There are few words to describe how the race organizing committee and board of directors feel following the inaugural running of The North Face Whistler Half Marathon. Initial feedback from runners was that the race was amazing and one of the best that some had ever done! Needless to say, those are words to be very proud of and humbled by; but the reasons for those comments stem from something very special. A community.
Mother Nature showed her best side on Saturday morning when 725 runners set out from Whistler Olympic Plaza to run the 21.1km route through five of Whistler's neighbourhoods following a track made up of municipal roadways and our amazing Valley Trail system. But it wasn't just that the sun was shining in Whistler, it was the residents, visitors, businesses and even the wildlife that shone that morning. As runners made their way through Whistler Cay, Blueberrry, Alta Vista, White Gold and Spruce Grove, they were encouraged by many members of our community to deliver their very best - and their best they did. The pack was led by the blistering pace of Jim Finlayson from Victoria, B.C. with a time of just over 1 hour, 9 minutes - but Jim was not the only race champion that day - everyone who crossed the finish line won their own race in this new event!
Thank you to all the race participants for choosing to run right here in Whistler - we know that you have so many races to choose from in the year - we are flattered that you chose our event. We look forward to seeing you all again. Thank you to all the businesses that jumped on the idea of holding a half marathon here in Whistler, particularly those who believed in this from when it was just an idea a few years ago. A huge thanks to the community for getting out there and cheering on the athletes. From the ladies in the bathrobes and curlers, to the people who set up the balloon arch, to those of you with music playing, or sitting in your lawn chairs as the runners went by - each of you added so much to the experience for the runners - you all were noticed and appreciated by the athletes.
And last but not least to the folks at the heart of the event: our team. To the race weekend volunteers who gave up precious sunny hours to be a part of our event - you were an enormous part of what made this such a great experience from start to finish - THANK YOU - events like this don't happen without you.
To our team of race ambassadors who helped steer the ship six months out - you helped lay the foundation for the event for this year and years ahead. Thank you.
To our trainers who inspired so many new runners and seasoned athletes alike - Christine, John, and Melissa - your contributions were above and beyond.
To our organizing committee: Jack, Carolyn, Jackie, Kim, Ondrea, Carlee, Dan, Mark, Hilary and Karen - words cannot describe your commitment to making this a world-class event in a world-class town.
Amazing things happen here in Whistler and we look forward to repeating the amazing on June 2, 2012 when The North Face Whistler Half Marathon returns for its second annual running. We also look forward to continuing our efforts to raise money and awareness in support of a cure for Inflammatory Bowel Disease through the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada.
Dave (race director) and Wendy Clark
Tourism Whistler sets record straight
I would like to respond to the letter printed in last week's newspaper, Time to Rethink WRA , from Mr. Wally Raepple ( Pique, June 2, 2011).
First and foremost, I would like to say, on behalf of the Whistler Resort Association (dba Tourism Whistler) and our Board of Directors, we are extremely empathetic with Mr. Raepple's desire to reduce costs in these tough economic times, as high costs with diminishing returns do not provide for a sustainable business model!
As a not-for-profit, member organization, Tourism Whistler is constantly looking at ways to re-invent ourselves, to reduce our costs and to maximize our investments for the benefit of all of our members.
That said, I do need to correct a number of inaccuracies and/or misrepresentations stated by Mr. Raepple.
· Mr. Raepple referenced more than 100 FTE (full-time equivalent) staff members employed by Tourism Whistler. In fact, Tourism Whistler employs 48 full-time equivalents (including research, advertising, social media, database marketing, web, media relations, conference sales, leisure sales, event marketing and administration).
· We employ an additional 23 FTEs to oversee the independent, self-funded business units of the Whistler Visitor Centre (3), Whistler Golf Club (6), Whistler Conference Centre (6) and Whistler.com Central Reservations (8) - managed and operated by Tourism Whistler, but not funded by Tourism Whistler, nor by any member assessment fees.
· Any additional staff positions in these four operation centres are seasonal, variable or contract as the business warrants.
Budget vs. Revenues:
· Mr. Raepple referred to Tourism Whistler's "budget" being $19 million. In fact, the organization's tourism bureau budget in 2010 was $10.5 million, with 77 per cent of funds coming from member assessments and the remainder coming from hotel tax, sponsorships and net income from operations. (An important note: Tourism Whistler receives $8 million in member assessments for marketing and sales, but were able to invest $8.6 million into marketing and sales - further leveraging our members' fees and maximizing our collective investment.)
· Revenues from the self-contained operating centres of the Whistler Visitor Centre, Whistler Conference Centre, Whistler Golf Club and Whistler Central Reservations must be offset with their corresponding expenses (which Mr. Raepple failed to note), leaving a small net income in good years (re-invested back into marketing and sales for the benefit of our members), or in this particularly challenging year, breaking even.
· Additional revenues within the $19 million that Mr. Raepple referenced included one-time-only 2010 grants:
•A $3 million pre-payment for the rental of the conference centre in 2010, paid for by VANOC and accrued in 2003, which paid for Whistler Conference Centre upgrades, and 50 per cent of the purchase of Whistler.com, and;
•Funding from the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourism British Columbia, which supported our very successful Whistler Media House, providing broadcast, digital and print facilities and support for 1,200 media during the Games.
While Mr. Raepple has quoted figures from our audited annual financial statements, he is missing the analysis and context required to accurately interpret them. So no, Tourism Whistler does not have the luxury of a $19 million budget at its disposal, nor 100 FTEs to run the tourism bureau. In fact, according to DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International, an association of world-wide tourism bureaus), Tourism Whistler's administrative costs of 20 per cent are well below industry standards.
All of this is not to say that we are not extremely sensitive to the challenging environment facing tourism as a whole and Whistler specifically. In fact, to ensure we maximize our investment into marketing and sales, Tourism Whistler has had to make some tough, but important, decisions the past two years: streamlining all operational costs, instituting salary freezes, laying off 10 per cent of our staff and merging existing staff positions. As well, Tourism Whistler has had, and will continue to have, ongoing discussions with our board regarding the relevancy and currency of our organization and the appropriateness of the various operating centres which we oversee.
Mr. Raepple nevertheless questions whether Tourism Whistler is still necessary, based on our Resort's high awareness levels in the marketplace. Sadly, despite the recent hosting of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, in which Whistler garnered world-wide exposure and saw a growth in awareness levels of between 12 and 25 points in some of our key target markets, Whistler's world-wide awareness levels are still less than half those of Vancouver. That said, Mr. Raepple raises an excellent point with regards to change, and ensuring that we continue to evaluate our model and change with the times.
Major changes Tourism Whistler has undertaken the past couple of years include shifts from traditional to social media, from brochures to digital content, from event production to event attraction and marketing support. With the challenges of weak U.S. and U.K. economies and exchange rates, we have invested more resources into opening up new markets such as China, India and Brazil; and into attracting more large meetings and incentive groups from North American and overseas markets. While we will not see immediate returns from our new investments, we must look to the long-term, as these efforts pay off over the next three to five years.
Whistler is an amazing destination, blessed with stunning natural assets and world-class infrastructure. We have experienced the highs of hosting the Winter Games, and the lows of the worst economic crisis in recent history. We are a community made up of bright and talented individuals, who were attracted to Whistler for the love of the mountains. Moving forward, we need to work together, focus our energies, collaborate on solutions and align our efforts. Only then will we succeed.
I will be hosting a number of upcoming Listening Sessions this month. I welcome those interested in participating to please contact our Senior Manager of Membership and Visitor Services, Chris Fudge at firstname.lastname@example.org . And Mr. Raepple, I would be pleased to discuss the above with you further, and any additional concerns you may have.
President and CEO Tourism Whistler
( Editor's note: Every effort is made to fact check letters to the editor. Pique regrets that Mr. Raepple's letter was published without a note clarifying some of the facts.)
What Public Transport?
Five times in the last seven days. That's how many times I have been sitting in a bus stop waiting for a bus that didn't show. I'm sick to death of paying for a service that is simply just not there.
The bus pass went up $10 a month, then a month later the (number) of buses (was reduced). It wouldn't be so bad if the buses that were scheduled actually showed up.
On top of that the next bus that comes is usually full because of the backlog of passengers. It won't work out cheaper to buy a car, because then I have to pay for a parking pass on top of insurance. Where is the affordable/reliable option for the young adult?
Patient long enough
Two and a half weeks after the cease and desist order, "upstanding business operator" Frank Silveri is still producing smoke and stench into our beautiful neighborhood.
Are the mayor and council at all bothered by Mr. Silveri thumbing his nose at their request? I have asked that bylaw officers visit the plant and demand it stop production. My neighbours and I had to keep our windows closed and children inside on Monday (May 30) because the stench was so terrible.
The people of Cheakamus Crossing have been patient long enough! As a significant chunk of the Whistler voting population, my neighbours and I will definitely be at the polls in the fall making our voices heard in the next municipal election!
Visitors should take a hike
In last week's opening remarks, Tourism's "New Normal," you touched on how to market Whistler to the new economies such as China, India and Brazil. No doubt, the largest sector in the recreational field where people from those new economies will be spending their money will be in hiking. In fact, they are already in very significant numbers hiking in the mountains of Europe. Will we be ready in Whistler for large groups to hike our trails?
I think we are already way behind other resort communities in that sector. Outside of Whistler and Blackcomb we have totally ignored all our existing hiking trails to the alpine areas around us. We have built many trails around the lower parts of our valley recently, but that is not what will attract hikers to come here. The alpine areas are our most valuable assets around Whistler. BC Parks have barely kept up essential maintenance and have not built any new trails in recent years.
In all of the remaining areas around Whistler, we have totally neglected even the most basic maintenance and our access to trail heads and our hiking trails to the alpine areas are falling apart and growing in.
The demographics are changing, too. People are getting older and older people want better trails to hike on, but they still want to go up into the alpine areas. Families with children want better trails to our alpine areas. Whistler and Blackcomb trails are great, but already they are getting crowded. Hikers who come here for more than a few daysf are looking for variety. There are incredible beautiful areas around this place that could easily be accessed by hiking if we had any trails leading to them.
We used to have reasonable access via the microwave road to the Black Tusk area, reasonable access to the Singing Pass trail via the old trailhead, access to Jane Lakes. These are just a few examples of where we have lost access instead of improving it. We talk a lot about sustainability; is there a more sustainable recreational activity than hiking?
Communities like Pemberton, Squamish, Chilliwack and Hope have come together to maintain trails and in some cases to build significant new trails. I believe we need to do something here, soon. If you are interested in improving hiking trails around Whistler, you may contact email@example.com
Bring in the big screens please
I am disappointed by council's decision not to put up one or two big screens in the village as the Canucks look to make history by bringing home the cup to Canada and Vancouver.
I will admit I am a passionate (Toronto Maple) Leafs fan... I don't want to admit I am on the bandwagon. I am on Canada's Bandwagon. I call the Canucks "Team Canada."
Just look at the crowds in Vancouver for the games. It brings back the memories of the Olympics and this is what this town needs right now: to bring the community together for the passion of a national sport.
Why does it have to cost $40,000 as well? Oh wait; you can get that money from the pay parking revenue in the last year. Anyway, put up the screens and the people will come and support business in the village. I will.
The end of AWARE?
It was with great satisfaction that I read of the impending end of AWARE. As a staunch environmentalist for the past 40 years it is very reassuring that AWARE's advocacy is no longer needed.
This must mean that all our rivers and lakes are pollution-free and overflowing with fish instead of chemicals; the air must be pollution free and full of birds instead of greenhouse gases; our forests must be in full vigor with all the clearcuts replanted and full of undisturbed wildlife; all the stores in the village must be following a closed door but open for business policy to keep heat/air conditioning in; snowmobiling companies must have changed plans to use logged areas in Brandywine for snowmobilers; VANOC must have returned and replanted all the trees they cut down to create parking lots for the Olympics in the lower Callaghan; the people who inadvertently dumped their hot water tank, mattress, chairs, sofa, bath tub, shower surround, and surplus stone on the Callaghan FSR must have cleaned it up; the determined ATV-ers and dirt bikers who had been forging a route into Brandywine Meadows must now be born again hikers; all those SUVs in the village and on the highway must get 50 miles-per-gallon and have more than one occupant; the security personnel that rented our home during the Olympics and used 24 rolls of paper towels in 31 days must have learned that a reusable cloth works just as well; Whistler Blackcomb must have bought a dimmer switch for the Tube Park; the $100 million Sliding Centre must be being recycled into Tesla electric cars; the B.C. Liberals must have reversed their approval to allow the Prosperity Mine to use Fish Lake as a tailings pond; Stephen Harper must have gone green and made David Suzuki environment minister; the Zen Lands must have been preserved in perpetuity; the hydrogen fuel cell buses must have been sent back and the wetlands restored; businesses must have removed the propane patio heaters from every patio and balcony; Whistler must be garbage free and you can now recycle 100 per cent of your waste; climate change must have been reversed and our grandchildren will now be able to ski to the valley in their lifetime...
That would truly be a good situation and in that situation AWARE really would be redundant. However, I am jolted back to reality as the sound of a revving engine from an ATV pierces the air. Instantly I am reminded just how gluttonous we are in the consumption of the world's natural resources, and as I look out of my window I see two ATVs, a dirt bike, three trailers, a camper, two aluminum boats, an outboard motor, six or seven 20-litre gas cans and a Ford F350. Unfortunately, AWARE's work is not done. There are many unresolved issues to deal with. There will be new issues. The question, "Is this the end of AWARE?" is being raised not because the job is done but because we are being lulled into complacency about the environment.
The most pressing issue in Whistler, and the world, is climate change. The reality is climate change may end Whistler as a ski resort within my children's lifetime. We are being told we need to lower our GHG emissions to a level 20 per cent below 1993 levels. Take a good look around, a good hard look - do you know anyone whose GHG emissions are 20 per cent lower than they were in 1993?
We are gluttonous consumers of the world's natural resources, particularly oil. We need swift change to our habits now. The real question is, how much of the environment are you willing to compromise in order to preserve your lifestyle and how much of your lifestyle are you willing to compromise in order to preserve the environment? To be blunt, if you are not part of the solution then you are the problem. AWARE is part of the solution. Even if you have never heard of AWARE, CPAWS, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the Suzuki Foundation, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, or any other environmental group, you have benefitted from their activities. Without them we would still have the whale hunt, massive clear cuts and logging in the Stein Valley and the Upper Elaho.
We wouldn't have the LRMP, the Emerald Forest, recycling, composting or even a Garibaldi Park. Ted Battiston and Sara Jennings are two people I know who ride their bikes year round in Whistler.
To do that it takes creativity, determination and ingenuity, three things that brought many of us here in the first place and then allowed us to stay. These three things will enable us to lead the way by setting an example for the rest of the world on climate change and other environmental issues.
The need for AWARE has never been greater. You have the opportunity to become involved and to make a difference or you can be indifferent and watch as Global Warming and environmental degradation continue. AWARE will survive, you can be part of the solution or you can be left out. The choice is yours.
Heads-up for Whistler
Thanks to Andrew Mitchell for his column, "Put a lid on it" ( Pique June 2,2011). Since moving to Whistler eight weeks ago from New Zealand I can't believe how many people in this town believe they don't need to wear helmets while biking, especially with the nature of this adventure town and the size of the trucks people drive.
Those of you who choose not to wear a helmet and then get tangled up with the likes of a truck will not win. As an occupational therapist who has worked with both adults and children with head injuries in NZ as a direct result of not wearing helmets, I would not wish this injury, post-injury rehabilitation or future for anyone (not to mention the costs). Unfortunately your choice not to wear a helmet does not only affect you, should something happen to you. It is such a small cost for your safety and, as Andrew pointed out, it's the law. Maybe the RMCP should be cracking down.
Family Fun Raises Funds and Food
The second Annual Hunger Awareness Family Dinner Night was a huge success as over 100 people joined Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) for a large family dinner at the Spruce Grove Clubhouse. One hundred and sixty pounds of food and $333 was donated to the Whistler Food Bank by families who came out to enjoy burgers, burritos, salmon, salads and drinks. We would like to thank all the families that came out and donated.
The family dinner takes a lot of work and donated product to make it a success and we would like to thank all the individuals and businesses that contributed. Brad Montieth, Sarah Colpitts, Taylor Mitchell, Behice Jessel, Megan Hewitt, Ed Zinkevich and the Lion's Club Crew all volunteered their time to help the night of the family dinner, and Chris Stolberg was a champion griller keeping all the hotdogs and hamburgers coming.
Nesters market donated all the hotdogs, hamburgers and condiments for the evening, Creekbread donated some lovely salads, the Friday Lunch Gang from Whistler Secondary donated yummy burritos, Whistler Cooks Catering donated salad dressing and dishes, while Whistler McDonald's donated juice and Starbucks donated coffee. We would also like to thank the RMOW Youth Centre for donating the use of a large barbeque and The Adventure Group for donating a raffle prize of Wild Play Monkido for four that helped us raise additional funds.
The Kraft Hunger Challenge is running until June 10th, where all financial donations will be matched by Kraft. To make a contribution you can pay online at www.mywcss.org/food-bank and press on the link to donate at the bottom of the page. Alternatively cash and cheques can be dropped off at our office location in Spruce Grove Park until 4pm on Friday in time for it to get doubled.
WCSS Food Bank Coordinator
As concerned taxpayers of the RMOW we have followed, with interest, the continuing saga between Whistler Aggregates Ltd. (Alpine Paving) and Council. The notes from the Special Council Meeting of Thursday May 26, 2011 have finally prompted us to question the day-to-day business practices of this municipal council, its motives and its significant disregard for taxpayer's money, both presently and in the future. How is it that, after a public tender has been called, opened in public and finally recommended for acceptance by the qualified RMOW staff, it can be withdrawn and retendered? Is Council concerned that such a tender may be awarded, at a cost significantly greater than may otherwise be incurred, to another vendor? If so, doesn't this action by Council contravene the authority and responsibility of qualified RMOW staff that are hired to make such recommendations to Council?
Further, what will be the condition of the asphalt used? Have you considered the fact that there may be even greater costs if the retendered vendor's asphalt does not meet the required engineering standards, as the asphalt will have to travel a greater distance to be used? Meanwhile, we as taxpayers - the merchants and residents of Whistler and our visitors - are left with poor road conditions. Should we the taxpayers have to incur additional costs in order to have asphalt hauled from Squamish or North Vancouver?
This may not impact Council or the Cheakamus Crossing but it will impact individuals paying the bill themselves.
Is it the opinion of municipal staff that this is the correct solution in order to avoid doing business with a company that has been conducting legitimate business in Whistler for more than 20 years? It is my understanding that Alpine Paving is operating within their legal right, the current RMOW Zoning Bylaws and in conjunction with the business license provided to them from the RMOW for more than 20 years. In researching and reviewing what has been published on this issue, it appears that Alpine Paving has been amiable in trying to reach a mutually beneficial solution with the RMOW. Examples of this effort include the purchase of state of the art processing equipment to reduce the plant's environmental impact, organized operating hours at the facility to avoid disturbing their surroundings, upgrades and re-routing of access to the facility and the conversion of their power source from diesel to electricity. To our knowledge the RMOW has performed numerous studies, undergone many assessments and then agreed to move the plant to its new location. Ambient air quality monitoring is currently recording data in the Cheakamus Crossing, the results of which indicate that the air quality in this area is considered excellent.
The ambient air quality at Cheakamus Crossing is significantly above provincial standards and the results rival some of the most rural areas of the province. Shouldn't the use of taxpayer funds to gather such evidence be considered by council in their decision-making?
Mr. Milner, as quoted in the Pique , said he "always felt that you have to be careful about who you do business with." Has Alpine Paving, for the past 20 plus years, always been an unacceptable service provider to the RMOW? Just because an adjacent property was recently developed on an ex-industrial site and landfill, Mr. Silveri and Alpine Paving are no longer considered upstanding citizens.
Shouldn't Council be responsible to all the taxpayers in the RMOW and avoid misrepresenting some of its longest-standing patrons? As a result of this saga we will be responsible for significant legal representation as the municipality pursues its position regarding the cease and desist order. In addition, all other legal matters resulting from this issue represent a significant financial risk to all taxpayers of the RMOW, as we bear the burden of funding this coming legal battle.
In closing, after giving thought to the available information we are troubled and confused as to why all taxpayers in the RMOW are now in such a high risk position. We are concerned that as a result of this seemingly personal "witch-hunt" we are not only going to pay more for road maintenance, and responsible for the expenditure of what could be a significant amount of public funds.
Re-evaluate pay parking
At what point does the RMOW step back and re-evaluate the pay parking for what it actually is?
It's a ridiculously misguided money-grab. Since day one of pay parking going into effect we have been fed numbers to try and prove to us that it has been a success.
The numbers tell us that pay parking, as a whole has been a positive for the village. However, common sense, open eyes and a little logic are all it takes to realize that it's the opposite. To those of us who were here prior to last winter it's not hard to remember a time when, on any given day, the day lots were full.
I'm not talking about just Lots 4 and 5, either. I mean all of them!
As a result of people actually using these lots it was not hard to notice a rather drastic difference in the number of people throughout the Village Stroll compared to what we see now.
As mentioned by many people in last week's letters section, it is quite obvious to anyone living here that the pay parking income is mainly coming from the meters, and not the parking lots themselves as we are being led to believe.
How the incredibly negative effects of pay parking were overlooked and continue to be overlooked is beyond me.
As a person employed within the hotel industry, it has become an embarrassment to try to explain and somehow justify to visitors the fee on its own, let alone the actual dollar figure attached to it.
To think that $13.50 a day does not serve as a deterrent to those thinking about coming for only a day or two is very closed-minded. On its own, $13.50 isn't that significant. Yet if you begin to factor in the cost of lift tickets, food, gas to get here, lodging while here, rentals for many and then top all that off with a pay parking charge for every day and every night of the visit then it starts to become a real issue.
It has been hailed time and time again as an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of our town. Yet monthly passes are non-transferrable, meaning no sharing car-pools, proving once again that reducing our carbon footprint has nothing to do with it.
As someone who has lived in the Creekside area for a number of years it is also very easy to see how pay parking in the village has changed the lives of many living in that area.
Prior to pay parking the Creekside Gondola was the "locals' gondola."
Sure, there were plenty of tourists there on any given day, but given the location and where it dropped you at the top it was rather empty compared to the Whistler Village Gondola. Now it's common to find the lift line at Creekside Gondola backed up to the bridge.
It's not an amazing new zone opening on that side of the mountain that has brought this change. Rather, it's people doing everything they can to avoid pay parking.
As mentioned by so many already, it's time the RMOW starts to think of the people they represent rather than just how they can tax/charge residents/visitors in order to cover their own outlandish spending habits.
People are being forced out of this town as a result of the lack of jobs at the moment. That has become very obvious over the last six to eight months.
Why then is the RMOW council doing everything it can to make sure that the numbers of people visiting the village only continues to drop? How many more times will long term owners of stores/shops throughout the village need to stand up to show their opposition of pay parking before somebody at the RMOW starts to care? We're already losing jobs, and with the way things are going now it's only a matter of time before we start to lose shops that have been here for quite some time.
Whistler 1/2 Marathon - A winner!
I would like to express my gratitude to everyone involved in organizing this amazing event. What a fabulous day!
The whole event was so much fun! A few years back, living in Sweden, my neighbour trained to do a 5km run with her daughter - I thought she was amazing taking this on.
We moved to Canada and one does get affected by the people one surrounds oneself with. I would never have imagined that I one day would be running a 1/2 marathon - and what better place to do it in?
I would like to thank everyone making this possible: the organizers, the fabulous volunteers, my running coach (Lindsay May the rocking girl with the boom box cheering us on at the 16km sign) who encouraged me all along, my family and friends who made sure I got my training in, my running partner Donna (cheetah girl) who sadly could not join me in the race, but who cheered us on with her fun signs, the spectators and fellow runners who were shouting encouraging words - I could never have done this without you.
Even though I placed far down I still feel like a winner! Thank you!
The arrogance of employers
Why is it that although almost every job I apply for requires that I have great communication skills, my prospective employers do not even have skills enough to thank me for my application? Now self-employed.