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Mighty Iron Magazine: Building the Vancouver Olympics

Mighty Iron Magazine: Building the Vancouver Olympics

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Published by Joe Hanneman

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Published by: Joe Hanneman on Aug 24, 2010
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Olympic Muscle

british columbia builds toward 2010 winter games

262.886.9094 www.strategis-one.com
•Job-Site Photography •Location Video •Video/Audio Production •Market Research •Literature Development •Media Relations



M A R K E T I N G,


cover story

special issue: a Focus on

British ColumBia


building the 2010 winter olympic games
With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games just around the corner, the Canadian province of British Columbia is in full building mode. Volvo Construction Equipment and its dealer, Great West Equipment, are supplying their share of the iron to transform the province’s majestic beauty into world-class competition venues. From the tip of the Coast Mountain range to the picturesque Okanagan Valley, we take a look at Canada’s westernmost province.

the contractors reshaping british columbia





Construction in British Columbia has seen its share of ups and downs in the past decade, but a now boom has taken hold across the province. And while the 2010 Winter Olympic Games are a big part of the action, the economic surge extends well beyond Vancouver. Upscale housing, roads and bridges are all engines driving the progress. Our cover story takes a closer look at the men and the companies that do the work.


British ColumBia

From sea to sky
story and photos By Joe Hanneman




ing forests. The western edge of North America is known as the Sea to Sky Region, and it is aptly named. In just a short drive along British Columbia’s coastline, you can marvel at the glassy, still waters of Howe Sound, rise up hemlock and cedar that carpet the Coast Mountains.

along miles of mountainous granite formations to the towering stands of fir,


FroM its PRIZe-WInnInG VIneyaRDS to its BUSTLInG PoRT and Wealth oF SKI ReSoRTS, British coluMBia is aBout to Go on staGe For the World. the host proVince oF the XXI oLymPIC WInTeR GameS and the construction eQuipMent is in the center oF it all.

X paralyMpic Winter GaMes is in BUILDInG moDe these days. and VolVo


IALL WALLACE SEEMS PERFECTLY AT HOME STARING DOWN THE BARREL of a 27-degree vertical drop on the face of Black Mountain. With the skill and confidence of an Olympic skier, Wallace routinely perches himself at the mountain’s edge, where he can look down on the lodge far below. Not many would have the nerve to work at such heights or on such steep grades. Especially seated in the cab of a fully loaded 30-ton articulated truck. “It’s an incredible view,” said Wallace, an operator for North Construction, which is building the Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboarding venues at Cypress Mountain Ski Resort. “You get used to working the mountain. This truck has really sure footing and is a solid climber.” A Volvo A30D articulated hauler might seem out of place among the towering yellow cedar and hemlock trees more than 3,000 feet up a mountain. But right now it is the key competitor on these slopes. Before Olympic skiers can

compete here in 2010, the Volvo A30D must make its own championship runs, carrying tons of material to build the moguls, ramps and half-pipes. At the top of the freestyle skiing run, Wallace backs his A30D down a steep, winding access road. Perched just at the precipice, he raises the truck’s bed to dump fill dirt over the side for waiting excavators to distribute it. Then it’s back down the mountain.

volvo haulers can really climb

Chris Cheney, a salesman at Volvo dealer Great West Equipment in Surrey, BC, said Volvo is the only brand of artic hauler that can handle these mountains. “The overall opinion of the A30D is it is the best hill hauler,” said Cheney, who has sold many of the trucks working on Olympic projects. “The main difference between a Volvo and the competition is its responsive and powerful transmission

British ColumBia

Volvo A30D hauler backs down to construction site for the freestyle skiing venue at the 2010 Winter Olympics.


retarder. This allows the operator to descend on steep slopes with confidence and control.” The extreme terrain up here is nothing new to Kevin Webb, an avid skier, helicopter pilot and the owner of North Construction. “The trick is finding guys who are comfortable working on that pitch,” Webb said. “We’re on five mountains this year and we could be up to six or seven soon.”

native peoples and nordic events


working on extreme terrain

North Construction specializes in the design and construction of ski runs and other projects built on “extreme terrain.” For the 2010 Winter Olympics, North is building the aerial freestyle skiing competition venue along with chair lifts, snow-making towers and communication and lighting infrastructure. The Volvo articulated hauler is the only truck North Construction uses in these conditions. The truck has been hauling rock bedding for trenches, and moving more than 4,000 cubic meters of topsoil to dress the ski hills. “We’re real happy with it,” Webb said of the Volvo A30D. “The drivers and operators like the comfort and ergonomics.” That’s a good thing, because Webb needs to put — and keep — good operators like Wallace in the cab. “The drivers are an integral part of what goes on up there,” Webb said. “We don’t put rookies on these projects. These operators are the best.”

TUART NEILSON of Demidoff Equipment is not only building the Winter Olympics, he is helping build long-term economic success for the original inhabitants of the Callaghan Valley. The Vancouver Olympic Committee signed a historic agreement in 2005 to involve four of Canada’s First Nations in construction of the competition venues. When the Mount Currie Band of the Lil’wat First Nation was invited to help build the Nordic skiing venues near Whistler, it partnered with Neilson and Demidoff Equipment for their construction expertise. There are now 19 Mount Currie Band members on the project. “We’ve been able to put our equipment in and they’ve been able to purchase equipment and train guys and put them into the mix with our company,” said Neilson, Demidoff ’s general manager. “It’s helping them to grow, so that once this is over they can stand alone and have their own company to do it.” Working with the Mount Currie Band’s Creekside Resources Inc., Demidoff is building the venues for the biathlon and cross country skiing events in the picturesque Callaghan Valley near Whistler. “We’re building all of the cross country and biathlon trails, which are 8 meters wide, so it’s like building logging roads,” Neilson said. “There are 18 kilometers of that, plus 11 bridges and more than a kilometer of road.”

building cross country, biathlon trails

“it’s got to be the coolest job we’ve ever worked. how often do you get to say you built the olympics?” – stuart neilson
general manager demidoff equipment

Demidoff had to clear and build its way into the site in 2005, and since moved on to construction of the trails, the biathlon shooting range, a pedestrian tunnel, the media center, athlete compound and more. Volvo A30D articulated haulers are moving most of the material on site, and two Volvo excavators are being used for site prep and cut-and-cover operations. “It’s total construction of a whole new venue,” Neilson said. The Volvo EC460B played a key role in construction of the pedestrian tunnel at the biathlon site. With its power and smooth precision, the excavator lifted and placed huge sections of concrete box culvert for the inside of the tunnel, which will allow press and spectators to access the penalty loop area of the biathlon event. “Our 460, we have one of our best operators, Kelly Rodman, on it and he loves it,” Neilson said. “He’s been operating it since it was new last year. It’s quick. It has a lot of power and quick cycle times.” The Volvo A30D has earned a


reputation for quick cycle times, making up to 3 kilometer hauls of rock, dirt and cleared vegetation on the site. “The Volvo truck actually outperforms every other truck,” Neilson said. “It consistently hauls more, has quicker times — it’s great.” Work on the site will continue well into 2007 and Neilson hopes his firm will be working on other Olympicsrelated projects. Given the partnership and prominence of the job at hand, he figures this one is pretty special. “It’s got to be the coolest job we’ve ever worked,” Neilson said. “How often do you get to say you built the Olympics?”

Follow the road from sea to sky


HE ROAD FROM Vancouver to Whistler is called the Sea to Sky Highway. From humpback whales off the coast of Horseshoe Bay to bald eagles soaring over Whistler Mountain, the highway is a vantage point to Canada’s natural beauty. The more than 100 kilometers of winding road overlooks Howe Sound and clings impossibly

close to granite rock formations along the Pacific coast. The drive is beautiful, but the road was not made to handle Olympic-size traffic. Volvo excavators and articulated haulers have played a pivotal role in a more than $600 million upgrade of the Sea to Sky Highway. The project, which began even before Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Games, includes adding divided lanes and medians, road widening and straightening, bridge construction and other improvements to handle heavy traffic from Vancouver to Squamish and Whistler. The first section of improvements was done by Bell Contracting using Volvo EC330B and EC460B excavators and a fleet of Volvo haulers. Bell had to do a lot of blasting to cut into the mountain for room to add lanes. It loaded the blasted rock with the EC330B into A30C and A30D haulers. Some of the rock was used a short distance away as rip-rap to prevent roadside erosion along the Squamish River. A Volvo EC460B equipped with a bucket thumb did precision placement of the rip-rap.

diggin in: Demidoff Equipment crews build a pedestrian tunnel at the Winter Olympic biathlon site (far left). A Volvo excavator (above) works on the 18 kilometers of ski trails and 11 bridges at the country country ski venue.


British ColumBia


uphill, upscale: Rande Nolitt Contracting (left) specializes at building on the mountainous terrain around Kelowna, BC. The area’s natural beauty and temperate climate make the Okanagan Valley a fast-growing part of British Columbia.
The rest of the highway construction is being handled by Peter Kiewit Sons, which acquired six Volvo A30D haulers to move rock and earth along the construction zone. The A30Ds excel at backing up the steep access ramps and maneuvering inside tight work zones that tend to be adjacent to live traffic. While work progresses on the concrete highway, an information highway is being constructed to carry video, audio and other communications to and from the northern venues. A new fiber-optic backbone is being installed along the Canadian National Railway, which runs along the Sea to Sky for nearly 50 kilometers. A Volvo EW180B wheeled excavator equipped to ride the rails is working on installation of the fiber optic channel.

home,” said Nolitt, proprietor of Rande Nolitt Contracting. “We were just involved in one that was $4.5 million. They want to be high up. They want a lake view — unobstructed. The homes in this area are all million-dollar homes.”

steep, rocky sites are a specialty

growing the okanagan valley


ITH INCREDIBLE LAKES, LUSH MOUNTAINS, famous wineries and mild weather, it is not hard to understand why Canadians and others are flocking to the Okanagan Valley in south central British Columbia. A popular vacation spot for Vancouverites, the Okanagan is increasingly drawing wealthy new residents from neighboring oil-rich Alberta. Nobody sees it more than Rande Nolitt, whose Volvo excavators, miniexcavator and skid steer are busy building upscale homes into the roughhewn hills of the Lakeview area west of Kelowna, BC. “Most people here are going to spend $1.5 or $2 million or even more on a

Nolitt specializes in residential building on rocky, steep parcels. The work usually involves precision hammering of rock so as not to disturb existing properties. Because the sites are steep, backfilling often takes several excavators at different levels. One job had a Volvo EC210B and EC140B moving dirt up the site, while an EC35 mini-excavator spread the material inside the foundation. “Given the terrain here,” Nolitt said, “this backfilling always takes up two or three machines. One throwing to another. We specialize in the high-end residential and the tough sites. That’s where this Volvo equipment has been

rande nolitt: Building mountain homes.

British ColumBia

rock solid: Contractors have adapted to building on steep, rocky job sites as demand for residential housing has soared.
working really well.” Based on Volvo’s superior fuel economy, operator comfort features and ease of operation, Nolitt said he simply won’t run any other brand of iron. “Given the kind of rocky terrain, it’s amazing what these machines have done and how they’ve held up,” Nolitt said. “I’ve had virtually no repairs on this equipment. We’re really impressed with them.” walls, while an EC210B lifts and places heavy blasting mats. things make a difference. Like Dennis Tkatchuk, a salesman for Great West Equipment, often seen on Hoban’s job sites handing out cold bottled water to the workers. “They’ve bent over backwards to help us out with anything we’ve ever needed,” Hoban said of his Volvo dealer. “Even things we haven’t asked for they take it upon themselves to do.” As for the equipment, Hoban said the haulers and excavators combine

heavy demand for even difficult land


HE WAY CLAYTON HOBAN SEES IT, the housing boom in the Valley isn’t surprising. “The Valley is one of the best places in the world,” said Hoban, owner of Hoban Equipment Ltd. “It’s hard to find a better place to live and work. There are subdivisions being built everywhere. You drive around and say, ‘There’s another one. There’s another one.’ People are just flocking here.” Hoban’s construction firm has never been busier. On a 26-lot upscale housing development near Kelowna, BC, a Volvo EC330B loads blasted rock into an A35D hauler. The new home sites are being cut into a bluff overlooking the water. On a 600-parcel site in nearby Vernon, an EC240B builds retention

“The majority of our sites are major steep side hills,” Hoban said. “Solid rock. There’s been no easy dirt moving at all. We’ve been strictly working in rock for the last year and a half. That’s been the challenge of these jobs.” Hoban is sold on Volvo quality, and he’s the first to say that it’s much more than the machine. It’s also the people and the service. Even the little

“the valley is one of the best places in the world. it’s hard to find a better place to live and work. People are flocking here.” – clayton hoban
owner hoban equipment

British ColumBia

big time: Hoban Equipment develops a 26-lot residential site near Kelowna that will include $2 million homes. Demand is strong.
outstanding performance with operator comfort. “The rock trucks, the guys absolutely love them. They don’t even want to get into their pickups at the end of the day,” he said. “The excavators, they’re set up really good for the operators. And if they’re happier, if they can put in a 12-hour day and get out of the machine and not be bagged, it makes a huge difference.” Hoban has been so impressed with Volvo, he has started phasing out a competitive brand and moving most of his machines to Volvo.

Performance at the top of the world


HEY CALL IT “THE BUSH,” THE MOUNTAINTOP forests where the loggers work. Just getting here requires a 45-minute drive up steep, narrow logging trails to reach elevations over 1,900 meters. Wayne LaBounty, owner of LaBounty Logging of Westbank, BC, has been working these lands for 25 years. He said his Volvo EC210B and Volvo EC240B forestry excavators have become a crucial part of operations

timber: LaBounty Logging uses excavators to gather, sort and process harvested trees.
to sort and process timber for the trip down the mountain to the mill. Once the trees have been cut by a feller buncher and moved to a staging area by a skidder, the EC210B goes to work. Equipped with a harvester/ processor attachment, the excavator deftly plucks trees off the forest floor. The processor strips the branches and an integrated chainsaw cuts the ends or trims the log to a specified length for the mill. Equipped with a clamshell grapple,
(continues) 13

British ColumBia

Carry a Big Stick: Excavators gather timber and load logging trucks, while the multi-processor (below) strips and trims the logs.
the EC240B can lift a dozen or more processed trees, stand them upright to even out the ends and then place the bunch on a trailer. LaBounty said he hasn’t had to worry about downtime with the Volvos. Machine performance has been very good. “The boom, the stick and the swing — it’s all fast,” he said. “Operator comfort is good, too. Climate control, heated seats, the position of the joysticks. I can easily go 15 hours in it, no problem.” LaBounty said he has come to rely on outstanding service from Great West Equipment. Early one morning the feller buncher would not start. Even though it was well before shop hours, he called Great West. They had a service mechanic on site at 8:20 a.m. “In 35 years I’ve never seen that.”



parting shot

First opened in 1938, the Lions Gate Bridge connects Vancouver with the North Shore of British Columbia. The bridge is named for the Lions, two mountain peaks north of Vancouver.


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