Whistler's winter animation budget is getting a $160,000 boost this season and that means more action in the village than ever before.
While the winter festivals, events and animation (FE&A) budget of $430,000 remains just a portion of the overall $3 million municipal program, the funding increase is a sign of just how seriously the municipality considers recent research showing the value of the winter guest and its impact on the resort's economic engine.
The research shows an average daily spend of $350 from winter destination guests compared to $160 for summer destination guests.
"Look at the value of the winter guest compared to the summer guest — it's more than two for one," said Councillor Roger McCarthy, the council representative on the FE&A Oversight Committee.
The increased funding is designed to transform the village into a family-friendly mecca of activity, making people feel like they're truly on vacation in a winter wonderland.
"I think it just adds to the dimension of what the resort already offers and coming off the success that we've had throughout the summer and the fall, it really goes back to the 'R' in RMOW. It's 'Resort'," added McCarthy of the $7 million in Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding from the province through hotel tax, given to Whistler with the expressed purpose of boosting tourism.
"(The funding) is coming out of essentially the overnight bed base, the RMI funding, and it comes back to us and allows us to really enhance the experience of our day-to-day guests by adding things that would be beyond their expectations."
This is how Whistler plans to exceed winter guest expectations this season with $430,000:
Family Apres — $50,000
Last year's test event was deemed a success and so the experience is expanding from 10 to 14 weeks, and from once per week to twice per week. The budget is also growing from $20,000 to $50,000.
Every Monday and Wednesday from Dec. 23 to March 26 Whistler Olympic Plaza will become a winter wonderland from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with local musicians like The Sociables, and performers from the Vibe Dance Studio. The programming is free and includes the use of toboggans, a place to build snowmen, street hockey and story time.
Sochi Olympic Celebrations — $80,000
From Feb. 7-23 there will be winter animation in the village with an Olympic theme to remind Whistler of the 2010 Winter Games. Details have not been confirmed for this one-time spend.
New Year's Celebration — $130,000
New Year's in Whistler is a family-friendly affair with music, arts, crafts, food, dancing and ice-skating. The evening includes a special party area for kids and a Kids Countdown at 9 p.m.
The municipality expects to recover $30,000 to $45,000 from ticket sales.
Winter Animation — $50,000
Details are not confirmed but this will be free, additional programming in March that's weather-independent and family-focused.
Whistler Holiday Experience - $75,000
The Whistler Conference Centre transforms from meeting place to funhouse with a mini pitch-and-putt course, table games, bouncy castles, crafts and video games.
This FE&A investment has been steadily increasing over the past five years.
Whistler Blackcomb's Fire and Ice — $46,000
This investment has not changed over last year. The funding helps boost the weekly Sunday night show at the base of the mountains, where skiers and riders jump through burning hoops.