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Letters to the Editor for the week of April 14

Chamber welcomes Renaissance project The Whistler Chamber of Commerce congratulates Whistler Blackcomb on the significant undertaking with the Renaissance project.

Chamber welcomes Renaissance project

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce congratulates Whistler Blackcomb on the significant undertaking with the Renaissance project.

The Economic Partnership Initiative (2013) outlined the 2017 economic goal of "A prosperous resort economy that continues to support a healthy, sustainable resort community; and remains consistent with the unique Whistler Brand."

Within the Economic Partnership Initiative are numerous action items that are addressed by aspects of the Renaissance project. Strategies such as "Expand Weather-Independent Attractions" are well served by the project, as are the strategies to support and encourage reinvestment in the resort product. Additionally, investment in additional lifts and mountain bike trails will continue to reinforce the "Whistler Brand" and connection to our environment.

The multi-year advanced planning outlined in the Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance communications is impressive, as is the work to develop numerous innovative opportunities to enhance the resort offering.

Whistler Blackcomb has an established track record of understanding the guest experience and delivering on bold strategies. Many will recall the initial announcement of the Peak 2 Peak and the ongoing success of the project.

The Whistler Chamber of Commerce looks forward to being a partner with Whistler Blackcomb in meeting our shared goals that the community as a whole continues to be a prosperous, healthy, and sustainable resort community.

Val Litwin, CEO and Grant Cousar, Board Chair, Whistler Chamber of Commerce

Resort sustainability based upon the inevitable?  

To be quite honest, I am reluctant at this point to find complete fault in Whistler's expansion plans and rationale given the impact on winter activities through global warming.

They are looking to develop sustainability for the recreation and tourism community at large given the swings in climate change. It also provides a safety net for the bottom line — the shareholders past and present, including myself (ughh).

In many ways though, I see this as giving in to global warming, but having seen the impact in other countries this may be simply a case of adaptive inevitability. The downside and catch-22 on this plan, unfortunately, is that the expansions themselves increase localized warming and will impact the snowpack and mean winter temperatures in the future; specifically, indoor water adventure parks, which (I believe) generate significant heat discharged into the atmosphere. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Having seen the impact of warming in South America and the passing of its 10-year window for water sustainability, the choices become more critical. You may not have water during your visit or stay at Whistler in the future.

All this being said, at what point do scientifically engineered ideas and methods to maintain snowpack sustainably become grandiose and delusional when you are running out of time (note to management: cooling fans and snow guns will not help unless you are considering deploying them in the entire region)?

In my humble opinion, some of this funding would be better spent in establishing a new water reservoir for the region to support expansion in general over the next decade.

Paul Micheals


WB's upgrade plan a disappointment

As an avid skier and Whistler local since 1989, I was saddened and dismayed by the announcement of the proposed Renaissance project.

I understand that climate change is a concern and that this investment will create "weather independent attractions," but how about some new ski terrain and high alpine lifts?

WB has not really opened up any new terrain since the Symphony Chair, and even then, it was terrain that could be accessed by a short hike before the lift was installed. All of the other recent improvements have just replaced existing chairs, with zero additional terrain.

The most common complaints I hear on the chairs and in the gondis are about the long lift lines, on-hill crowding, lack of parking and congestion on the Sea to Sky Highway.

Renaissance addresses none of these concerns. Considering I read in your quarterly report that regional skiers have made this one of the most profitable ski seasons in the 50 years since the resort opened, why not give something back to the sport and the people who have made Whistler what it is today?

I know there are long-term plans for new lifts and terrain in the 30-year plan, but that's simply not good enough for this skier!  

Another glaring omission in this proposed investment is the lack of a staff-housing component.

Where do you think the staff for this project are going to come from when there is not enough affordable housing and a shortage of workers in Whistler already?

Local businesses and attractions have a hard enough time finding and keeping employees, and this project will further compound the problem, not alleviate it. Why not invest in creating a more livable and affordable scenario for your employees and the town of Whistler as a whole?

It also looks like Lot 6 at Base 2 will be out of commission during the construction of Watershed until the proposed two-storey parking complex is constructed.

Where will all the vehicles that used to park there go? There is already a shortage of parking on most days.

There could also have been some sort of transportation component to this proposal, but instead all I see is a corporation just trying to squeeze more tourist dollars from the hands of visitors, without helping them get safely to and from the resort.

As a skier, I am also very concerned about the additional greenhouse gasses and carbon footprint of such a project. If Whistler Blackcomb really wants to be known as a "green" resort, how can you justify the enormous amount of energy that will be required to construct and heat the new water play area? Surely you would rather prevent further global warming and climate change? 

After having one of the best ski seasons in recent memory with record skier and rider visits, I am sorely disappointed by the Renaissance proposal. It does nothing for the snow-sliding community, and for the local people who made Whistler what it is today, and gives nothing back to the mountain town I call home.  

Billy Rockliffe


Renaissance needs to consider parking and traffic

Overall (Whistler Blackcomb's Renaissance) plan is well thought out and will improve the on-mountain activities, but the impact on the traffic flow should be worked into the plan.

After Phase 1 is completed, the largest Blackcomb parking area, Lot 6, will be replaced with townhouses. A minimal requirement should be to put a three-level — not two — parking area in Lot 8 to make up for the loss of Blackcomb parking. But why not take the next five years to be more creative?

At present on a busy weekend, or during the holidays, all on-mountain parking spots are gone before 9:30 a.m. The traffic through our two-lane highway from Function Junction to Blackcomb is backed up. 

Why does the RMOW not insist on the early development of the Function Junction to Whistler peak lifts?

Then there could be a requirement for a massive parking lot diverting much of the weekend and northbound day skiers. This could be combined with a parking lot bus shuttle into the village.

Other massive ski resorts such as Zermatt and Val d'Isere have had to impose somewhat mandatory park-and-ride systems to preserve the village atmosphere.

We are not at the end of a valley like some of these resorts. We must keep Highway 99 open for ongoing and local traffic. But like many ski towns our size we must plan something to make up for our failure to foresee the growth in skier and tourist visits by not twinning Highway 99 through the village, or putting in a ski train years ago.

Whistler Blackcomb is planning for a significant increase in business, which is good, but without a traffic-flow plan the good press about the alpine experience might be balanced with bad press about the traffic.

Michael Blaxland


Transparency is what is needed now

This was sent as an open letter to Pemberton mayor and council, Vancouver Coastal Health and School District 48.

The April 9 stories in the Pique and Whistler Question newspapers have uncovered that Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) informed the Village of Pemberton (VOP) about lead in our water in late 2013. One month after the VOP revealed "surprise and shock at finding lead" in residential systems, the "smoking gun" memo proves that knowledge of lead in the water goes back more than two years.

The residents of Pemberton have been ingesting lead in their drinking water for two whole years longer than necessary given the knowledge of both VCH and the VOP. And that's not taking into account acknowledgement of lead by School District 48 (SD48) dating back to 2010.

How can three public agencies continue to tell the community to "just trust us, we're on it." We believed you were "on it" in 2006 when corrosion damage was significant, in 2007 when you asked the provincial government for assistance, and again in 2009 when the VOP released its water-plan brochure. It's reasonable to expect that all three agencies should have been "on it" in 2013 when VCH issued the memo about the detrimental impacts of lead on young children in this newly revealed memo.

Mayor Mike Richman says that because VCH didn't deliver the memo with "urgent" stamped all over it, the VOP didn't feel it required action. Well, detrimental impacts to children should have been all the urgency required for VCH and SD48 to sound alarm bells and take action.

Mayor Richman continues to ask the community to trust the VOP, along with VCH and School District 48. He's asked for VCH and SD48 to be better communicators. All of these public agencies knew about the lead and told the public nothing. How can we trust the same officials who got us into this scary mess to solve it now by being "better communicators?" Meanwhile, the community still waits for answers to the 120-plus questions raised at the March 19 citizen-led water forum.

Yes, people make mistakes, but when those mistakes are gravely serious, people lose their jobs. Greater action than "trust us" needs to be taken by our VOP elected officials and leaders at VCH and SD48. We trust in you to serve the well-being of the residents of Pemberton, not to protect the staff that works in these taxpayer-funded agencies. It's an issue of accountability and responsibility, plain and simple.

Trust has been broken. It's now apparent that information has been withheld from the public. A little staff overtime and "trust us" messaging is not going to cut it. Undoubtedly there is more inconvenient truth to come. We would like it to come, along with solutions, directly from the VOP, VCH and SD48 in a coordinated strategy, rather than having to rely on the media to find the truth for us.

Adam Adams, Maureen Douglas, Cindy Filipenko, David MacKenzie, Mark Mendonca, Garth Phare and Rob Szachury


Affordable housing at any cost

Ru Mehta ("Letters to the Editor," March 31, Pique), before you criticize council and the mayor and call us NIMBYS, you should get your facts straight. The (Alpine Meadows) property in question has never been an empty lot and was not within the current bylaw, that is why it was before council — (the owners) were trying to change the bylaw.

We have lived below this property for 28 years — it has never been vacant. If there were not so many issues with this application and a variance application, it may have become an infill Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) property.

We moved to Whistler 34 years ago, 28 years on our property in Alpine, full time. We made the sacrifices necessary to make a life in Whistler, with all the difficulties that working-class families face here.

Nothing has changed in the 34 years here — it was expensive to live and buy then, and rental accommodation was just as limited. One exception: there was no WHA when we bought. Otherwise we would have been on the list, as would have many of our friends who came at the same time and still rent to this day or have moved.

We bought in Alpine because of the large lots and low-density housing, and do not want it to change because a few people want to chop it up and turn it into a high-density neighbourhood. We could have sold out and bought into a high-density WHA neighbourhood many times over and put a large sum of money in our pocket, but we choose not to live in a high-density neighbourhood.

We have been part of the Whistler community and will be till the day we drop. We have paid approximately $100,000 in property taxes in 28 years and raised three kids here who will never be able to own in Whistler. Many of the neighbours living beside this property are just the same.

And just to be clear, this is not the issue of one property. There are two single-family lots that (owners) want to cram four houses (onto), another beside this that has already been split in two, and another across the road split in two. Are any of these WHA housing? Pretty sure they are not.

As I said, if this property had fit all the criteria to have it split in two it would have been done. This couple, not the owners of the property, was trying to do the same, but did not have the proper requirements.

We welcome new neighbours, but don't make the neighbourhood change because you feel entitled to "affordable" housing on a single-family lot in an old, expensive neighbourhood.

I suppose if we are NIMBYs then we will have to come up with some acronym to refer to those who think they are entitled to affordable housing without any regard for others.

Karen and Dave Kay


Remembering Sean Walsh

In the mid to late '70s there were a grand total of two snowmobiles on Whistler Mountain. One was a standard Ski-Doo and the other was a "Nordic" dual-tracked machine. The Nordic was affectionately christened "The Pig" by the ski patrol because, being much heavier, it routinely got stuck all over the mountain. When this happened one of the four guys on the grooming crew was dispatched to retrieve The Pig and tow it back to the shop.

Early one morning, after yet again having dug out and towed The Pig back up to the Alpine, I walked into the bump room and told the assembled patrollers that if they were going to run The Pig up from the bottom of the Green they should use the skid road between Ego Bowl and Whiskey Jack.

Few in the room knew the existence of this narrow, twisty track that owed its existence to the loggers who cleared Ego Bowl. The groomers (known as packerdrivers back then) used it all the time when they could not climb the top half of Ego Bowl or Lower Whiskey Jack.

I'm not sure if it was the time of day, or if the coffee was weak that morning, but getting the assembled patrollers to understand where this road was and convincing them to use it proved to be a challenge.

Finally I said: "If you guys get The Pig stuck one more time at the bottom of the second pitch of Ego Bowl it'll just spend the rest of the winter there... use that road or lose The Pig for the rest of the year... and from now on we'll just call it... Pig Alley...OK?"

That night a rookie patroller who had been in the room went home, fired up his chainsaw and carved a sign that read "Pig Alley" on a slab of wood. The next morning he mounted it on a tree at the Whiskey Jack end of the road and the name stuck... that rookie patroller was Sean Walsh.

A dozen or so years later Sean had become assistant patrol leader. On the very last day of the 1990-91 ski season Sean tragically lost his life when the avalauncher gun he was firing exploded on the gun platform.

The mountain never opened that day... Whistler staff and the whole town were in shock. It was the end of the season; Whistler was about to become "sleepy town" again for the summer. In 1991 Whistler was still trying to become "world class" and bad news was not allowed to have a very long shelf life...

Pig Alley is a dumb name (I can say that). Furthermore "alley" does not really fit anymore after the skid road was widened several times and perfectly graded along its entire length. Now that Whistler Mountain is 50 years old... and April 28 will mark the 25th anniversary of the tragic accident, let me suggest that "Walsh Way" would be a far better name for that piece of real estate.

And while we're at it, instead of one of those blue sterile trail signs maybe we could find a rookie patroller who is handy with a chainsaw to carve the new sign.

Add to all of the above that the entire extended Walsh family, starting with Nancy, has been actively involved in all aspects of Whistler Mountain since the very beginning and it fits... it makes sense.

Francois Lepine

Courtenay, BC