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Flute fencing an issue of public safety

W-B installing ‘standard boundary rope fencing’ in creating inbound backcountry experience

Whistler-Blackcomb’s creation of "an inbounds backcountry experience" is resulting in what one local man sees as an eyesore. As part of its Peak to Creek and Flute areas expansion project, Whistler-Blackcomb has begun installing a 20-foot-high fence that crisscrosses an existing trail and bisects the summit of Flute Mountain.

Photographer Dean Cote expressed his disappointment with the development in a letter to Pique Newsmagazine .

"I do not understand the rationale for this type of expansion. People come to Whistler get away from signs and fences," reasoned Cote, who furnished a photo of the offending fence posts.

But Whistler-Blackcomb’s Kim Mueller cites public safety as the reason for the placement of the fence. The senior public relations officer says that the location of the fence was decided after consultation with planners, managers and the ski patrol.

"It’s your standard boundary rope fencing," says Mueller, explaining that the fencing won’t obscure the view. She adds that the height of the poles is necessary to accommodate the snow pack.

"They won’t be 20 feet above the snow line. They’ll look like our other boundary fences."

Additionally, Mueller explains that Whistler-Blackcomb will be adding interpretative signage and carved benches to the summit area for use during non-snow periods.

The concept behind the project is to provide skiers and boarders with an opportunity to venture into the backcountry without leaving the safety of sanctioned ski areas. While the nearly 700 acres of new terrain in Flute Basin will not be accessed by any additional lifts, the area will be subject to avalanche and ski patrol.

Part of an overall $14.2m package of improvements undertaken this past summer, opening the Flute and Peak to Creek areas will increase the amount of skiable terrain by nearly 30 per cent this year, making it the mountain’s most ambitious expansion project to date.

Cote, recognizing the mountain’s issues with public safety and liability suggested alternatives to the existing plan.

"If liability concerns are forcing you to build a boundary marker, place the fence line down lower on Flute with a gate clearly marking an access point," wrote Cote.

Has Whistler-Blackcomb opened this new terrain to dissuade people from going out of bounds?

"We’ve done this to offer a different experience to our guests," says Mueller. "Not to deter people from going into the backcountry."