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Hike for Health—and to help the Whistler Health Care Centre

The Whistler Health Care Foundation’s inaugural spring fundraiser is set for June 19
The Whistler Health Care Foundation’s inaugural Hike for Health is set to take place on Father’s Day, on Sunday, June 19

Even though the alpine is still covered in snow, hiking season is approaching—fast. 

If you’re looking for a way to ease back into uphill travel as the weather warms up, the Whistler Health Care Foundation’s (WHCF) upcoming fundraiser is giving locals a chance to do exactly that, all while giving back to the Whistler Health Care Centre (WHCC) and the heroes who keep it running. 

The WHCF’s inaugural Hike for Health is set to take place on Father’s Day, on Sunday, June 19. Participants will meet at the base of Blackcomb Gondola before setting off along Blackcomb’s ascent trails. Originally, the intent was to offer hikers the choice between the Little Burn, Big Burn and Heartburn trails, but with snow still covering much of the terrain above mid-station, it’s looking increasingly like participants will make the trip halfway up the mountain, before hopping into a gondola (or turning around) to head back to the valley bottom. Anyone unable to hike is welcome to participate by riding the gondola in both directions.

“Health care in Whistler affects every single one of us in the community, and so the fact that there’s a fundraiser that’s affordable and fun and makes a big difference, I think is a great way to include everybody,” said Dr. Fern von der Porten, an emergency physician and WHCC medical director.

Entry fees—$35 for a single hiker ticket, or $100 for a family of four (all participants must be from the same household, with a maximum of two adults)—include a day pass for the Blackcomb Gondola, as well as a $10 food voucher from Whistler Blackcomb, plus “the opportunity to do the hike with lots of cheerleading and aid stations and surprises” along the way, said Jen Black, vice chair of the WHCF’s board of directors.

With about 50 of the 200 available tickets already spoken for, Black expects the event to be a sold-out success. Though the WHCF has already surpassed the $50,000 fundraising goal it set through sponsorships, “there’s no cap on what we’d like to raise because there’s always needs at the health-care centre,” said Black. Other ways to support the fundraiser are with a donation, by signing up to volunteer, or by purchasing a pair of Hike for Health-branded socks.

Whistler Blackcomb is generously supporting the event—with that support coming in the form of a $20,000 Epic Promise grant—alongside the Touchet family, among others. 

The event is more than two years in the making, said Black, after the idea for Hike for Health was broached in December 2019. The community event was originally intended to help raise funds for the WHCC’s new trauma room. 

“We were starting to get the ball rolling when COVID hit, and health care went to the top of everyone’s agenda,” she explained. “We opened the campaign for the trauma room, and it was the fastest campaign we’ve ever had for fundraising, so we were able to get all the funds into the trauma room well before we expected to.” 

The WHCF is responsible for funding the $1.5-million renovation to the WHCC’s trauma room, unveiled earlier this year. 

As it became increasingly possible to host events safely, the WHFC turned its sights back to the fundraising idea with a new focus in mind. The board is re-centring its efforts to instead fund medical equipment upgrades for the new trauma room and WHCC, “so that we can continue to have this amazing emergency facility, and as an opportunity to acknowledge all of the health-care workers who’ve helped us through this crazy time,” said Black. “So it’s sort of a party to honour them, as well.” 

On the cusp of what is expected to be a busy bike park and tourist season, “Working with modern technology enables us to provide the best care,” said von der Porten. 

“Advances in medicine are happening all the time, and what we want to do as a health-care providing team is give the best possible care that’s available, and often that does mean buying equipment that is outside of the health authority budget,” she said. “And that’s something that the Whistler Health Care Foundation has allowed us to do.” 

British Columbia is currently in the midst of a continuing health-care crisis, von der Porten pointed out, with a health-care system that was already stretched thin before the COVID-19 pandemic placed major burdens not only on health-care workers, but on the provincial budget. 

Those stressors came in addition to the ongoing family doctor shortage, she added.

“There’s many layers of challenges in the health-care system right now, and the one thing that’s really special for us in Whistler is that we have such strong [fundraising],” said von der Porten. “[That] can identify the gaps and help to fill them in so that we are not just in a queue for new equipment, and that we can actually be proactive and achieve our goals.”

Find more info and register for the event at