The post-Olympic business reality for a small backcountry lodge living in the shadow of the $120 million Nordic facility in the Callaghan Valley is fast unravelling.
Ties have officially been severed, at least for this year, between Callaghan Country, a long-operating lodge with a cross-country trail system in the Callaghan Valley, and the operators of the Whistler Olympic Park - the Whistler 2010 Sports Legacies Society (WSL). The move signals an abrupt departure of the working relationship built up over years while Whistler prepared for the Games, a disappointing outcome for both parties.
Meanwhile, a Pique investigation has found that the WSL has received $5.6 million from the province in extra funding to cover an ongoing operating deficit.
"There are problems we need to solve financially," admitted Keith Bennett, WSL president and CEO. "The province has helped us out this year."
The $5.6 million in extra funding fills in an annual operating gap of $2 million for 2011 and 2012. A further $1.6 million is for capital investments next year. Whistler's Olympic legacy assets are worth $270 million, most of which was funded by the federal and provincial governments.
Bennett said his team is working hard to try and make the Olympic legacies sustainable. But he projects that it will take at least four to five years for the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan and the Whistler Sliding Centre to rely solely on the 2010 Games legacy trust fund, which was set up by provincial and the federal governments to manage the multi-million dollar legacies.
"We are looking at every option we have to help manage our finances and to do more for what we were set up to do which was help develop sport... and help support high performance sport."
Brad Sills, president of Callaghan Country, takes issue with that. He said the whole idea of working together was to grow the business together under the "Ski Callaghan" brand, marketed as more than 90 kilometres of groomed trails on the other side of Whistler - roughly half the trails belonged to WOP, the other to his facility.
He was dumbfounded to learn that the society would not be working with Callaghan Country this year; the spirit of cooperation, and of growing the cross country ski business together for their mutual benefit, now a thing of the past.
"That was the implicit agreement," said Sills, "that we would prosper by working together.
"We're joined at the hip. Our trail systems inter-mingle."
The two sides failed to come to an operating agreement by early August this year, prompting a decision from WLS to go their separate ways.
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