Whistler won’t close early

Allen Best

WHISTLER, B.C. Ski mountain managers aren’t yet ready to throw in the towel after a winter in which the least snowfall was recorded since lift-aided skiing began on Whistler Mountain in 1966. Conditions are being re-evaluated from week to week, and some events will be reconfigured, but for now they intend to stick to the closing schedule: April 17 for Blackcomb and June 5 for Whistler Mountain.Surprisingly, given how bad snow conditions have been since late January, tourism officials in Whistler expect that ski season this year will be only 2 percent down from last year. In fact, bookings look good for Easter. But it should be noted that last year was a sordid winter economically after a string of glory years.This year may well speed up the installation of more snowmaking. While plans were afoot to add snow guns prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, ski area officials could pull the trigger on the guns as early as this summer. At present there are 172 snowmaking guns on the two mountains.Air fouled by smoke from sawmillREVELSTOKE, B.C. – A large device used to burn sawdust and other wastes from old-fashioned sawmills is causing a heated discussion in Revelstoke. The devices, variously called beehives or teepees, were once common in mountain towns of the West that had sawmills. Most have disappeared, but Revelstoke retains a sawmill that employs 450 people, and the provincial government recently extended the sawmill’s deadline for eliminating the smoldering by two years.The alternative technology is relatively simple but expensive: a co-generation plant that would convert the burning wood into usable energy. However, the sawmill operator, Downie Street Sawmills Ltd., has floundered during the last several years as Canadian exports have become more expensive to the United States, the primary customer for Canadian lumber. The increase is due to both a surging value of Canadian dollars and a new 27 percent tariff on Canadian lumber products entering the United States.Revelstoke is on the verge of becoming a more major tourism destination, although its image is sullied somewhat by the deteriorated air quality caused by the burning sawdust.Vail, Colorado

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