Dont lose the Whistler magic
This is an open letter to Hugh Smythe, Intrawest corporation.
As we reflect on the 2000-2001 Ski season, I thought I would write you an open letter outlining some of my thoughts about why Whistler-Blackcomb is loosing the support of locals. Perhaps more importantly, those of us who are fortunate enough to either live in Whistler or who have a second home in the valley, are increasingly feeling that our opinions and support for the mountains is taken for granted.
It is increasingly apparent that our views, issues and concerns garner little or no thought or reaction from the mountains we love so dearly. I have included some ideas for you to consider that I feel would cater to the locals and perhaps turn the tide of increasing dissatisfaction.
I first wish to say that my wife and daughter continue to love Whistler deeply and if we had our choice would enjoy the opportunity to reside in the valley year around. I have been a regular in Whistler since 1981 and had seasons passes from 1981 until the mid 90s when the pass prices climbed to unreasonable levels. My wife skied at Whistler the first year it opened and has been a regular visitor since day one.
Issues that are contributing to our increasing dissatisfaction with the treatment of locals are:
A general effort to heavily promote the mountain to the international market while taking local support for granted is disturbing. I corresponded with your vice president of marketing last year about his comments in the media that, from a U.S. dollar perspective, Whistler was a good deal. What message does this sent to locals? We are paid in Canadian dollars and the $60 plus dollars for a ticket hurts.
Charging $90 per day, per child, for day care on the mountain my family looks at this and is confronted with two day tickets at $60 each plus $90 day care for our 20-month old daughter for a weekend total (two days skiing) of $420. This is out of reach for most residents including us. We skied only three days this season.
Pass prices. We have friends who reside in Vancouver and have family seasons passes in the interior B.C. mountains where you can still get a pass for the entire family for around $1,000 and can pay it off in about 10 days of skiing. This is reasonable. A family of four would pay close to $4,000 at Whistler and have to ski 20-plus days to pay it off. I wish to emphasize that the interior mountains single-day tickets are not that dissimilar to Whistler. They have just taken the important step to attract local support by offering reasonable family passes.
I sincerely believe that although we all embrace the beauty of Whistler the stunning architecture, great restaurants etc., many of us are increasingly finding the old Whistler is disappearing. The old Dustys, the original Keg, gravel trails, the Round House and squatters all contributed in the past to an ambiance that us old timers embraced. This is fast disappearing and increasingly we feel like strangers in our own town.
Ending the night skiing for locals was a very poor decision.
Here are some ideas for recapturing local interest and support:
Make an effort to demonstrate that you care about locals and our support and dedication over the years. Consider a local marketing program that is refocused on "welcoming back" the locals who played the key role in building the mountains. The strategy of trying to tell us that in U.S. dollars skiing is a good deal has been ineffective and is just plain insulting to locals.
Develop some options for reasonably priced day care and ski programs for locals for weekends. I appreciate that there are great efforts to get the school children from Whistler into programs but what about us original local weekenders? We cannot afford day care at $90 per day per child.
Offer reasonable pass prices for families which are closer to the British Columbia (Canadian Dollar) average of 10 days to pay them off. The current 20-plus (closer to 30 if you consider the discounts) makes it virtually impossible to even consider family pass purchases. I am confident there would be a huge increase in pass sales through the adoption of the family orientated pass purchase program. There would be those who ski 20-plus days but I think the market would stabilize and the average would level at something reasonable. The other advantage is that I predict you would recapture a large number of annual regular pass holders whos support would play a role in the poor seasons.
Look at ways to appeal to the original family atmosphere of Whistler. For example, my family thoroughly enjoys the simple outside ice rink and campfire each night at Silver Star Mountain coupled with the cheap hot chocolate. This type of family experience is largely gone from Whistler. What about a tube park for families this is great fun and reasonably priced. What about opening the lower lift on the village side for free skiing for kids under 10 years so we could teach our kids to ski, or opening the bottom lift at night for free skiing.
Some additional "free" or cheap cross-country and snow shoe areas could also be developed.
I also believe that setting up a local committee and perhaps calling it the "Spirit of Whistler" and giving it the mandate to explore the issues and opportunities to recapture local support would go along ways towards changing the tide.
I love Whistler and that is why I have taken the time to write and share my thoughts. I sincerely hope that you will consider them and perhaps other ideas that may come from others who share my concern.
We are the people who supported the mountains through the 70s and 80s and we have the potential to continue to provide the core support and original spirit of Whistler. The time to make the effort to retain our support is now not when you experience a poor season and then try and regain our support.
I want the original Whistler magic to come back and it can with the effort and commitment of the community and your company.
Back from the dogs
We are starting to take our little neighbourhood back from the dogs. Are you?
When our little dog died two weeks ago from an attack by an unattended, aggressive dog, it was discovered that this same dog had attacked three others in our neighbourhood alone. The dog catcher and RCMP officer declared the dog "dangerous" and told the owner to muzzle the dog in public. When he refused, the dog was confiscated and put down.
What a tragic end to several dogs lives because of one neglectful owner.
In the meantime, our little neighbourhood is on the mend. Whereas there had been a disturbing amount of animosity among neighbours over certain dogs, now we have begun to talk to one another about our dog concerns. Rather than confront those dog-owners who are not approachable or receptive to reason, we do not hesitate to visit the village office, to file a report for the dog catcher.
Because there is still a lot of construction going on in our neighbourhood, the developer has agreed to adopt the policy that his workmen can not bring dogs to any of the work sites here. That has certainly helped also. Good luck in your neighbourhood!
In praise of housing authority
I just read Bruce MacDonald's letter to the editor in the June 8 issue of the Pique , with regards to employee housing. To make the blanket statement that the Whistler Housing Authority is providing below market employee housing to people who have nothing to do with the Whistler economy is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time. ("Ridiculous" was the most polite word I could come up with).
I own one of the employee condominiums at Spruce Grove, and am also on the strata council. I am one of the many people in this area who are extremely happy with the job that the WHA has done. I've got a great home, and fantastic neighbours ... all of whom contribute to the Whistler economy. I feel extremely lucky that I was able to buy a place in Whistler, something that would never have happened without the employee housing initiative.
I will agree with Mr. MacDonald that the council should look at tax breaks for homeowners providing suites ... and that before they can do that they will have to establish some kind of "screening procedure" to try and stop abuses.
The only problem that I can see with the WHA and the way they function is that they basically have to rely on the integrity of the people filling out the application forms. While most of us are honest, some people do take advantage of the system.
If anyone would like to judge the incredible impact that this opportunity has had on our quality of life, then please stop by for a visit one day after your ball game. But, keep in mind, that as contributors to the Whistler economy, we may still be at work.
Why waste the time?
Staring out from the cover of Beautiful B.C. magazine this summer is a wonderful portrait of a fine grizzly bear. The 10-page article that follows in the magazine is a celebration of the South Chilcotin mountains in the Lillooet Land Resource Management area and, in particular, the Spruce Lake area which was recently designated as a park by the government.
Sadly, as the LRMP table dragged on and on (some would say it was deliberately stalled) and as one wilderness valley after another fell to roads and chainsaws, the wilderness conservation effort which has been going on for over 60 years saw the new roads threaten the very heart of the proposal.
There was a formal agreement reached by participants at the LRMP table to put forward the two option proposals for protected areas and abide by the decision of the provincial government.
The decision of government created Spruce Lake Park, but it has not been legislated yet and is a park in name only, and not in law.
Now the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District chair is concerned that consensus was not reached (Regional District rejects Lillooet land-use plan Pique June 8, 2001), even though the presentation of options was agreed to by all participants.
How then is it that the SLRD board would vote to call for rejection of the Lillooet LRMP decision by saying consensus was not reached? The board members are either misinformed, lack complete information upon which to make a decision or there is an agenda inappropriate for a body such as the SLRD.
Sea to Sky country is getting it's own LRMP process which will involve people from all backgrounds and interests in a process where hopefully everyone will be able to agree on most things, and agree to disagree on some others in order to reach agreement.
Not everyone gets it all their way but when the process is finished, we should all be able to look forward to and benefit from the certainty the plan offers rather than endless ongoing conflicts ... unless of course the SLRD decides it doesn't suit them. Why would members of this and our neighbouring communities invest their time and energy in a planning process for Sea to Sky country if an important group such as the SLRD isn't prepared to honour and accept consensus agreements?
AWARE looks forward as much as anyone else to an end to the 'war in the woods', but if those in leadership positions demonstrate that agreements mean nothing then we can probably look forward to a continuation of these conflicts well into the future.
AWARE Wilderness Backyard Committee