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Whistler lights up for Christmas

Thousands of lights turn village into winter wonderland
festival of lights Between 280,000 and 350,000 Christmas lights have been installed in the village. Photo by clare ogilvie

Transforming Whistler into a winter wonderland for Christmas doesn't happen overnight.

In fact, installing the thousands of festive lights seen throughout Whistler Village over the holidays takes more than two months.

"Village staff starts putting them up the middle of October and the installation carries on until December 23," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"It involves six full-time staff working seven days a week, so yeah, it's a big deal."

Wilhelm-Morden said there are between 4,000 and 5,000 strings of lights in the village.

Each string is 24 feet long and holds 70 LED bulbs, for a grand total of between 280,000 to 350,000 bulbs.

The Araxi trees alone contain 100 strings and 7,000 bulbs each.

"Holy cow," Wilhelm-Morden said with a laugh. "Who knew?"

In terms of energy usage, Wilhelm-Morden said the energy-per-string is 4.8 watts per hour.

"So 5,000 strings costs $2.40 per hour, or 10 cents per kilowatt," she said.

All told, the project costs the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) $79,000 — $46,500 for staff and $39,300 for supplies and equipment rentals.

Wilhelm-Morden said the money for the project comes from "several sources of funding," including Resort Municipality Initiative funds, which come from the province to help boost tourism.

Right now, the colours and designs of the lights are chosen by RMOW staff, but Wilhelm-Morden said the RMOW is working on developing a "festive lighting strategy" to make the process more organized.

"That's going to reinforce some of the things that we've got underway these days — our master wayfinding and arrival experience, the village portals and banners and the cultural connector," she said.

"So there will be a festive lighting strategy attached to those programs."

The lights are maintained until the end of January, with removal being completed by the middle of March.

Even with the time it takes to install, the mayor said she feels the project is worth the effort.

"We're not spending huge amounts of money, as you can see, on energy, and just the addition to the ambience is fantastic," she said.

"Certainly lots of people come to Whistler specifically to spend Christmas here, because we are a winter wonderland, and there are so many things to do.

"Plus, with all of the lighting and other decorations and beautiful touches, it really just is a special place to be."

The lights elicit all sorts of responses from guests, Wilhelm-Morden said.

"Everything from just how beautiful the trees down Lorimer Road look, to things as simple as the snowflake on the pavers by the gazebo," she said.

Upcoming events in the village include Family Après at Whistler Olympic Plaza on Dec. 29 and 31 and Jan. 5 and 7 from 4:30-6:30.

New Year's Eve celebrations are taking place all over the Village, with free transit being offered within Whistler from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. (see story on page 98).

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