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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Getting rid of Valley Kids ski program is bad idea

File photo by Toshi Kawano/Whistler Blackcomb

Thanks for the article about Valley Kids programs (and other offerings for those under seven years old) being axed for this winter (“Popular Whistler Blackcomb ski school program on hold,” Pique, Sept. 24).

While I can understand some of the programs being cancelled, and the rationale behind it, Valley Kids (and probably Kinder) should be in place.

Valley Kids is not babysitting or daycare. For our kids, it is a vital part of their connection with the freedom and independence of the mountains, while learning the amazing camaraderie of winter sports, on their own terms.  

From a parental mental health and community standpoint—which are all frequently referenced touchstones, especially “in these challenging times”—Valley Kids is a lifeline. It gives parents of young children a regular, dependable opportunity to get back out on the mountains, spend time with their partners (skiing—what?!), and rediscover the person they were “BK” (before kids).  

Community? We all made friends. Whether you are a new or a longtime local, you will meet like-minded people who consider investing in their kids’ mountain future to be a priority. It made us feel a part of something, not like isolated parent-bots. The outdoors is usually the thing that brought people here. Taking away the opportunity for parents to get out there, and for their kids to learn to ski and love Whistler at the youngest age, is just wrong.  

Confidence? Being able to have my three-year-old be in a positive, safe mountain environment was amazing. After a few weeks, each of our kids (all four of them) were independent skiers who had discovered a whole new world, that they wanted to share with us on other ski days. They all learned to rip before they started school.  

Staffing? The team of instructors is amazing. They are not one-and-done seasonals. They are dedicated, long-term local, professionals who are heartbroken and seriously frustrated to hear that they can’t continue their inspirational work of making ski enthusiasts out of our smallest citizens. Which makes recruiting and lodging issues moot. 

COVID concerns are valid, but the point about riding the chair with random people isn’t. Young skiers only ever ride gondolas anyway (Whistler Blackcomb long-term rule), and legal ratios mean a maximum class size that fits in any gondola, no problem. For meals, they all eat in designated places, and only with their instructors and group, a.k.a.—their ski bubble. With the other programs for young skiers being kiboshed, density won’t be a factor. 

My husband and I are both long-time ski pros (and parents). Teaching your own kids is not usually a great idea, as there are too many expectations on both sides, and at worst, it ends up being an expensive way to use up ski days. Privates? Really, really not viable for most families.  

WB/Vail Resorts need to come through on their epic promises about community spirit and mental health, and the importance of our youth getting involved in the mountains, not to mention supporting long-term employees during a time of transition. Suspending other programs for young skiers may make sense, but getting rid of Valley Kids is not logical, period. 

And from a community standpoint, it is a bad idea.

Laura Scully (Joncas) // Whistler

What should a responsible concerned member of the public do?

On Friday, Oct. 3, I was at Rainbow Park on the lakeshore, and between 4:30 to 5 p.m. I observed a group of 19 people, all under the age of 30, huddled close together in an intimate and happy circle, all without masks.

Their behaviour was calm and quiet, there was occasional laughter, and their beer drinking was not offensive. At 5 p.m. as the sun was fading, they got up and left with goodbye hugs. Maybe some of them were going off to work in bars and restaurants?

My question is about our obligations (we, the conscious and observant public) in relation to their risky behaviour.

Should I have phoned someone in the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) to report them, or some other public entity? I don’t know if they were contravening any bylaw. Should I have walked over and asked them if they thought it was risky to be there in such a large group? I hate to be the person who has to ask people who are having fun to stop it.

Perhaps the Pique could convene a panel of Whistler’s influencers and advice leaders to discuss this. We would all benefit from a consensus if one emerged.

Bob Anderson // Whistler

Reconsider the Alta Lake Road development

(Editor’s note: This letter was sent to mayor and council and shared with Pique.) 

Many years ago, we were involved in the rezoning of what is now Millar’s Pond. In exchange for rezoning, the council and mayor at the time required a substantial Community Amenity Contribution (“CAC”) to benefit both Whistler, generally, and the Millar’s Pond neighbourhood. In exchange for rezoning, they required that we donate approximately 20 per cent of the land for community benefits and amenities (which now comprise swing sets, tennis courts and the like) and a further 20 per cent of the land for employee housing. 

That council and mayor negotiated, hard, and in so doing extracted many benefits that exist to this day. In short, we were asked to give away almost 40 per cent of the land, to benefit the community, in exchange for the rezoning of the remaining 60 per cent. We accepted, gladly. 

Community Benefits: The rezoning of 5298 Alta Lake Rd. will add tremendous value to the land and make the developer a handsome profit. What is being asked of the owner of 5298 Alta Lake Rd. in exchange for this rezoning? What benefits, or CACs, does the community of Whistler get in exchange? To date, as far as the community can see in the proposal(s) as submitted—almost nothing. 

Rezoning is a privilege, not a right; the council and mayor should ask for a great deal more to benefit our community. 

Traffic: The rezoning, if approved, will overload the existing roads, increase traffic exponentially, and burden the existing neighbourhood. Further, with young families in the area, specifically at the Residences at Nita Lake, the increased traffic will prove an unnecessary material hazard. 

Access from a different location on Alta Lake Road would mitigate this risk, and this solution is easily achieved. 

Health, Safety and Neighbourhood: In addition to the hazard posed by increased traffic (noted above), post COVID-19; virtually no community in the world is embracing short-term rentals (such as those associated with Airbnb). There are hundreds, if not thousands, of communities restricting this type of rental accommodation or eliminating it altogether. Several studies have determined that short-term rentals “cause rent increases, reduce housing supply and exacerbate segregation” (according to the BBC). It is also noted that with these short-term rentals: “the character of the community is changed”—not for the better. 

We recognize that development is a complex subject and that employee housing is necessary. But, to point out the obvious, you hold all the cards; your negotiating position is much stronger than those who seek merely to profit from this development. This property has had several development applications made—each materially different from the last: hotels, multi-family, single family, short-term rentals, market housing etc. 

Do not rush to approve a patchwork plan that has not been well thought out and is fundamentally flawed. 

In short, the developer will build anything that they can get approved and profit. As such, you should determine what benefits the community most. With this in mind, we respectfully ask that you use your influence and authority to: 

• Keep the neighbourhood safe.
Require that the new development be accessed from a separate location;

• Maintain the character of the community. Do not permit short-term rentals;

• Build what is needed as opposed to what is most profitable. Specifically, employee housing;

• Negotiate benefits for both Whistler generally and the Nita Lakes neighbourhood; Obtain a better Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) package.
You have a responsibility to look to the long term, to both build and protect the community. We all know that this property will be developed; the remaining questions are: Into what? And when? 

Please give this the time and attention it deserves. Truthfully, you can do better.

Cara and Murray Sinclair // Whistler 

Teachers want your help

As we move into the second month of school and see cases of COVID-19 in our schools it is essential for us to ask: “Is enough being done to ensure the safety of students and teachers, and are the measures in Stage 2 keeping us safe or do we need to push the province to move towards Stage 3?”

Currently, class sizes are no different than in any normal school year and no one is required to wear a face covering (non-medical mask) in any classroom. Masks, [as well as] reduced density and contact are known means of ensuring safety, and [they] are measures being taken in all other public sectors province wide. 

A move to Stage 3 would mean reducing classroom density through a hybrid learning model, where fewer students would be in buildings at any one time. This move would significantly lower everyone’s chances of exposure to the virus as well as fewer “cluster transmissions” stemming from school settings. 

If parents, grandparents and everyone concerned want schools to be safer, by reducing chances for exposure through lower density and less contact in classrooms, and or the mandatory wearing of masks throughout the school day, then make your voice heard. Teachers’ voices are not enough. 

Our provincial leaders seem distracted by a provincial election that is just days away, but our students and teachers are in classrooms now. B.C. has a world-leading education system that needs to be safe during this pandemic. Parents, grandparents, taxpayers, it’s urgent, make your voices heard. We need safer circumstances in our schools. 

April Lowe // Sea to Sky Teachers’ Association President