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Long weekend busy but safe

RCMP report no major incidents; Whistler Blackcomb visits significant

In recent years the Victoria Day long weekend has meant trouble for Whistler, with excessive drinking, underage drinking, fighting and vandalism. For whatever reason it became a tradition for young people, many of them in high school graduation classes, to come up to Whistler and cause trouble.

This year was a huge improvement over past years. The village was still busy - the day skier lots were full to overflowing on Saturday and Sunday - but it was with families, and people who came to Whistler to ski, snowboard and ride bicycles.

According to Sergeant Steve Wright of the Whistler RCMP, only 22 people were arrested for being drunk in public, or an average of just over seven people on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. That's on par with a typical weekend where seven or eight people are arrested each night.

The Integrated Highway Unit also stopped hundreds of cars on the highway, and handed out 14 24-hour suspensions. None of the drivers who were tested had higher than a 0.08 blood alcohol content.

That's not to say that it was completely quiet. There were 72 noise bylaw complaints over the weekend, many of them at hotels. As well the RCMP assisted the hotels in evicting unruly guests throughout the weekend, which was time-consuming for officers.

"It was a great weekend," said Sgt. Wright. "There were lots of people obviously, but no major incidents, no robbing or stabbings... it was just busy."

The Whistler RCMP augmented its force with several additional officers from the corridor and Lower Mainland, adding more patrols to the village and parks. They were also joined by the integrated highway team, and the integrated gang taskforce, which patrolled local bars looking for known gang members. There were no customers associated with known gangs.

"The message is really getting out to people that if they come to Whistler (to make trouble) there are consequences," said Sgt. Wright. "We got a lot of positive comments from guests this year who felt safe in the village and had a great time this weekend."

For next year and in the future the Whistler RCMP are working with resort partners to create family events on the long weekend to displace grad classes and other guests who have caused trouble in the past.

"This was a good year but we will remain vigilant next year as well," said Sgt. Wright. "We won't be cutting back resources next year.

Whistler Blackcomb had a good weekend overall. Stuart Rempel, vice president of sales and marketing, noted that ski and snowboard visits were on par this year with last year despite the fact that the weather was colder and wetter.

As for the bike park, Rempel would not give numbers but said opening weekend visits increased significantly over last year.

"We really had three things going on over the weekend," he said. "We had skiing and snowboarding on Blackcomb, we had the bike park, and we opened Whistler Mountain for sightseeing. We put through a significant number of people in all three areas.

"I can't speak for golf or some of the other activities but I think we have a fantastic product this spring, and great value in the resort with hotels and packages."

Looking ahead, Rempel said Whistler is in a good position with numerous conferences booked through the spring. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual general meeting is particularly big for Whistler Blackcomb, as one of the functions includes the use of lifts on both Whistler and Blackcomb, as well as the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler, the Rendezvous on Blackcomb and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.

"We have a lot going for us right now. Every time I drive the highway a new section is open, and every week it's a little closer to being finished," he said. "Right now gas prices are lower than they were at this time last year, and the exchange rate is better for us so that has the potential to keep more Canadians at home and maybe bring Americans here as well.

"I know that everybody is working hard, Tourism Whistler, ourselves, the hotels, to get people here. We're not sitting on our hands waiting for business to happen."

Tourism Whistler doesn't have any visitor numbers for the long weekend, and won't have those numbers until June.