Two thousand metres up Blackcomb Mountain, high above the bustling mid-day activity of Whistler Village, Whistler Blackcomb's environmental resource manager and mountain planner Arthur DeJong is giving a presentation.
He motions across the vast expanse of the Fitzsimmons Valley to Whistler Mountain on the other side, and the patch of mountainside known as the Symphony Development.
A decade ago, he says, the tree removal footprint in the development was 40 per cent — now, that number is down to five.
"More and more we're trying to find ways to build experiences inside ecosystems rather than changing them," he says.
"So on the land use side we're always pushing that focus."
In an effort to provide those experiences for visitors, Whistler Blackcomb is introducing four new educational mountaintop tours this summer.
DeJong's tour, called Backstage Pass — Sustainability Defined, will focus on the effects of climate change on the mountain (adult $109).
"It's about how we are learning and innovating ways to (have less impact) with our recreational design on our mountain slopes," DeJong said.
"I will take our guests into some projects where we struggle, where we are not fully succeeding with our goals for erosion, and some of the things we're doing new to try to get better results."
The purpose behind the new additions is twofold — driving summer growth and offering environmental education to the public.
Simply being up one of Whistler's trademark mountains on a clear summer day is enough to get the message of sustainability across, a fact not lost on DeJong and Whistler Blackcomb.
"We're simply sharing the stories, the successes, the failures, and (also) sharing this great office that we have the privilege to work in," DeJong said.
"And hopefully through that dialogue they take away some inspiration to make some footprint-reduction changes in their lives, and in their businesses."
And through another new introduction, Whistler Blackcomb is hoping guests can learn to capture some of Whistler's beauty for themselves.
"The idea is that you get a chance to photograph from the top of the mountain at that magic time of evening when the light is pretty special," said David McColm, who'll be guiding guests on the new Twilight Photography tour this summer (adult $189).
"My role is basically to get you to some interesting places and get you some cool photos."
The photography tours are open to anyone with a camera, and McColm will help guide participants to some amazing results.
"That's why I love shooting in Whistler, it's just amazing, and every day is different," he said.
"You can go to the same place 100 times and get something different every time, and that's why I don't get bored."
Rounding out the new additions are helicopter sightseeing tours offered by Blackcomb Aviation ($159 or $210 depending on length of flight), and an educational geology and ecology tour, the Journey of the Ancient Peaks — A Geology and Ecology Tour, which takes visitors back millions of years to the formation of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains' breathtaking alpine environments. Guides will explain Whistler's key geological milestones, as well as highlight the flora, fauna, and effects of climate change along the way ($50 without lift ticket).
For DeJong, the tours present an educational opportunity at a crucial moment for the planet.
"We don't live in interesting times, we live in defining times in terms of the ecological state of the planet," he said.
"I feel obligated — but very willingly — to try to inspire others to reconnect with their landforms wherever they're from, wherever they live, and to find ways to protect them in a way that we have a positive future.
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