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Letters to the Editor for the week of November 30

In support of Whistler's cenotaph Responding to Myles Blaser's "letter to the editor" last week ( Pique, Nov. 23), Mr. Blaser's penultimate paragraph said any mistakes contained there in are his alone. So I'm happy to point some out.
File Photo by Clare Ogilvie

In support of Whistler's cenotaph

Responding to Myles Blaser's "letter to the editor" last week (Pique, Nov. 23), Mr. Blaser's penultimate paragraph said any mistakes contained there in are his alone. So I'm happy to point some out.

Ironically, we can start with the very first line. "As a citizen of Whistler...." You may be a citizen of Canada, sir, but you are no more than a resident of Whistler. As powerful as it is, the RMOW has no ability to confer citizenship on anyone.

Next up? "... the purpose of this letter is not to attack or offend anyone..." Well, sir, you managed to accomplish both with your letter. You offended everyone who has worked so hard over the past year to find a new home for the cenotaph (more on that later), raise the funds to ensure the project wasn't paid for by local property taxpayers, line up the necessary approvals, enlist the help of local contractors to do the work, manage 101 details, and reap the rewards — those being praise and congratulations — from everyone who participated in the Nov. 10 dedication and the Remembrance Day service.

Everyone apparently except you, the lone negative voice. I can't speak for the others but I'm guessing quite a few of the many people who gushed positive words over the new location also took offence to your letter.

You also attacked and offended the gentleman who has, almost single-handedly, organized the Remembrance Day ceremony for as long as I can remember. I won't respond to your complaints about the ceremony except to say much of what you bring up is petty. That being said, he always welcomes constructive criticism offered in a helpful manner.

As for the word cenotaph, you're letting your etymology show, not to mention being just a trifle pedantic. Yes, the Greek roots mean "empty tomb" but general usage also embraces a memorial with no tomb. Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) uses the terms interchangeably.

A large part of the funding for the relocation of Whistler's cenotaph came from Veterans Affairs' Commemorative Partnership Community War Memorial funding program. VAC was active in all aspects of the design and application and specifically approved the wording on the new plaques. They apparently did not share your reservations over the use of the term World War I and did not take issue with the admittedly inadvertent omission of the Boer War.

Finally, you are absolutely correct when you say, "To many, all of the things I have mentioned in this letter may seem petty and irrelevant...." You are absolutely incorrect when you infer they create any lack of respect to veterans and those fallen. It was, in fact, the crux of the effort to relocate the cenotaph to move it to a place of honour and dignity instead of leaving it in a location used as a snow dump for most of the winter.

I don't know what you've done or what your record of volunteering to make Whistler a better place is, but we certainly could have used your help in our months-long effort to find, fund and realize a new home for Whistler's cenotaph.

Anne Townley
On behalf of the ad hoc committee responsible for relocating Whistler's cenotaph

Canadians at forefront of avalanche-safety awareness

If the start of this winter is an indication of what's in store for the next few months, backcountry enthusiasts might be in for a treat. You can definitely feel the excitement in the air!

However, the risk from avalanches is always present when travelling in the backcountry and I would like to commend the Pique Newsmagazine for running the article "Can human judgment handle avalanches," as their feature story on this season's opening weekend as a reminder for everybody (Pique, Nov .16). While the article makes some excellent points, I was surprised that the story only featured American expertise.

Canadian avalanche professionals — mountain guides, ski patrollers, highway avalanche safety technicians, consultants, avalanche skills course providers, researchers — are world-renowned for their high level of expertise and innovation.

Many of the avalanche professionals leading the Canadian community reside in the Sea to Sky corridor. People that immediately come to mind are Wayne Flann, who tirelessly shares his expertise through his blog, or Bruce Kay, who has recently published an excellent book about the human factors in avalanche safety. But there are many more.

Canada also has a long history in applied, community-supported avalanche safety research. Since the late 1980s, there have been influential research programs at the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary that have changed how we look at the snowpack and evaluate avalanche hazard in Canada and around the world. I completely agree with the author that there is more to avalanche safety than snow science and there is a lot to learn about how avalanche risk is perceived and how decisions in the backcountry are made.

Two years ago, the Canadian avalanche safety community came together with Simon Fraser University (SFU) to start a new research program that aims to expand the scope of avalanche safety research and look at it more comprehensively.

The program has broad support and is jointly funded by industry partners, whose commercial activities are exposed to avalanche hazard, and agencies concerned with public avalanche safety. The objective is to focus on avalanche risk management and examine it from both the natural and social science side.

Since the decision environment in the backcountry is extremely complex, developing meaningful tools requires researchers from a variety of fields working together with experienced practitioners. Collaborating closely with partners in the local guiding community, such as Whistler Heliskiing, the SFU program is exploring challenging research questions like, "how can we better predict avalanche hazard," "how to better communicate the nature of the hazard," "what are good decisions when travelling in the backcountry," "how can we capture this expertise," and "how to best provide this knowledge in a way that helps all types of backcountry users to make better informed choices."

I think that this long history of close collaboration between researchers, practitioners and engaged recreationists is putting the Canadian avalanche community in a unique position to address today's avalanche safety challenges in an innovative way and I am extremely excited to be a part of it.

I wish everybody an exciting and safe winter!

Pascal Haegeli
NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Avalanche Risk ManagementSchool for Resource and Environmental ManagementSimon Fraser University

U.S. skier slams Vail Resorts service

I have been coming to Whistler for 37 years.

The customer service at guest services and ski school due to the Vail Resorts IT integration has been atrocious. It took us almost four hours over three days of our four-day U.S. Thanksgiving holiday to sort out that our children's season passes that were bought in October were not in the system, not linked to our accounts, no waivers provided (so I still need to sign them when I get home as I am learning it is better to have email proof).

(Then) on the second day of skiing on a season's pass, one child's season pass read "out of days" when scanned.

Here's some advice, Vail Resorts, don't do an IT integration in October. You should have done it in August to work out the kinks. Paying customers should not be your beta testers.

Fire your business intelligence team. If they cannot figure out that customer information does not align in the migration from the legacy system to the new system — they should be fired.

And finally, set up multiple lines for specific customer requests. Currently there is a guest services (line) and a lessons (line). After two hours and 45 minutes of waiting in line and getting the season passes sorted out, or at least what we thought was sorted at the time, I was asked to line up again in even the longer ski-school line!

There should be a guest services line for picking up PREPAID tickets and another for those needing to buy for the first time. There should also be a PREPAID lesson line and another for those having to fill everything out. And for Pete's sake, have the ski rental folks set up to print waivers for rentals in their department!

It is like the Motor Vehicle Branch or the DMV expecting people to line up for a ski equipment rental voucher and then have to go somewhere else and line up again to rent equipment.

There are some great business process books I could recommend to help streamline your operations. Just let me know if you want the list. And, I would recommend a great PR firm. Vail Resorts, as the new owners, you are going to need it.

Shindy Skaar
Issaquah, WA

A poor decision by council

The council for the RMOW passed by unanimous vote of 6-0 (councillor sue Maxwell was absent) to proceed with the construction of the artificial turf field for soccer at an estimated cost of $2,715,000.

You should be ashamed of yourselves. Surely the money could be put to better use.

Bill Armatage

Successful Sliding Centre events

The month of November was a busy one for the Whistler Sliding Centre.

Bobsleigh/Skeleton Officials hosted athletes and coaches from around the world with doubled up races for Intercontinental Cup Skeleton, North American Cup Bobsleigh and Skeleton, and finally, last week's busy BMW IBSF World Cup.There are always a whole lot of people that work behind the scenes to make these events successful.

Thanks to the Whistler Sliding Centre staff that greeted people, helped with race office requests, cleaned up after athletes, ploughed and sanded roads and provided amazing transport all around the venue.

Huge kudos to a job well done by the officials who stayed on top of it all through long hours and weird weather.

Special thanks to the start and finish chiefs for keeping it all flowing and to Nick, the other race director, for being there through thick and thin.

Brad, Abby and Damian in the control tower, thanks for all your commentary and keeping us on time (as best as possible) — you guys rock!

Whistler Cooks and Nesters deserve thanks for the delicious hot meals and sandwiches that kept us fuelled.

TMR and Paramedics — great job trackside and when you were needed most.

Last but not least to the ever amazing track crew — truly all the thanks you get is so deserved. Mother Nature was not kind to you guys but you still made it safe, fast and pretty... it is why you are the best.

Diana De Man
Race director — skeleton

Charity recipients offer thanks

If language is a connector in our community and we are all individual words contributing to the flow, then Whistler has an abundance of active verbs. These are the people who generously give their time, and simply get it done. 

We have two words for all those who supported the Whistler Public Library and The Whistler Writing Society as this year's charity recipients for the 2017 Cornucopia event: Thank you.

Sue Eckersley of Watermark Communications Inc. offered us this incredible opportunity, and her energetic team of employees and volunteers, including Jasmine Robinson, Rob Olive and Megan Pilat, that supported us every step of the way. The incomparable Jacqui Tyler and Sandra Epplett brought their know-how and sparkle and produced a spectacular silent auction.

Our dedicated volunteers deserve special thanks for committing hundreds of hours of their time to ensure our fundraiser at Cornucopia was a success! 

They are: Al Ashby; Alastair Miller; Ann Ellis; Ann Johnson; Anne Townley; Annette Miller; Audrey Mittendorfer; Barb Gottselig; Bevin Heath Ansley; Brenda Ansley; Brent Moore; Cathy Jewett; Cathy St-Amour; Celia Utley; Dan Nakagawa; David Smith; Dawn Bell; Dea Lloyd; Debbie Lloyd; Diane Ziff; Don Crompton; G.D. Maxwell; Gord Ellis; Hilary Planden; Ian Johnson; Jacki Bissillion; Janice O'Mara; Jennifer Wyne; Jim Graham; Jim Utley; Katherine Fawcett; Kathleen Graham; Leslie Alexander; Lisa Fernandez; Lorine Mason; Manon St. Pierre; Marianna Orr; Marion Ashby; Michael Graham; Paul Shore; Peter Thornton; Richard Ansley; Ira Pettle; Ralph Forsyth; Richard Wyne; Rod Tindall; Ron Planden; Rose Drea; Rosemary Cook; Rury Nakagawa; Sara Leach; Sara Wollstein; Shelli Dixon; Shep Alexander; Stephanie Forsyth; Steven St-Amour; Sue Christopher; Susan Annand; Vicki Crompton; Wendell Moore; and Yulia Aleynikova.

Finally, to all the active Whistler verbs who make great things happen — we couldn't have done it without you. 

Elizabeth Tracy and Gord Annand — Whistler Public Library 

Stella Harvey and Rebecca Wood Barrett
— The Whistler Writing Society

A big Viking Ullr thank you

Sending a huge thank you to everyone involved in the Ullr Viking Gala at the Audain Art Museum on Nov 25.The event raised over $50,000 for the National Training Centre for Freestyle and in particular for purchasing the airbag portion of the project.

Thanks to our event sponsors: Maggie Thornhill; Heirloom Restaurants; Lonsdale Rentals; Whistler Brewing; Mike Butterworth and Direct Tap; to our live auction donors: Jim Demarco and Pelican Reef La Ventana; Ian and Laura MacNeil and Glass Vodka; Stan Kelly and Whistler Blackcomb; Jeff Fairbairn and Steep Shot Photography; Bella Coola Heli Sports; Ross Cottage in Sonoma; Jonathan Martin and Nisade; Nisako Alpine Developments along with Liberty Skis; and to the many other local businesses who donated to the silent auction.

Please see our website,, for the full list of generous donors.Massive thanks to gala chair Jennifer Dunn who worked tirelessly to pull everything together along with her stellar team of volunteers.Also a shout out to DJ Peacefrog (Michel Chartrand) for keeping everyone dancing, to Ian MacNeil and John Smart as our auctioneers and MCs, to Whistler Cooks for great food and to Anja Rodig from the Audain Art Museum for her organizational support!And, of course, to all the spirited Vikings who dressed up, had fun, gave generously and helped us ensure our snowsports athletes will be able to train much more safely this winter!

It also helps us get closer to our goal of matching the $300,000 donation from the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, which will enable us to complete the centre.

Julia Smart
National Training Centre Society Secretary