Mountain Grooming

The pictured scenic ‘Sea-to-Sky’ Highway with ocean vistas, soaring mountains and dramatic waterfalls is the main transportation link between the city of Vancouver Canada and the popular ski resort town of Whistler. Locally it was known as the ‘killer highway’ due to its history of accidents caused by driver negligence, landslides and rockslides. It became the subject of much scrutiny and discussion after Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics.

In the end, the province chose to leverage the international venue as an opportunity to improve the safety, reliability and capacity of the 100 km (approximately 62 mile) hazardous roadway. From procurement to completion, it took 6 years.

The last time Hubby and I drove to Whistler was June of 2008 – at the height of the road construction. What were we thinking? I remember stopping in one town where they had blasting schedules posted everywhere. I was frightened and awe struck at the same time when our vehicle inched its way through a freshly created canyon carved into the side of a mountain. There was debris and boulders everywhere.

Crews burrowing into mountain to plant charges)
Crews burrowing into mountain to plant charges

The project included construction of 48 new bridges/interchanges, 219 retaining walls, more than 2 million cubic meters of earthwork and 450,000 tons of asphalt paving.  It also involved geotechnical-related activities that provided back slopes in soil and rock, slope stabilizations, retention systems, bridge foundations, and embankments.  The changes to the natural landscape were enormous.

Complementing the actual road construction was a multi-faceted environmental program.  This included but was not limited to the protection of wetlands and fish-bearing watercourses. 16 new wildlife passageways were built to make it safer for animals to cross the road.  There were restrictions on blasting and clearing of vegetation during various bird breeding periods and continuously in the vicinity of heron, raptor and eagle nests.

Charli Mills’  May 11th Flash Fiction Challenge post raised the following questions for me: Is erosion no more than another word for change?  Is it inevitable?  Yes.  It is a cycle, played out on so many different levels – a cycle of destruction followed by something new, always with the hopes that what comes next is better than what was.   


The Carrot Ranch fiction challenge was to write a story in 99 words (no more, no less) about the power of erosion. My adventures along the ‘Sea-to-Sky’ highway in 2008 inspired this contribution.

“Damn it!” Millie yelled as she entered the coffee shop. 

“What?” Bill bellowed from behind the counter. 

“The blasting!”

“Can’t hear ya!” He pointed to the coffee maker with a quizzical look on his face.  

Millie nodded – conversation out of the question.  The construction crews were still detonating their series of explosives. Apparently the mountainside needed a shave before the highway could be expanded.  

“Thanks,” Millie said and grabbed her coffee.

A mammoth roar reverberated through the town.  The floor shook as Millie ran to the window.  She screamed – a huge dust cloud rolled menacingly towards her.

7 thoughts on “Mountain Grooming

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  1. I often marvel at the roads cut into mountainsides. What an amazing feat. Sometimes I wonder if there may have been a better way round, or indeed whether we should have found a way round at all.
    Your flash certainly captures the annoyance and the fear. It could not have been much fun for those living in proximity of the construction.
    It’s nice to know that the construction took the needs of wildlife into consideration.


    1. I’m glad you dropped by Norah! I agree, mountain roads are amazing and I loved the efforts they took to balance the needs of the wildlife and speed driven humans. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great phrase and title — Mountain Grooming! I’m amazed at the motivation to implement 6 years of heavy construction for a once-in-a-life-time event. Your flash captures the small town response; I can easily imagine to the construction, but yikes, not good to see the rumble headed to town!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Believe it or not, procurement took 3 years; the actual construction took another 3 years. The accident rate dropped initially, but sadly it’s begun to rise again as skiers rush to the slopes on weekends. I’m glad the flash caught some of the sentiment. Thanks Charli.

      Liked by 1 person

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