A deal good for both short term and long term
Whilst I love the counter point that GD Maxwell brings to the weekly Pique, I thought I should perhaps bring some insight to the MAXimum rave in last week's column (Pique, Aug 11).
Max, calm down, it isn't worth it to get so twisted by a change in ownership — something that has happened several times already by companies that had no alignment, and maintained head offices in other places.
If one looks back in history you can see what I mean.
Aspen Ski Corp. developed and operated Blackcomb; ownership over time included 20th Century Fox, during the first round of Star Wars.
Intrawest was a real estate developer that became North America's largest four-season resort operator. In addition to the great things done on Blackcomb such as the Wizard, Solar Coaster, 7th Heaven... "Rise Up Rise Up," it also created unique villages, particularly Tremblant, and brought intelligent mountain planning through Whistler-based Ecosign.
Fortress was a New York-based investors group with few ties to the ski industry.
Other current stockholders, Nippon Cable and KSL, are both "in the ski business" — they make up a piece of the pre-and-post acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb. Nippon Cable, based in Japan, builds Doppelmayr Lifts under licence to the Austrian lift manufacturer. It also owns interests in several resorts in Japan, and a significant percentage of Sun Peaks. KSL, with ownership of Squaw Valley/ Alpine Meadows, is for the most part in the luxury-hotel business.
The connection with Vail Resorts will open up more destination visits for the community. People who have never been here before will connect through the Vail Resorts season-pass network and will discover what a special place this is.
On the flip side, pass holders here will (in 12 months), be able to use their season pass at Vail, Beaver Creek etc., etc.
Basically, we changed majority ownership for new investors that are like-minded, well-funded, passionate participants who will share expertise and open new markets that are barely touched by Whistler today.
Vail Resorts is the biggest operator in the U.S.; it understands the business and what makes it work better from both sides of the cash register.
As for the indoor water park — it occasionally rains here! We get no schedule on when, how long, or how high up the mountain it might rain.
I think this is a real plus for families in weatherproofing the resort.
We are very fortunate to have such a talented dedicated team here in Whistler Blackcomb, a team that makes the skiing and riding what I consider to be the best in the world.
Not everyone is comfortable with change, but I think this is good both short term and long term for Whistler.
Full disclosure on my part: I held senior management positions with Intrawest, and Vail Resorts before leaving to work on Sochi.
Just in case you think I made a buck on this deal... I sold my Vail Resorts stock some time ago.
Does bigger makes us better?
Back in April, when the "Renaissance" project was unveiled (by Whistler Blackcomb) Max wrote a good article questioning the proposed "Renaissance" (Pique, April 21).
He referenced Vail's "Renaissance," which has slyly turned out to be a foreshadowing of this new deal for Whistler.
Max's current article raises some honest concerns for Whistler's future (Pique, Aug.11).
Sadly, our culture is not satisfied unless things become bigger and bigger. Does bigger make us better? And for who?
I wonder if the proposal of a reduced fee for a season pass is just a ploy to help convince us that more growth is a good thing.
Get ready — Whistler may be poised to become Disney World North.
Vail North/Disney North?
We are being sold out — a little by a lot...
The recent announcement by Vail Resorts that they are buying Whistler Blackcomb Holdings should be sobering news for those of us who have lived in this beautiful community for many years.
Currently, the stakeholders (WB, Tourism Whistler, Resort Municipality of Whistler, hotel owners/operators) are breaking their arms patting themselves on the back due to record numbers of visitors this past winter and current summer. Why? Mostly the weak loonie, so don't give yourselves too much credit folks!
Have any of the stakeholders seriously considered the strained infrastructure (roads, services, employee housing to name a few)? Does the WB "Renaissance Project" address any of these issues? I doubt it, and nobody has forecast the impact on wildlife.
Now we have Vail Resorts moving in on our "Boutique Resort" (or so we thought) promising not much more than lower-priced lift tickets in the future. So how do the current stakeholders view this friendly takeover?
I can tell you what I think: WB shareholders (WOW $!); Hotels (WOW $!); RMOW (WOW $!); Tourism Whistler ("we done good" $!).
You could call this greed if you were cynical like I am... or you could call it progress if you are a current business stakeholder or proponent of unrestricted development.
I view it as the perfect example of corporate greed.
In any case, our resort will be changed forever for better or for worse.
The future growth
Hmm, I'm on the yellow line (about the purchase of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings by Vail Resorts). I see traffic going both ways.
I think or believe that Whistler can still grow — there is lots of mountain but little road. Thanks to snowmobiles and touring gear, I get all the pow one man can handle. My days in the resort are more about spending time with friends and keeping the legs in tune (training days).
I am excited for the Spearhead Huts project, (which will see the construction of three backcountry huts for touring) — real potential there, and I feel (that project) is in good hands.
The (indoor) waterpark (that is part of WB's Renaissance Project), meh. I felt the same about the Peak 2 Peak gondola, but in hindsight find it a useful tool. This could be fun! Will it be an option on my season pass?
Parking is an issue. More than a handful of days were cancelled by me this year after losing my mind looking for a spot to park — guess the early bird gets the worm! This needs to be addressed as priority No. 1 — if you want to grow you need to be able to park!
As far as skiing in Khyber's, I say go for it. That secret is already out of the bag. The days of endless pow between storms are gone — just don't pave paradise!
I think the idea of lift-serviced wild terrain is great. Ever ride The Ripper Chair in Revelstoke? Only three options: left, right or straight. The rest is chose your own adventure and we should do the same.
Maybe limit areas to expert riders. (Use) a transceiver gate and a special tag on the ever-tracking RFID pass to allow access with a green road out so punters can't complain about being stuck somewhere.
Open the trees, create exits with well defined "you're an idiot to cross this line" signage.
Traffic can be dealt with. It's really only bad between Function and village as far as locals are concerned (tourists can just kinda deal with it). It's an easy fix and there are only two answers! Nuclear powered tunnel boring machines (yes, they are real), or West Side Road are the only answers of any merit — sorry to the people that live over there but I'm sure they wouldn't mind the shorter drive to Lorimer extended through Old Mill Lane between Nita and Alpha then put in a connector to the north end of Function Junction. It's simple though it may anger a few, but it's a necessary evil if we can't dig tunnels.
While we are at it let's throw more lifts around the valley opening Sproatt, Rainbow and Cougar mountains — let's just go for it balls out ya know?
For any of it to work we need retail that's affordable and housing that's affordable — fewer Starbucks and more Green Moustaches.
This town had soul at one time and it's still here, but it is hiding under a rock. There was a time when this was just the place to be because the mountain culture was legit — it wasn't trying to be, it simply existed.
Now the steamroller is coming and we need to stay authentic be brave, bold and go where no resort town has gone before... into the future with soul.
Logging practices need revision
Stirling Angus (Letter to the Editor, Pique, Aug.11, "Forestry supports my family") conveniently ignored the statistical data I provided, which showed how raw-log exports are killing jobs (but not his), and contributes minimally to the province's economy.
Nor is there much old growth left in the Sea to Sky corridor, contrary to Mr. Angus' claim. In 2012, BC's Ministry of Forests reported that only 26 per cent of the original total productive old growth, or 3.3 million hectares, in SW Mainland and Vancouver Island remains — of which only six per cent of the original productive old growth is in parks and two per cent in old-growth management areas. (https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/old-growth-maps.php#map). Sierra Club's 2015 map clearly illustrates just how little there is left, including in parks (http://sierraclub.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/State-of-British-Columbias-Coastal-Rainforest-3.pdf).
Forest companies are not replacing the biodiverse, old-growth forests: They plant monoculture plantations, which they spray with glyphosate to kill the understory.
Nor are the trees left to grow for 250 years. The old growth is not being replaced: trees are often logged at the tender age of 60 to 80 years depending on the species.
Without healthy ecosystems, there is no clean water, or air, and no humans. Do you want to live in ever-degraded landscapes, breathe in polluted air, as our watersheds continue to be decimated?
If you care about the future of your children, please be the change you want to see in our society.
Write to our MLA (Jordan.Sturdy.MLA@leg.bc.ca), the Minister of Forests, Steve Thomson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Chief Forester (email@example.com), demanding that logging practices be drastically revised to ensure logging is sustainable, old growth is permanently protected, raw-log exports are banned and value-added jobs are created.
Ouch!! Vail buys Whistler Blackcomb and I wonder what's in it for locals in our community.
More car traffic and crowded lift lines. A 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of Vancouver Property extending all the way to Lions Bay — sending more buyers to Squamish and Whistler. Alpine properties seem to have just jumped 30 per cent over the last 18 months and likely have further to go. And this is what really gets me: a request to lift the bed count for 60 high-end townhouses and a six-star hotel to justify a water park financially. Now I'm estimating that the profit on each townhouse would be at least $1 million a unit. Wow, a $60-million gift for Whistler Blackcomb, no hold it a gift to a massive U.S. corporation — Vail (Resorts). And what do locals get — more traffic, higher property taxes on inflated values and more worker bees having to commute from Pemberton and Squamish. Seems more like the Dark Ages to me rather than the Renaissance. However, don't get depressed, next week I will give some out-of-the-box solutions to this conundrum which would favour us locals.
SLOW RIDE AFTER Joyride?
The Joyride, arguably the biggest event in mountain biking in the world is now on a Sunday, I'm not sure who made this decision but given the hellish congestion and continuous collisions in recent months is it recommended we should plan on a four or six hour drive back to Vancouver after the event?
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