Tag Archives: Sandy Boyd

Making It Snow

For the first decade of operations on Whistler Mountain, an abundance of snow was normal for the ski season. The season of 1973/74 was a record-setting winter, with Whistler Mountain recording a base of just over 5 m in the early spring. After so many seasons, most people had grown to expect Whistler always to have lots of snow. According to John Hetherington, who was working on ski patrol at the time, “We just thought it would go on forever.” Then, just a few years later, it didn’t.

The season of 1976/77 is often described as one of the worst ski seasons Whistler Mountain has ever had. The Whistler Question reported that over the American Thanksgiving weekend, “a few hardy souls went up the mountain to hike up & down either at the top of the red or the ridge behind the top of the blue chair.” By Christmas it had snowed a little bit more and Whistler Mountain was able to open, but skiers had to download by the Red Chair and the gondola. Then, in January 1977, it rained to the top of the ski area and washed away what little snow there was. The lift company closed for the rest of the month and well into February.

The Whistler Question, January 1977.

This complete lack of snow inspired the first attempt at making snow on Whistler Mountain. While today snowmaking is carefully planned, has a large infrastructure, and follows procedures, that was not the situation described by Hetherington and fellow patroller Roger McCarthy. According to Hetherington, “Back then, Whistler was pretty wild and out there and things were pretty loose… Nobody gave a damn what you did on the mountain.” In this case, what ski patrol did was use an entire case of Submagel (the explosive often used in avalanche control) to blow a huge crater in the creek at the bottom of the Green Chair.

They built a dam at one end of the crater, got some pumps, borrowed a snow gun from Grouse Mountain (Grouse had installed the first snowmaking system in British Columbia in 1973), and began making snow to get skiers to the bottom of the Green Chair without having to carry their skis for the last 100 m or so. Once the crater slowly filled, it could support about two to three hours of snowmaking. However, McCarthy recalled that the system was far from perfect: “The challenge was that any time we tried to make snow, it got cold enough to make snow, the water would stop running and stop filling the little creek and we’d end up sucking mud into the pumps. So it wasn’t that successful, but it was the beginning.” Packer drivers were able to spread what snow they did make to form a narrow run to the bottom of the Green Chair, providing some temporarily skiable terrain.

Ian Boyd demonstrates the ins and outs of an SMI snow-making machine capable of producing enough snow to cover one acre one-half inch deep in one hour in 1982. With the addition of more machines and proper reservoirs and infrastructure on Whistler, snowmaking became more common through the 1980s. Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

This first attempt at making snow signalled a shift in thinking as the lift company was forced to realize that they would not always get the snow there were used to. In 1981, Sandy Boyd was hired as Gondola Area Coordinator for the lift company and, already having experience with snowmaking, Boyd brought more snowmaking to Whistler through the 1980s. Today, as the questions of snowfall and the impacts of climate change on Whistler are never far from mind, snowmaking is an important part of mountain operations and it is not uncommon on a clear night to see the snowguns at work on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

This Week In Photos: December 6

If there’s one thing most of the photos from this week have in common, it’s snow!  Seeing these images, we’re hoping for some more in the valley soon.

1978

Only at Whistler – local top-hatted chimney sweep at work in the snow!

Thursday was not a good day for some! Above, Squamish Freightways truck tangles with the school sign.

Municipal 4×4 tries to get a motorist out of a ditch on Thursday.

All smiles! John Howells (left) receives the Citizen of the Year award from Paul Burrows while Drew Meredith looks on.

The Rotary Exchange students on the steps of the Roundhouse.

The new municipal skating rink recently constructed adjacent to the school.

1979

Kindergarten students build their first snowpeople of the season – left to right: Brie Minger, Joanne Den Duyf, Nonie Bredt, Beau Jarvis, Andrew Hofmann.

The gondola area showing the early arrivals in the parking lot – the Wosk lot is the empty one centre right.

Bridge abutments for the new bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek to service Blackcomb Mountain.

RCMP officer Terry Barter and Major with students at Myrtle Philip School.

1980

The giant cake prepared for the Fourth Inaugural meeting of the Resort Municipality of Whistler Council.

The Blackcomb Snowhosts: (l to r) Cathy Hansen, Shelley Phalen, Tom Kelley and Charlotte Sheriff.

The balloon shape is covering Whistler Resort & Club’s pool from Whistler’s harsh winter.

The new sign at the entrance to the Town Centre is completed.

An unidentified fireman, Chief Lindsay Wilson and Rick Crofton hose down a fire damaged cabin in Alta Vista.

Leo Lucas checks out the newly refurbished Roundhouse before the crowds arrive. New appointments include carpets, roll-away seating and various touchups.

1981

Barb Newman, of Whistler Tops, models a cap and one of the many rugby shirts available in the new Village Square store.

Jason, Harley and Dylan Stoneburgh stand proudly in front of the snowmen they built in Alpine Meadows after the first storm of the winter.

Sandy Boyd, the new Gondola Area Co-ordinator for Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. Sandy, who has twelve years experience in the ski industry, will be responsible for the organization of all systems at the Gondola base.

Bearing gifts and a song, Susan Jacks, formerly of the Poppy Family, will be one of the stars in an upcoming CBC special partly filmed in Whistler.

Myrtle Philip students take part in a ‘Western Day’ at the school.

A sneak preview of the new Black Forest Restaurant in the former White Gold Inn.

1982

Highways crews clear up the debris left by a December 3 rock slide on Highway 99 near M. Creek.

Slim and Margaret Foughberg open a gift presented to Slim for his service to the Howe Sound School Board. Together they have served Howe Sound continuously (except for two years) since 1946.

Mayor Mark Angus is sworn into office by Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup-Robinson at Council’s inaugural meeting December 6.

A young batch of new skiers shapes up for the slopes under the rigorous command of ski shop owner Jim McConkey, who put them through their paces December 6.

Myrtle Philip School library helpers enjoy a well-earned lunch. Irene Pope, Judy Fosty, Kelly Macwell and Candy Rustad. Missing is Mrs. Demidoff.

1984

Twyla Picton and Rolf Zeller were out cross-country skiing in the sub-freezing temperatures Whistler has experienced for the previous week. Cross-country skiing in the valley is the best in years with a total of 195 cm of snow fallen in November.

Work on the Conference Centre continues with the construction of a wall partition above the second floor. The wooden frame structure behind the scaffold will be attached to a moveable partition that will allow Conference Centre organizers to divide the main hall into two separate meeting areas.

Ski instructor Stephanie Sloan from Whistler Mountain was the grand prize winner in the Beaujolais Nouveau contest. Sloan will receive a trip for two via CP Air and KLM plus two days in Burgundy hosted by Rene Pedauque. Select Wines representative Wendy Taylor, Sarah Kuhleitner from Citta’s and the WRA’s June Paley picked the winners Sunday in Whistler’s first ever Beaujolais Nouveau celebration.

BC Supreme Court Justice Samuel Toy swears in Whistler’s four new aldermen in council chambers Monday. Moments before, Judge Toy also officially authorized Mayor Terry Rodgers as the municipality’s third ever mayor. The four new aldermen are (left to right) Doug Fox, Paul Burrows, Diane Eby and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. A reception followed the inaugural meeting of council.