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Population stats point to steady growth for Whistler over next two decades

B.C. added 62,114 new residents in the third quarter of 2023
With Whistler projected to grow to a permanent population of more than 20,000 by 2046, logistics around things like traffic congestion will require a closer look from officials at all levels.

The latest quarterly population estimates dropped at the end of January, with the population of British Columbia estimated at about 5,581,127 as of Oct. 1, 2023—an increase of 62,114 people over the previous quarter.

That growth came almost entirely from international sources—the net change in B.C.’s population was thanks to an additional 66,190 international arrivals, offset by a net loss of 4,634 people to other Canadian provinces.

The remainder—558—came naturally (10,897 babies were born in B.C. between July and October, while 10,339 people died).

For the communities of the Sea to Sky corridor, population estimates and forecasts point to sustained growth heading into the next few decades.

Whistler’s population projections out to 2046 show the community growing to more than 20,000, or roughly the population of Squamish in 2016.

Mayor Jack Crompton said the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is working to prepare for the steady growth on the horizon.

“We’ve taken on a number of planning processes that are inputs to that work—the Whistler Sessions [and] the Balance Model are providing us insight into exactly what our future could look like and how we should respond,” he said.

“Our goal is to be as agile as we possibly can as we respond to our community’s changing face.”

But what does that look like? Well, similar to what’s already happening: Continued investments in resident worker housing through the Whistler Housing Authority, advocacy on developing local and regional transit, and a climate focus.

As of 2023, Whistler had an estimated population of 13,945. Its projected population of 20,380 by 2046 is an increase of more than 46 per cent. That puts it slightly ahead of B.C.’s projected growth rate of almost 42 per cent, to 7.9 million by 2046.

Crompton said growth is top of mind for everyone.

“We need to prepare for it whether or not we are ready for it. Whistler is a diverse community, so some of us resist that growth and I think some of us are eager for it,” he said.

“I moved here because I love so much about Whistler being a small town in the mountains—my hope is that we hang on to some of what has made Whistler so great as the province continues to grow.”

Whistler has the unique distinction of hosting a population significantly larger than its resident base on any given day due to its nature as a resort community, with that population estimated to average out at 42,000 through the year.

Crompton said he expects that number to go up with the resident population.

“The infrastructure that exists has been built to serve residents and tourists, and as our resident population grows we’d expect there to be some growth in tourism. We’ll need to continue to plan to deliver infrastructure and services that address the needs of both groups … The relationship between visitors and residents and community comfort with visitation is critically important to getting this right.”

Further afield in the corridor, Squamish will remain the largest community of the Sea to Sky for the foreseeable future. In 2023, the community had an estimated population of 24,507 people, and by 2046 is forecast to have a population of 37,595—an increase of 53 per cent.

Meanwhile, Pemberton is expected to see the most significant growth, percentage-wise, going from 3,661 in 2023 to 6,250 in 2046—an increase of almost 71 per cent over 23 years.