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Spirit of Affordable Winter Recreation

By Shannon Gordon Whistler2020 Team With Whistler Mountain already open, Blackcomb opening today and with over two metres of snow having already fallen this season, many Whistlerites have their Spirit Pass in hand and are itching to point their plank

By Shannon Gordon

Whistler2020 Team

With Whistler Mountain already open, Blackcomb opening today and with over two metres of snow having already fallen this season, many Whistlerites have their Spirit Pass in hand and are itching to point their plank(s) downhill. But before we start carving our way through the winter, let’s consider for a moment the spirit of the Spirit Pass and the other affordable winter recreation and leisure offerings available to us — each aimed at making our long, snowy winters the most enjoyable anywhere — both indoors and out.

Residents are able to afford the time, products and services (including recreation) that enable them to enjoy the lifestyle that Whistler has to offer. Reality? This ‘Description of Success’ (vision) statement from the Whistler2020 Resident Affordability Strategy is the reality for some. But for the 59% of single seasonal residents and the 30% of two-parent/two-child families whose incomes fall below the basic cost of living in Whistler, it’s a stretch (for more on this and other affordability indicators visit That residents are able to afford the Whistler lifestyle through recreation opportunities (heli-skiing aside) is important for individual physical and mental wellbeing; the creation of a strong social fabric throughout the community; as well as ensuring the overall resort’s economic success (since happy, healthy residents make great hosts for resort visitors). Resident affordability, one of the 16 Whistler2020 strategies, is clearly a critical factor to the success and long-term sustainability of our resort community.

Since skiing and snowboarding are the main reasons most of us braved the counter-flow of Canadian geese and flew north for the winter rather than south (and then decided to stay here every season thereafter), the focus here is on recreation (housing and food, which are two of the other largest costs for Whistler residents, will be the focus of subsequent columns). We’ll begin by exploring recreation affordability through the Spirit Pass offered by Whistler-Blackcomb through the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

Embedded in the Spirit Pass are more perks and benefits to resort community employees — and to the town as a whole — than you might imagine. (The many cardholder perks range from on-mountain food discounts to 50% off tubing and night skiing to retail savings.) Beginning with the basics, the mountains offer incredible value for the amount of skiable terrain regardless of your pass type. The $1,029 Spirit Pass price that is offered to employees of Chamber of Commerce member businesses means that each square kilometre of terrain is just $30, making it the cheapest (and steepest!) real estate around. (A 2006-07 season pass in Vail runs $2,050 CAD; Jackson Hole $2,200 CAD, and Aspen $2,255 CAD.)

Beyond the $340 savings when compared to an early bird unlimited season pass, the Spirit Pass Program contributes to the resort economy through the Chamber’s guest service training, which helps to create more satisfied visitors who either return to Whistler or recommend it to others. Whistler-Blackcomb also offers discounted pass options to parents, students, youth, children and seniors, these options are really worth looking into if you are not eligible for the Spirit Pass.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are two other outdoor winter activities offered in Whistler, and the Lost Lake trail system offers over 32 km of groomed and track-set trails with affordable pricing options (Spirit Pass cardholders receive an additional $35 off their cross-country season pass). Building on the success of the Wild Willies ‘Come Glide with Us’ program is the new RMOW sponsored Cross Country Community Night, which will offer free access to all lighted trails on Monday nights beginning Jan. 10. So whether you’re taking advantage of the free instruction as part of the Wild Willies program or out on your own, Monday evenings offer recreation and social opportunities with a strong dose of affordability.

LUNA events are something to watch for if you are young (or young at heart) and want an alternative to a hang-over — essential if you are planning to take full advantage of your Spirit Pass and fresh powder. LUNA offers innovative, affordable ($3), alcohol-free late-night recreation and leisure programming in Whistler. Fridays include films, dinners, pool parties and cultural gatherings, and Monday nights focus on drop-in sports. The RCMP reported in February 2005 that alcohol-related calls were reduced, on average, by 20% on the nights LUNA events were offered.

These are just a few of the activities Whistler has to offer at affordable prices in the winter. The list could go on (and on) and would include offerings such as fitness facilities, yoga classes, skating, swimming, racquet sports, teen drop-ins, films, presentations and concerts. With so many affordable recreation options available, it’s no wonder that 95% of permanent residents and 98% of seasonal residents were satisfied with Whistler’s recreation opportunities when surveyed in 2005.

Visit and for more information.

Thanks to all the community groups, businesses and individuals who are helping to make Whistler an increasingly sustainable and successful community.

To KNOW MORE about other actions that are moving our community toward Whistler2020, or to find out how we’re performing visit To suggest a story idea, get involved with the Whistler2020 task force process, or to suggest actions for task force consideration, email