January 10, 2016 Features & Images » Feature Story

2015: Year in review 

A look back and a look ahead

click to flip through (17) PHOTO BY BLAKE JORGENSON - 2015 Year in review A look back and a look ahead. Feature story by Pique Staff
  • Photo by Blake Jorgenson
  • 2015 Year in review A look back and a look ahead. Feature story by Pique Staff

Whistler year in review

By Alison Taylor

Perhaps the blue/green comet streaking over powdery white Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains on New Year's Eve night best sums up how Whistler is bowing out of 2015 — utterly resplendent in all its glory.

There's no other way around it — 2015 was a very special year for Whistler.

It was the 40th anniversary year for the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), which was officially incorporated on Sept. 6, 1975. It was also the 50th anniversary year for Whistler Blackcomb (WB), with Whistler Mountain officially opening for business in the 1965-66 season.

With all the navel-gazing this year, it would be easy to overlook Whistler's growing confidence on the world stage. But there was the mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, taking an emergency resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September, seeking action from the federal government to increase help to Syrian refugees. Whistler's motion passed in an historic vote.

Recently the mayor said that though we may be Whistler residents, we are also citizens of the world.

"We have an obligation in that regard," she added.

Just this month, the community began organizing into sponsorship groups in the hopes of offering two or three families a place to call home in the coming years. The upcoming year is likely to see those fundraising activities kick into high gear.

As far-off global threats of war come to Whistler's bubble, albeit very peripherally, there is another threat looming just 40 minutes down the highway. It's called Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS), a proposed four-season resort just north of Squamish on Brohm Ridge, or as Whistler sees it, just south of the resort.

The RMOW, WB, Tourism Whistler and the Chamber of Commerce have all rallied together to speak out, in no uncertain terms, about their opposition to this multi-billion-dollar project, which is backed by the Vancouver-based Aquilini and Gaglardi families. The project currently lies with the Environmental Assessment Office at the provincial government and is moving towards an EAO certificate, which would take it to the next level in the approvals process.

Only recently, in a letter dated Nov. 25, municipal CAO Mike Furey again reiterated Whistler's position when asked for further comment by the province.

Seven bullet points outline those major concerns in the letter, which include what Furey called the "overstatement of expected incremental skier demand" for GAS, as well as the "continued absence of climatological data to support the proponents' position that this site is suitable for a world- class ski resort."

GAS is not only a four-season resort; the business case includes 21,000 bed units of all shapes and sizes from hotels and pensions to condos and single-family homes.

Should GAS move forward in 2016, Whistler will be spending much of the next year continuing to mount a battle against its approval by the province.

Another recent development in Squamish which could have impact on room nights in Whistler, though no one is talking about it, is the proposed Great Wolf Lodge.

In early December, Squamish council passed a motion to have staff enter into discussions with the hotel chain, owned by the Jim Pattison Group, as it looks to buy district land to support its $150 million indoor waterpark resort spanning 100,000 sq. ft. (9,300 sq. m.).

Based on the Niagara Falls, Ont. location, the average length of stay at the Great Wolf Lodge is 1.6 nights. What this may mean to Whistler's room nights, as skiers and bikers and sightseers travel up and down the highway for a Whistler vacation, is unclear.

Room nights up, staffing a continual worry

Speaking of room nights, 2015 was another one for Whistler's record books.

The stories became, dare we say it, predictable with month after month of record room nights both at the height of the season and during the shoulder season.

June, for example, was up 26 per cent over June 2014. October, during the fall shoulder season, was up 12 per cent.

Tourism Whistler and resort partners are still considering the opportunity of adding another 1 per cent hotel tax to Whistler rooms — going from 2 per cent to 3 per cent. Vancouver moved forward with this increase in September. It's a multi-million-dollar decision likely coming down the pipe in the coming year. Last year Whistler collected $3.9 million in MRDT (Municipal Regional District Tax) — the most it has ever collected. The projections for 2015 were at $4.1 million.

"Nobody likes taxes," admitted Norm Mastalir, head of Whistler's hotel association in an earlier interview with Pique. "But I think it's our collective opinion that it isn't really going to make a terrible disadvantage.

"Any time you add these things it's part of the cost of coming to your destination, so you always have to be careful about it, but I believe that we feel the benefits outweigh the negatives."

Group business also rebounded in 2015: there was the Automatic Data Processing incentive business in August with its 3,500 employees, generating more than 10,000 room nights for the resort (Oh, and private concerts from Katy Perry). There was the International Council of Shopping Centers conference in January, which brought in Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield as a keynote speaker.

There was the TEDActive simulcast conference: the smaller, more intimate offshoot of the renowned TED conference in Vancouver. TEDActive brought roughly 3,500 room nights to Whistler in March for the second year in a row. The conference, however, will not be returning in 2016, though the main conference will be in Vancouver. A blow perhaps. But with the strong American dollar, things are looking up for more group business to come.

And yet, the pressures abound on Whistler's workforce. This year saw restaurants reduce hours and 'help wanted' signs littering the village windows. There were simply not enough workers to go around.

A July 7 headline in Pique read: "Businesses feeling pain of tight labour market." The following month, another headline: "'Dismal staffing struggles worsen in Whistler."

The chamber and other key stakeholders continue to lobby Ottawa in regards to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program as well as looking at other solutions to deal with Whistler's labour struggles. This situation looks to continue in the coming year ahead.

Whistler Blackcomb three-peat

WB kicked off its 50th anniversary year with a bang — No. 1 ski resort ranking in North America as voted by the readers of SKI Magazine. Then came the 5 metres (16 feet), and counting, of snow for a December unlike any we've seen in recent years.

Let's not forget WB's year-end financials, released in December for the year ending Sept. 30. It was another record-breaking year for revenue, increasing to $262.3 million. That's three years running of record-breaking numbers. This, despite skier visits dropping from 1.9 million to 1.77 million due to the dismal conditions last season.

Summer business, however, was through the roof. WB's fourth quarter, ending Sept.20, was up 48 per cent with record bikers, hikers and sightseers.

Impressive year-end numbers to say the least, even more impressive in the context of this Pique headline May 7 — "Western ski resorts debrief after worst season in recent memory."

It's easy to forget the "challenging" conditions last season in the midst of an early start like the one now underway.

It was a season that saw Whistler riding bikes in March with Blackcomb closing a month earlier than planned and the bike park opening two weeks earlier than scheduled.

What can we say: when Mother Nature gives us lemons... Whistler gets on its bikes.

But even bike riding was on hold for a week this summer as the forest fires raging close by blanketed the valley in thick, acrid smoke. Judging by how much money the municipality is spending every year to prevent forest fires, this is an issue that isn't going away.

Meanwhile, WB is continuing to invest in its product. This year saw the $5.4- million renovation to the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb.

New this year too, riding bikes down to Creekside and taking the gondola back up, another access into the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.

A special shout out to WB too for this headline in 2015: "Smokers will have to butt out on all WB property as of May 31."

We're all breathing easier because of it.

First Nations 'historic' meeting

Last year Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden had this to say at Pique's year-end review in regards to its relationship with Squamish and Lil'wat Nations: "We are developing a strategy but the election put everything on hold," she said, referring to the November 2014 municipal elections in which three new people were elected to fill the vacant council seats.

"With the new year, that will be one of the issues at the top of the list."

The First Nations "issues" in Whistler remain unresolved one year later.

The municipality continues to work from its 20-year-old Official Community Plan after its update was challenged in B.C.'s Supreme Court by the Nations, who claimed the provincial government did not fulfill its duty to consult on their concerns about the new plan, namely its cap on development in Whistler. They won that challenge in court and the OCP remains in limbo.

In October this year, there was a council-to-council meeting between Squamish Nation and Whistler council. The mayor called the meeting 'historic' — the first she can remember in all her 15 years on council — and said it was 'long overdue.'

While developments may be taking place behind the scenes, this was the first, and only, public move in 2015 at mending this relationship.

So, the question of Whistler's OCP and moving forward with First Nations remains unresolved for another year.

2016 and beyond

Though there are some serious issues facing Whistler in the coming year — Garibaldi at Squamish, unresolved First Nations concerns, more unpredictable weather patterns — there is little doubt that Whistler lives up to its promise as the No. 1 ski resort in North America. The trick, as is always the case when you're in the top spot, is figuring out how to stay there.

Pemberton/SLRD 2015 sets the course for coming years

By Braden Dupuis

If 2014 was about turmoil and turnover — Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy leaving, municipal elections bringing in new mayors and councils — 2015 was about setting the stage for the coming years.

Let's just say there weren't exactly an archive's worth of the major headlines that seem to grab people's attention and dominate discussions on coffee row.

But that's not to say things were boring.

Wildfires burned, the Pemberton Music Festival returned and some new faces joined the political structure of the region.

As with any year, 2015 presented challenges both immediate and long-term, but for the most part it was about staying the course.

Here are some of the people and stories from Pemberton and beyond that had us talking in 2015.


With a new mayor and council voted in at the end of 2014, Pemberton began the year ready to get down to business, but for the most part, 2015 was business as usual.

The Pemberton Music Festival returned for a second straight year, offering bigger crowds and a lineup that included The Black Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Weezer and Missy Elliott.

While the 2014 edition of the festival had some local businesses upset with the lack of foot traffic — both at their on-site booths and in the village itself — 2015 saw an improvement in that regard.

"It was absolutely a complete 180-degree turn. It was a super event," Marc Mendonca, owner of Grimm's Gourmet and Deli, told Pique in July.

The sweltering heat — with one day hitting a Spud Valley-record 37.7 C — left the thousands of festivalgoers scrambling for shade and water.

"You can never have too much free water available," said Dr. Sam Gutman, head of medical services for the event. "However, I think it was adequate and safe, but will we review the plan and improve it? Of course."

There's always room for improvement, but if 2015 is any indication, the 2016 edition of the Pemberton Music Festival should once again be the most anticipated event in Spud Valley.

While the Pemberton Music Festival was the big-ticket event for 2015, it wasn't the only thing happening in the valley.

This year also saw the introduction of the Pemberton Men's Shed, growth in the destination wedding industry (and subsequent discussion over how to best manage it) and discussion over how to approach the growing number of Airbnb rentals in the area — an issue now taking place in municipalities worldwide.

The Village of Pemberton has taken it upon itself to crack down on illegal nightly rentals, starting with an education component.

The village will send its bylaw officer to inform illegal rentals they are operating in contravention of local bylaws.

"I think a lot of people don't necessarily understand that there are negative impacts to doing a short-term rental," said Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman.

With access to housing a growing issue in the Sea to Sky corridor, the story of Airbnb is one to watch in 2016.


In the lead up to the 2015 Pemberton Music Festival, there was concern over several wildfires burning in the area — and the thick blanket of smoke that covered local communities for days.

In the end, the fires stayed well away from the festival, but by the end of the summer had left their mark across the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).

After a winter that yielded little in the way of snow, several wildfires sprang up across the SLRD.

By early July, the Boulder Creek, Elaho and Nahatlatch wildfires had spread to cover a combined area of about 30,000 hectares.

Eventually the fires were contained, though they weren't the only disasters to strike the region in 2015.

In April, a fire at the Squamish Terminals dock sent billowing, black smoke across the community. The fire burned for three days, spewing its toxic fumes far and wide.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, and Squamish Terminals said the 40-year-old dock would be rebuilt to industry standards.

But just a few days later, the community was once again sent into a small panic, as a chunk of granite roughly 1,000 cubic metres in size came tumbling off of the face of the iconic Stawamus Chief.

Though the granite shook the ground and could be heard throughout Squamish's downtown — and though several people were climbing on the Chief at the time of the slide — no injuries were reported as a result.

"We dodged a bullet because it's a common area for scrambling — rock climbing off the main face of the Chief," said John Clague, a professor of Earth sciences at Simon Fraser University.

Clague told Pique that a rockfall of that scale typically occurs on the Chief every one or two centuries.

In September, disaster struck yet again when a mudslide north of Birken wiped out two homes and damaged four others.

"I'm not attached to the possessions, but the dream we were building there is harder to let go of," said Rob Elliott, who lost his two-storey house, guest cabin, 80-foot greenhouse and large garden in the slide.

Several fundraisers were organized to help those affected by the slide.


While a new mayor and council started the year in Pemberton, by the early fall it became clear a by-election was in the card, when Pemberton councillor Joanne Molinaro resigned.

"I was greatly honoured to have been elected and want to say a very large thank you to the people of Pemberton," Molinaro wrote on her Facebook page.

"I have enjoyed the brief time I have served on Council."

Molinaro decided to keep her reasons for resigning personal.

Two names came forward to challenge for her seat, former councillor Ted Craddock and newcomer Jasper Balsamo-Lack.

In the end, Craddock was elected to return to the council table, after having retired in November 2014.

"I'm pleased the people of the community, friends and neighbours took the time and showed the interest to get out and vote and put the person in place they were supporting," Craddock told Pique after the election.

"I'm really looking forward to moving ahead."

But the local government turnover didn't end there.

In March, Dean Nelson was elected as the new chief of the Lil'wat Nation, with former chief Leonard Andrew elected to the newly created role of cultural chief.

Nelson will focus on the political realm, while Andrew, an elder, will work more on the community and cultural side of things.

"It's always good to have a mentor," Nelson said of the new arrangement.

After a community member appealed the results of the election, a re-election was held in the summer — which Nelson also won.

The big political story of the year, however, was on the federal level.

Canada's 42nd General Election stretched from August to October, and dominated many of the headlines during that time.

In the end, Liberal Pam Goldsmith-Jones was elected as Member of Parliament for the Sea to Sky riding.

"It feels fantastic. It really is exciting to be able to contribute from the West Coast of B.C. to the country," Goldsmith-Jones said shortly after addressing a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in West Vancouver on election night.

"I know how hard we worked and we didn't take our eye off the ball, and we didn't take the bait with negative ad campaigning and that strategy has proven us out."

Goldsmith-Jones unseated two-term incumbent Conservative MP John Weston, defeating him 36,300 votes to 17,411.

Her election was received positively throughout the riding.

"We have a good relationship with Pam. We've known her for many years, when she was the mayor of West Vancouver, and we certainly commend her leadership," said Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation.

"As we proceed with some of our aspirations around marine-use planning and sustainability of development in our territories, we're hoping that Pam will be able to step in and assist with those processes."


One of the biggest news stories of 2014 carried over into 2015 — and is likely to stick around for much of 2016 as well.

The proposed Woodfibre LNG plant in Squamish continued to inch its way closer to fruition, clearing some major hurdles in 2015.

The biggest such obstacle came from the Squamish Nation, who imposed a set of 26 conditions for the project's developers to meet.

"Bottom line here is that SN (Squamish Nation) will simply not approve the (Woodfibre) proposal unless all of these conditions are addressed and resolved — to the Squamish Nation's satisfaction," said lawyer Aaron Bruce in a release.

By October, the conditions had been met to the Squamish Nation's satisfaction, and an environmental certificate was issued.

"This decision is one step in a multi stage process, and just to be very clear, it's not an endorsement of the project," said Chief Ian Campbell at the time.

Shortly after that, the provincial government issued its own environmental certificate for the $1.6-billion gas export facility, with conditions attached.

Despite public opposition from local councils including Bowen Island, Lions Bay and West Vancouver — not to mention local activists — the project has continued to move ahead.

"My reaction is disappointment that (the provincial government) is not listening to the groups and the B.C. population that are against this project," said Delena Angrignon, co-founder of community activist group, My Sea to Sky, after the province gave its assent.

With more permits and approvals in the works, Woodfibre LNG is a safe bet to be featured in Pique's 2016 Year in Review.

Crime A year in review

By Brandon Barrett

As Whistler has grown busier and room-night records shattered with each passing year, the resort has largely been able to avoid the kinds of crime you'd expect to find in Canada's urban centres. And while this year's police blotter remained filled with a range of minor offences common to the community — your bike thefts, your mailbox break-ins, your slap-on-the-wrist drug charges — 2015 was the year when the Whistler bubble was pierced with an uncharacteristic number of violent and lewd crimes that would grab headlines in any big-city paper. With that, here is Pique's look back at the biggest crime stories of the year, along with a few from The Lighter Side of the Blotter that we couldn't help but laugh at.

Whistler's first suspected homicide in years rocks the resort

It was only a handful of weeks into 2015 when one of the only suspected homicides in the resort's history left the community reeling.

In the early hours of Jan. 20, police responded to a report of a disturbance at the Aava Hotel after a late-night altercation between 45-year-old Damon William Campbell and another individual. A confrontation between the two reportedly got physical. According to 911 recordings, the unnamed individual was on top of Campbell at roughly 3:17 a.m. when the Port Coquitlam man stopped struggling.

Responding officers on the scene initially restrained Campbell before noticing him "in distress and unresponsive" and removed his handcuffs. Police and a hotel guest then administered CPR until an ambulance crew arrived. Campbell was pronounced dead at 4:48 a.m.

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) was quickly brought in to investigate the incident.

Ultimately, the IIO found no relationship between the officers' actions and Campbell's death.

The RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) now leads the investigation, although no arrests have been made and few details have emerged in the months since the incident took place. It was the first suspected homicide in the resort since 2007.

Mysterious disappearance of Aussie teen ends in tragedy

The puzzling death of an Australian teen who seemed to have vanished from his Whistler hotel this spring left investigators with more questions than answers.

Nineteen-year-old Jake Kermond was last seen by staff at the Adara Hotel on April 26 when he extended his stay. Days later, on April 30, he was reported missing after staff entered his room to find some of his belongings apparently abandoned.

In the days and weeks that followed, investigators would turn up few clues as to the teen's whereabouts. Police had reason to believe he could have been in some financial trouble and may have been trying to sell his skis. His parents thought he might have entered the U.S., but there was no record of him ever crossing the border.

Then, on June 17, the community's worst fears were realized when a cyclist discovered human remains in an industrial area near Whistler's asphalt plant that were later confirmed to be Kermond.

Rumours began to swirl, with British outlet The Guardian going so far as to theorize that Kermond may have fallen to his untimely end after being pushed off a cliff. However, investigators still have little evidence to back any concrete theory of Kermond's death. "There's a strong likelihood we won't be able to (determine a cause of death) just because the state of decomposition at the time he was found," explained IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Stephanie Ashton back in July. "We may never be able to get a conclusive answer."

Stabbing death casts shadow over another violent May long weekend

The reputation for Whistler's rowdy and sometimes violent May long weekend holiday continued in 2015 with the stabbing death of a 19-year-old Burnaby teen.

Luka Gordic was killed in the village on May 17 after being attacked and stabbed multiple times. Several teens were arrested on manslaughter charges in connection with the killing.

The tragedy, the first of two reported stabbings that weekend, sparked debate once more in the community over how best to handle a holiday that has become something of a blemish on the resort's event calendar. At a vigil for the slain teen in Whistler last June, the Gordic family also called for local officials to rethink the troubled holiday.

Two of the four suspects charged in Gordic's death had their charges upgraded to second-degree murder in October and were released on bail awaiting trial. The other two suspects, both minors, are still facing manslaughter charges.

Local cyclists killed by alleged drunk driver

Whistler was shaken to its core this spring when an alleged drunk driver killed two local cyclists, Kelly Blunden and Ross Chafe, near Pemberton.

The two friends were biking down a stretch of the Duffey Lake Road north of Pemberton on May 31 when they were struck by a vehicle and killed. A passenger in the car, the Lil'wat Nation's Paul Maurice Pierre Jr., was also killed.

The tragedy left many in the community reeling over the loss of two cherished locals. The cyclists were paid touching tribute at a memorial service that was attended by hundreds, and a community ride organized by the Whistler Cycling Club.

After a "long and complex" investigation that spanned several weeks, police in August arrested 43-year-old Lillooet man Samuel Alec in connection with the fatal crash. He was charged with three counts each of criminal negligence causing death, impaired driving causing death and driving over the legal blood-alcohol limit. He was also charged for failing to remain at the scene of the accident.

Both the Chafe and Blunden families have launched civil suits in BC Supreme Court seeking damages from Alec and the vehicle's owner.

Pemberton man arrested for luring child following undercover sting

A Pemberton man and Lil'wat councillor sent shockwaves through the Sea to Sky this summer after he was arrested for allegedly exposing himself online to an officer posing as a teenage boy.

The investigation into 40-year-old Edward Luke Johnny began in July when an investigator posing as a 13-year-old boy was contacted by the accused after posting on a popular online classifieds website, police said.

Online interactions between Johnny and the officer grew increasingly sexual in nature over time, police said, with the accused allegedly exposing himself on camera. Johnny, a career counsellor, was arrested Aug. 12 at the WorkBC Employment Services Centre in Whistler on one count of luring a child and one count of making sexually explicit materials available to a child. Johnny would eventually resign from his position, and WorkBC said it would review its hiring policies in the wake of the arrest.

Johnny, who was re-elected to the Lil'wat Nation's council this summer, also stepped down from that role.

The Lighter Side of the Blotter

Whistler RCMP left with big poopy mess in police cell

Whistler police had a big, stinky mess on their hands in September when a Saanichton man, arrested for breaching his probation conditions, staged a poopy protest in his cell. On the morning of Sept. 11, police stopped a vehicle that had been reported swerving on Highway 99. A check on the passenger revealed the 38-year-old man was on condition not to be in contact with the female driver of the vehicle. After being taken to the detachment, police said the man "defecated on the cell floor, smeared it on the walls and surveillance camera (and) broke a sprinkler, damaging it."

Local police are no strangers to having their sprinkler damaged; it seems a common target for disgruntled detainees.

"The other behaviour is a little bit less common," explained Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair following the arrest.

Drunk couple gets busy in crowded hotel pool

The suggestion to "get a room" never felt more urgent than it did this spring when police said things got steamy between a drunken couple that had broken into a crowded hotel pool.

Officers were alerted to the indecent act on June 7 after several witnesses had reported the young paramours swimming nude in the busy pool. At one point, police said our Romeo was even seen "performing a sexual act" on his Juliet, but he was not to be deterred. When reminded by a witness that the impressionable eyes of children were present, the visibly intoxicated man reportedly responded with: "They gotta learn sometime," and proceeded to drop his towel, exposing his genitals.

Both suspects, a 28-year-old Englishman and 29-year-old woman, were uncooperative with police and provided fake names. It was later determined they weren't guests of the hotel, and had trespassed to access the pool.

Arts & culture Try to keep up

By Cathryn Atkinson

Growth and progress continues in Whistler's arts and culture community. Below are some of the highlights of the year.

Visual arts — Ambitious and changing

Big ambitions can be accompanied by ups and downs.

Delays were announced to two new projects, the opening of the Audain Art Museum and the unveiling of Timeless Circle, a large sculpture by Musqueam artist Susan Point, which had been created as part of a 2010 Olympics legacy and funded by the provincial government.

The Audain's delay was to allow for the temperature and humidity control systems to be installed in order to protect the multi-million-dollar collection.

Both the museum, located on Blackcomb Way, and Point's $198,000 bronze, located outside the Maury Young Arts Centre (formerly Millennium Place), will join the resort's creative offerings early in 2016.

The Audain continued to be an important story prior to its opening. In November, the American Friends of Whistler donated $100,000 to the museum's endowment fund. In July, Whistler developer Norman Cressey donated $1 million. With a goal of $25 million, the fund sat at over $7.5 million as of November.

In April, Heidi Zuckerman, the director of the Aspen Art Museum spoke at a sold-out fundraising dinner for the Audain at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

She told those gathered: "I think the community is profoundly fortunate... it seems like an incredible windfall and a game changer for Whistler. The fact that the mayor and the council embraced the opportunity quickly, sounds like there could have been opportunities to derail things but people said 'yes.' That doesn't often happen, for everyone to be so in sync."

Also in the fall, the Audain released its first book on the art collection, entitled Masterworks.

In the commercial gallery world, the Whistler Village Art Gallery changed its name to better reflect its vision and clientele. Whistler Contemporary Gallery relaunched in December with a show by Canadian painter Jane Waterous.

A pop-up gallery for local artists opened in commercial space in the Westin in May.

And in December, Whistler council amended its proposed home-based studio bylaws, extending temporary-use permits from two to three years, and reducing the renewal fee from $300 to $250. The bylaws will be up for adoption in early 2016. The fee remains controversial to some artists.

Music — Festivals, concerts, locals

The Pemberton Music Festival took over the valley from July 16 to 19and American DJ Skrillex who donated a turntable system to the Pemberton Arts Council.

Performers included The Black Keys, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Tiesto, Hozier, Kid Cudi, Weezer, Jane's Addiction, Jack Ü.

At August's Squamish Valley Music Festival, Drake, Mumford and Sons, and Sam Smith headlined, along with Of Monsters and Men, Alabama Shakes, and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.

The Whistler Presents Concert Series kicked off the summer with performances and smaller ensemble appearances at Whistler Olympic Plaza and around the village by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO).

Other Whistler Presents artists included Trooper, the late Dal Richards, Great Lake Swimmers, and Spirit of the West.

Whistler's Great Outdoors Festival in mid-May brought rockers April Wine and Jim Byrnes, Barney Bentall and John Mann with blues, bluegrass and Celtic rock.

At the local level, musician Emily Molloy won the annual Whistler Music Search competition in October at the Crystal Lounge. The Point Artist-Run Centre brought in Kevin Kane of The Grapes of Wrath and Bryan Potvin of The Northern Pikes — twice.

And WMN Studios launched CraftSingles, pulling 15 musicians in to record and video their original music — a web series of the performances can be found on YouTube and Facebook.

Arts education — Exciting launches

This past year, dozens of young artists and musicians took advantage of two new programs in Whistler.

In late June, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute opened in Whistler with around 80 young classical musicians from around the world. The institute ran in conjunction with the VSO's annual appearances at the resort.

And in August, 10 teens completed the inaugural 10-day summer studio offered by Emily Carr University.

"We are happy to see the partnership with Whistler, the ability to bring students together from all over the province. It's a sustainable program," said Tene Barber, executive director for continuing education at Emily Carr.

Film — Anniversary and honourees

The Whistler Film Festival turned 15 with celebrations, new milestones and events from Dec. 2 to 6. The mood was perhaps best summed up by the festival's executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw.

"Hollywood's found us," she told Pique. "We're making in-roads, and that was always our intention."

Oscar contenders Carol and Trumbo were screened alongside in-conversation interviews with actors Robert Carlyle, Kiefer Sutherland and Bruce Greenwood.

Around 60 per cent of the festival's programming was Canadian, with 1,310 alumni taking part. There were also programs benefitting screenwriters, directors, producers and filmmakers at all stages in their careers.

This year, the thriller River captured three Borsos awards, including Best Canadian Feature, Best Screenplay and Best Director. And Variety Magazine's 10 Screenwriters to Watch talk at WFF returned for its fourth consecutive year.Festival programmer Paul Gratton said 89 films were selected from more than 1,200 entries, the most they've ever had.

Sports year in review Post-olympics year still brings plenty of excitement

By Dan Falloon

There are some years where, maybe, this section would be a little difficult to write.

Being the year after the Winter Olympic Games, especially, athletes operate on a bit shorter schedule. One might think a high-level hub like Whistler might slow down a step, but 2015 was just as jam-packed with events as the year that preceded it.

Let's hop right in with how some of the top local athletes fared over the last 12 months.

Top of the world

Marielle Thompson

Whistler's greatest ski-cross threat, who picked up the torch from Ashleigh McIvor-DeMerit, experienced the agony and the ecstasy in 2015.

The 23-year-old won the first four races of the season and was poised to earn a third FIS Crystal Globe in dominant fashion before suffering a knee injury at the Freestyle World Ski Championships in Kreischberg, Austria. After a summer of rehab, Thompson powered to a win in her first FIS race back in Montafon, Austria in early December.

She was also awarded the 2015 Senior Female Athlete of the Year award by Sport BC.

Simon d'Artois

Whistler's Simon d'Artois made some Canadian sporting history at the X Games in January.

d'Artois, 23, became the first Canuck to capture the gold medal in superpipe at the Aspen, Colo. event. He scored an even 93.00 to hold off France's Kevin Rolland and American Alex Ferreira, who both also topped 90 points.

"When I got to the bottom of the pipe, it was pretty special for me... I'm just happy to put it down," d'Artois told Pique after the win.

He later won most outstanding performance of the year in halfpipe from the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association for his performance.

Cassie Sharpe

The 23-year-old, who came to Whistler via Comox, had the first big result of her career early in the year.

At the FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships, Sharpe scored a second-place showing in halfpipe, vaulting onto the podium with a strong third run to sit behind only Virginie Faivre of Switzerland when the dust cleared.

Sharpe then topped the podium for the first time ever at the final FIS Freestyle World Cup stop in Tignes, France, winning the halfpipe event in March by posting the best two runs of the day.

Sharpe was later named the CFSA female high performance rookie of the year.

To start this season, Sharpe snagged a second-place showing in superpipe at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colo.

Darcy Sharpe

Not to be outdone by his older sibling, snowboarder Darcy Sharpe took second place in the men's big air at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships in Kreischberg, as he trailed only Finland's Roope Tonteri when all was said and done.

At the Dew Tour in December, he won third place in slopestyle.

Teal Harle

The 19-year-old, who originally hails from Campbell River, enjoyed a breakout year in 2015.

Harle, whose parents own and operate Podium of Life Snow Sports Academy, scored a pair of gold medals at the Canada Winter Games in both slopestyle and big air.

He continued his success into Collingwood, Ont., where he won gold in men's big air at the Sony SnowCrown AFP World Tour stop before taking silver in slopestyle at the Dumont Cup in Sunday River, Maine the next weekend.

Broderick Thompson

Marielle's younger brother had quite the year.

The 21-year-old Thompson picked up his first NorAm Cup win at Nakiska Ski Area in February, posting the win in super-G.

At the FIS Junior Ski World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, Thompson narrowly missed the top 10 with a best finish of 11th in the alpine combined.

He made his World Cup debut later in the season and was named to the Alpine Canada team this spring alongside Ford Swette.

Manny Osborne-Paradis

The Canadian veteran and Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus hit two podiums last season.

The 31-year-old North Vancouver downhill specialist took second at the season-opener last December and after an up-and-down season, notched a late-season runner-up in Kvitfjell, Norway in March.

Mike Riddle

Squamish freestyle skier Mike Riddle received close to top marks for his winning halfpipe run at the final FIS Freestyle World Cup event of the year in Tignes, France in March.

Riddle's top run scored him a 95.00 to edge out American and 2014 Olympic gold medallist David Wise's 94.20.

Taylor Wilson

The 19-year-old halfpipe specialist hit it big in Collingwood, Ont. in April, taking first place at the Sony SnowCrown AFP World Tour stop.

He later made his Dew Tour debut in Breckenridge, Colo. in December.

Yuki Tsubota

After recovering from a concussion suffered at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Tsubota had some strong stretches to her season.

The 21-year-old took a pair of second-place finishes at the Sony SnowCrown before coming up with a two-podium performance at the World Skiing Invitational here in Whistler in April. Tsubota won the slopestyle before taking third in big air.

Leonie Picton

Coming off some injury troubles in recent years, Picton had an impressive year on the mountain biking circuit, taking two wins at the Subaru Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif. in April and capping it with a BC Enduro crown at the end of the summer.

Jesse Melamed

Melamed made a break-through on the Enduro World Series tour this year, hitting his first top 10 outside of Whistler at the Chain Reaction Cycles Emerald Enduro in County Wicklow, Ireland with a ninth-place finish. Melamed later suffered an injury in training and was forced to miss two races, including the home race during Crankworx.

Yoann Barelli

A French rider who now calls Whistler home, Barelli was second at the Enduro World Series stop here during Crankworx and then was also the runner-up at the next stop in Spain. He ended the season in ninth overall.

Diane Ziff

The 74-year-old cancer survivor won two races, a doubles and a quad, at the U.S. Masters Rowing National Regatta in Camden County, N.J. in August.

Maureen Harriman

In her seventh time down to Boston, Harriman finally tasted victory, winning the women's grand masters singles race at the Head of the Charles regatta.

The young ones

Jackson and Cooper Bathgate

The twins and grandsons of NHL legend Andy Bathgate have done well to carve out their own athletic legacies.

The 17-year-olds blazed their way onto the podium at the Canadian Open Freeskiing Championships in Rossland last January.

But that was just a warmup for the big event of the year for the pair — the Freeride Junior World Championships in Grandvilara, Andorra.

Cooper Bathgate took a sixth-place finish in his first time at the event, while Jackson Bathgate and West Vancouver's Liam Peiffer were back to back in 17th and 18th.

Adam Shippit

The 16-year-old luger from Pemberton became a World Champion in 2015.

Shippit won all three FIL youth A races in the North American half of the season and took a highest finish of seventh when the scene shifted to Europe.

"It feels good knowing you worked so hard for something and that you accomplished it," Shippit told Pique.

Matt Riddle and Reid Watts

Shippit's Whistler-based teammate, Matt Riddle and Reid Watts, also brought home Crystal Globes from the season-ender in Winterberg, Germany.

The youth A doubles duo held off Calgarians Evan Wildman and Heath Karpyshyn to secure the title.

Individually, Riddle and Watts were fourth and fifth in the singles category. Heading into this year, Shippit has replaced Watts on the doubles sled and the pair made their World Cup debut in Calgary in December, but did not finish the race.

Watts focused on singles, winning bronze in his first race in Konigssee and earning a spot up on the national senior team to start 2016.

Sofiane Gagnon

Whistler's Sofiane Gagnon shot up the standings on her way to two bronze medals at the Canada Winter Games.

The 16-year-old wasn't even competing in her main discipline of moguls, but impressed the judges to haul home third-place showings in big air and slopestyle.

Katie Fleckenstein

The West Vancouver resident and Whistler Mountain Ski Club member took Canada Winter Games gold in a slight surprise.

Fleckenstein came through to top the podium in ski cross even though she hadn't trained all that much in the discipline leading up to the Games. She topped all four heats to dominate the field. Fleckenstein also placed in the top 10 in giant slalom and super-G.

Fleckenstein later won a Fidelity U16 super-G race at Apex Mountain Resort.

Asher Jordan

The 16-year-old WMSC athlete captured a Fidelity U16 win in super-G at Apex and later represented Canada at the Whistler Cup.

Ethan Hess

The Pemberton sit-skier powered his way through to bronze at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George.

Hess scored a third-place finish in the 800-metre sprint para male race and was 21 seconds off the winning pace.

Heading into the Games, Hess took part in the U.S. Paralympics Sitting Nationals and IPC NorAm in Midway, Utah, finishing ninth in all three of his events.

Max Peiffer

Whistler Mountain Ski Club racer Max Peiffer overcame unfamiliarity with Nakiska Ski Area heading into the U18 nationals.

Peiffer was the most consistent racer across the trio of races, finishing in the top 10 in all three and capturing the win in the giant slalom to secure the overall title.

Riley Seger, Cameron Alexander, Stefanie Fleckenstein and Mitch Smith all hit the podium individually at nationals.

Jenna Spencer

The luger spent her last day as an 18-year-old by topping the nation.

Spencer, from Mount Currie, eked out a win over Calgary's Rachel Klassen by 0.001 seconds at Whistler Sliding Centre in March.

Calgarian John Fennell won the men's crown.

Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club

The local organization won 14 medals, including five national titles, at the Difference Capital Canadian Junior Nationals at Silver Star Mountain Resort.

Luke Smart topped the podium three times, while Kai Martin and Sophia Tchernetsky won once each.

Kai Smart, Raine Haziza, Josephine Howell, Maia Schwinghammer, Anders Ujejski and Charlie Armstrong also returned with hardware.

Olivia McNeill

The Whistler Freeride Club member pulled off an impressive comeback, recovering from a 2.5-point deficit to win her division at the IFSA North American Junior Freeski Championships in Wyoming in April. Fourteen club members qualified for the event, though three were unable to attend.

Finn Iles

The 16-year-old former Whip-Off World Champion ended up only participating in one Crankworx event this year due to injury, but he made the most of the one he did.

Iles topped his age division in the downhill and placed second in the whip-off in the final Crankworx at Les Deux Alpes. Organizers announced the event will move to another French resort, Les Gets, starting in 2016.

Wes Finck, Isabel Peters and Bailey Thomson

The three Pembertonians attended the International Dragon Boat Federation Worlds in Welland, Ont., putting up impressive results.

Finck won nine golds, Thomson took six and a silver and Peters won four golds and a silver.

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