfect for Olympic competitions) avy concerns have shifted to watching afternoon wet slides.
Although not that accurate, the Nitro Xpress launches charges up to a kilometer. This helps Blackcomb patrol do control work on zones that could, otherwise, only be accessed by helicopter.
Passive control is a big part of avy forecasting at Whistler Blackcomb. The forecasters keep a close eye on terrain and adjust closures as necessary to keep skiers safe. The down side to this is that skiers who decide to poach closed areas often endanger themselves and others.