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February 28, 2006

IT in Whistler

I have read that 90% of jobs in Information Technology are not in the high-tech industry itself. I certainly met one of those last week.

I was riding up the Whistler gondola one day and one of the other passengers was wearing the official Whistler/Blackcomb jackets, complete with nametag. But instead of the typical nametag identifying which town in Australia he was from, it said "Information Technology". I asked and sure enough he worked in the IT department there. He said they had 22 full-time people supporting about 800 PCs and 40 servers, and were a Microsoft shop: SQL, Exchange, etc.

In addition to the basic computers and the website, they also have a bunch of webcams, automated snow and temperature reports, automated snowmaking equipment...plus they scan your lift ticket with handheld devices that connect in realtime over a wireless network to check if your ticket is valid.

Under all that snow are network cables connecting locations on the mountain. For example the Roundhouse Lodge, at the top of the gondola 6,000 feet above sea level, has a little business center. The guy I talked to was going up there to fix a few problems, including a printer that wasn't working. So he had a printer cable in his pocket and a snowboard in his hand, and after he fixed the printer he was going to ride back to the base. Not a bad job, I would say.

(On an unrelated note, W/B is proposing building a gondola connecting the two mountains. 4.4 km total length, 2.9 km free span in the middle (that's almost 2 miles), 415 meters (almost 1500 feet) drop...gak! After being on the gondola when it stopped and getting a couple of one-second weightless moments thrown in for free, I'm not sure I would want to ride this, but from a technology/infrastructure point of view it would be cool.)

Posted by AdamBa at February 28, 2006 09:48 PM

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There is, or at least there /was/, an IT company in Whistler unrelated to Intrawest (I think they write credit card processing software). These guys had a "30cm rule" enshrined in their terms and conditions for employees - if it snowed more than 30cm overnight you didn't have to call in sick the next day!

As for the proposed gondola linking W to B - why? It's a huge cost in terms of $ and environmental impact and it doesn't actually get anyone to anywhere new.

Posted by: Steve at March 8, 2006 06:09 AM