Letters to the Editor for the week of January 14th 

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Bigger, better signage needed?

I read Alison Taylor's editorial on Jan. 7 in Pique and just nodded my head — she is so right, people getting lost down the Cake Hole or Khyber or wherever just happens over and over again — some with happy endings, others a heart-breaking loss of life.

Why can't we do more to deter these events?

I know, temptation is there — nice untracked powder with no one in your way. How can you resist? And heck, it's only a "Ski Area Boundary," that just means it's not patrolled, but it will be fine otherwise, right? So wrong. And the amazing volunteers from search and rescue (WSAR) are called out at all hours of the day or night to risk their own safety to rescue or recover these individuals.  

I don't profess to have the answer, and I'm sure Whistler Blackcomb and WSAR have had countless discussions about how to deter these joy seekers from venturing into places unknown, but my logic tells me that bigger, better signage with stronger language and visuals and/or barriers at the departure points may just alert people to the real danger of venturing down there without knowing what lies ahead.

"Ski Area Boundary" signs and a rope just don't cut it in many cases.

I have been advised that there is BC Parks signage at the bottom, which directs people to Function Junction, but this is a hit-or-miss solution for a weary skier or rider, and a complete miss in the dark. Education and prevention is the key here.

A couple of years ago I was hiking on the Riverside Trail and had parked at the entrance to West Side Main. At the end of the hike, around 5 p.m., as I was walking towards my car, I heard some noise from behind and turned to see a young man on downhill skis — jacket wide open, ski pass flapping in the wind, eyes wide with wonder — asking, "Where am I?"

Well, needless to say, he had headed out alone — no phone, no water, no food — down the Cake Hole five hours earlier.

He encountered cliffs, at which point he tossed his skis down ahead of him and tumbled down after them until he finally reached West Side Main.

Luckily he was from Squamish, and had the sense to go right instead of left, and got out alive.

I was so upset and happy at the same time, I told him to get in the car and gave him a little piece of my mind as I drove him back to his car at Lot 7 where he re-united with his friends who had been searching for him. He was distraught, exhausted, dehydrated... and so grateful he made it out alive.

Visitors are here for a great experience. Let's find ways to get more out alive — or better yet, stop them from leaving the ski area in the first place.

Janet Brown

Snow Zone a hit

Dear RMOW, or whichever department is responsible for the new Snow Zone down in Whistler Olympic Plaza: BRAVO!

I've lived in town for 16 years and it is wonderful to see an activity that so many are enjoying and is completely free of charge.

I'm there all the time with my young family and (while I am there I see) there are a great number of kids whose families don't have the financial capacity to enjoy all the other snow-based activities available in the resort.

Every time we go, there is someone having their first real experience with snow, fun and speed.

The skating next door has been a favourite of ours for a few years. But now when I ask the girls what they want to do after 3 p.m. they shout back "snow zone!" And so we go, and we see all their buddies there too.

Great job — I hope it continues for years to come.

P.S. There is another great spot over at the driving range. Imagine a fat bike, bike park in the winter.  Just saying...

Jon Decaigny

Can bicycles help reduce our traffic woes?

"Thinking outside the box," "innovative," "cutting edge" — words used describing our Whistler visionary process of which we are all undeniably proud, and yet we still cannot eliminate reliance on the automobile with the horrible ensuing traffic snarls?

What are the answers to eliminate our traffic/parking woes?

As detailed in the recent newspaper articles, our congestion and lack of parking at peak times is creating havoc on our roadways and in the village.

Reducing even a component of the parking congestion and traffic will have measurable effect especially if local uptake is high. A huge number of the individuals parking and in the traffic are locals commuting to and from work.

So what are the solutions? One solution readily available is the bicycle.

Somehow in all the discussion we have forgotten about this simple potential solution in a town that is already bike-centric.

Some creativity is all that is needed. Around the world traffic planners are creating innovative solutions to bicycle transportation and yet here we lag behind.

Kudos to the forward-thinking individuals at the municipality who have in recent years ensured the Valley Trail system is functional for winter transportation. As a long-time cyclist commuting to work, my previous attempts at winter commuting have been scary and near impossible. Sharing the dark, snow-laden roads and Highway 99 with cars resulted in some terrifying moments. With reluctance I chose the car for winter, but no more.

Now with the availability of the Valley Trail, plowed or snow-compacted enough to walk or cycle, it is feasible (except for Emerald residents) to commute to the village for play and work. I have personally witnessed a huge number of individuals walking and some cycling — both on fat-tire bikes and regular mountain bikes with studded tires — this winter on the valley trails.

By all impressions it appears to be an increasingly popular alternative transportation method. There seems to be a buzz in the community about cycling to the ski hill for a day on the slopes, as the parking and traffic issues become more unpleasant.

Yet where is the end-of-trip facility promised with the new library? And where in a town plagued by bike thefts is a secure locking system for bicycles to ensure commuters have a ride home at the end of the day?

If the community solves those two basic difficulties that face all bicycle commuters I envision many more locals availing themselves of the easiest form of transportation in our relatively small community. Make it safe, convenient and cheap and it will be used.

If Whistler Blackcomb wishes to have increased parking availability for tourists, then a suggestion is to have a "pay-for-use" style of bicycle theft proof racks (as in Europe and Japan) available for a small fee at the base of the mountains. I would gladly pay to ensure my bike is still there when I return.

Fat-tire bikes are the new buzz in cycling circles. These bikes with huge tires with an inflation of PSI under 10 (most five to six) leave little imprint on the snow and travel with ease in compacted snow. They are not just a toy, but also a great commuter and sport option and burgeoning in popularity.

Christmas brought me a new toy — a flashy orange new buddy named Big Ed. My Scott fat-tire bike has opened my view of the year-round riding potential in Whistler.

For many years I have driven countless hours to Squamish to train in winter for mountain bike racing. With my new fat-tire bike, a new world of fun exists on my backyard trails. It's been a revelation for me as a long-time local and cyclist that it doesn't take much to make our existing single-track bike trails convenient and accessible for winter cycling.

Many of our current single-track trails are currently well compacted by dog walkers and snowshoes and are completely rideable by fat-tire bikes.

Everywhere I go my bike attracts a lot of attention and questions, the balloon-style huge tires and its neon orange paint job gives it a striking appearance in contrast to the snowy winter scene. The incongruity of bikes in snow piques interest and a desire to give it a try. Today I encountered three cyclists who had rented fat-tire bikes from a village shop and were grinning ear to ear. The goofiness of the hugely big tires brings out the kid in everyone and it's a great vibe.  

Many other mountain communities worldwide are developing tourism strategies to attract this new market and as the bike mecca of Canada we should look to our success in other bike-related market innovations. It has the additional potential to attract a whole new group of consumers to Whistler with the ensuing spin-off sales in a new category of bike and gear.

Should, however, the fat-tire bikes be allowed on the current cross-country ski trails?

As a longtime avid skate-skier both at Lost Lake and Whistler Olympic Park I offer an alternative solution. I personally don't agree that the mix of bike and skier is ideal on the current double track XC trail network.

Riding double track in winter is as boring as in summer.

Alternatively I would suggest preparing the existing single-track mountain bike trails in Lost Lake, or on Whistler Blackcomb, for winter fat-tire bike use, i.e. snowmobile compaction of trails within the current single-track trail network. Trails such as Tin Pants, Molly Hogan, Donkey Puncher would in my estimation work very well, and eliminate the concerns expressed by the cross-country ski advocates and the municipality in the recent newspaper articles.

It can create a new source of revenue for the trail system and local bike shops. It gives the locals an alternative commute/exercise option and removes the need to fine and ticket cyclists who may wander onto trails inadvertently. Correct signage and self-policing will ensure it works. Tourism offerings to attract a wide range of users is a smart business strategy, i.e. a win-win for all, especially in mixed snow years.

At the Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) there appears to be discussion of how best to meet the needs of the new fat-tire bike users and I would similarly suggest a new single-track trail devised specifically for cyclists. Fat-tire bikers are seeking the rugged mountain experience and the current offerings at WOP don't generate much interest in the bike community. Single-track availability will bring them back for more. Innovation will be a key component in capturing this new culture. Will Whistler Blackcomb rise to the challenge as well?

We are capable of becoming as cutting edge in winter cycling as we have been in summer.

It takes our special Whistler magic to make it come together and think outside the box — what are we waiting for?

Dr. Cathryn Zeglinski

Dazzling displays

My husband and I have owned a home in Whistler for five years now and love each and every season in the stunning setting of the gorgeous mountains and village.

This Christmas was a particular beauty with the fabulous amount of snow Whistler received; however, I wanted to take a moment to exceptionally commend whoever was responsible for putting up the Christmas lights this year.

Every year the light displays have been beautiful, but this year absolutely took the cake! The lights were obviously placed on every single branch and bough to absolute perfection!

There also seemed to be so many more. Truly beautiful!

Thank you so much for such a wondrous display!

Sylvia and Peter Hart

don't penalize drivers

I would like to respond to the Dec. 24 letter in Pique from Dr. Tom DeMarco, in which he suggests implementing Highway 99 tolls and paid parking everywhere in Whistler as a means to reduce carbon emissions.

I think we can all agree that environmental sustainability is a goal in Whistler and in many places in the world today.

In his letter, Dr. DeMarco expresses surprise that car usage has not declined even with the recent injuries and deaths on the highway.

He concludes that driving remains too cheap and convenient to give up, thus he offers financial penalties (tolls and paid parking everywhere) as a solution, as well as free transit in the entire valley (I assume he means buses). He uses Japan and Europe as examples of places where mass transit is the dominant mode of transportation.

The fact is that people do prefer to use cars in general because of convenience, practicality and efficiency. Cars are not cheaper than using mass transit, because they require purchasing, maintenance and insurance.

It is not practical, especially for families with babies, young children, elderly and injured people, to stand out in the cold waiting for buses in the winter, especially if they have equipment, groceries, pets, garbage, etc. that they are also transporting, even if the buses are free.

The examples of Japan and Europe cannot be used for Whistler because both of those places are highly populated, which means buses and trains usually arrive frequently (every five to 10 minutes).

Buses in Whistler often come every 30 minutes or so, especially if a connection is needed. Thus the climate and low population are challenges in terms of mass transit usage.

My personal example is that I have wanted to take a bus instead of my car, but dogs are not allowed on buses, so in the summer I ride my bike and put my dog in a basket, and in the winter I drive my car. To bring my household garbage to the recycling dump, I definitely need a car and I would be very irritated if I had to pay for parking at the recycling depot!

Highway tolls and paid parking everywhere would likely deter all but the wealthiest visitors and locals from staying in Whistler, and would definitely add to the financial pressure already experienced by many people and families in the community (not to mention the feeling of being nickel-and-dimed to death).

One alternative possible solution I can suggest within the valley is free, or affordable, door-to-door electric taxi or minivan service. That would alleviate some of the carbon emissions without the impracticalities of mass transit.

If the service were pet friendly, it would be even more user-friendly. Until environment-friendly cars become the norm for society, it is unfair to penalize a majority of people with no convenient transportation alternatives.

Lisa Woo

doc screening well attended

A big thank you is in order for Gary Charbonneau who produced the documentary Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered and some local recognition too for Hayley Ingman, the organizer and host of Saturday's library event. Their work to shed light on the protection of our environment, oceans and wildlife is admirable and an inspiration to the local community.

Vancouver Aquarium Uncovered is the next Blackfish, which highlighted what producers saw as the dark truth of Sea World's practices and alleged poor treatment of cetaceans, causing a global public outcry. I personally found it shocking that the Vancouver Aquarium is so closely associated with Sea World.

The aquarium may hold childhood memories for some locals who grew up in the area and seem like a fun family day out. However, I believe Whistler residents are mainly animal lovers who would like to believe that their money is contributing to worthy conservation.

There was a good turnout of attendees at the event and I hope that more locals will be able to tune into the documentary once Charbonneau makes it available. Let's stand up for what's right as a community and give helpless intelligent mammals a voice as they are unable to do so themselves.

Natasha Mauger

Snowplowing bare roads

It was Saturday, Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. when a snowplow started scraping the bare road at the intersection of Valley Drive and Mountainview Drive.

Sparks were flying and we wondered why on earth a municipal plow was plowing a bare road on a weekend after hours?

Oh, yeah, overtime pay of course!

It had not been snowing for days and there was no snow in the forecast.

So I am wondering who makes those decisions? I am a taxpayer after all.

Erna Kaltbrunner

The perfect ingredients to our Whistler community

Take a selection of locally sourced, organic ingredients and spread with love over series of the perfect bases. Add a gigantic and beautiful dome of heat as a centrepiece of the room.

Sift in a healthy dose of phenomenal and friendly staff who keep smiling and making magic happen, despite the chaos.

Pour in a steady stream of locals and visitors who have come to experience Creekbread on a fundraising night, where a portion of their pizza goes to a local fundraising group. Relax, mix and mingle.

Proceeds from the last week of the 2015 went towards local and international projects supported by the Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium.

On behalf of the Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium we extend a huge thank you to the team at Creekbread for their ongoing support of Rotary and of our amazing community in Whistler!

Shannon Kirkwood
The Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium


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