2016 Year in Review 

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  • 2016 Year in Review

Whistler Year in Review

By Braden Dupuis

What difference does a year make?

A whole heck of a lot, as it turns out.

When we last sat down to type up Pique's annual Year in Review, there was no talk of Vail ownership in Tiny Town, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) had no aspirations of ascending to the Renaissance and a Donald Trump presidency was considered a long shot at best.

And yet, here we are.

Where to even begin talking about 2016?

The events of the last 12 months — both here at home and in the wider outside world — will echo throughout 2017 and beyond.

It was the kind of year that has historians salivating (and doomsday preppers shoring up their supplies).

There's no telling what we'll be writing about in this section in December 2017, but after the rollercoaster that was 2016, we're willing to bet that nothing is completely out of the question.

Big changes afoot

The year's biggest news story, as voted by Pique's readers in our annual Best of Whistler survey, was Vail Resorts' "friendly takeover" of Whistler Blackcomb (WB) in August, worth about $1.4 billion.

"We believe this transaction will provide expanded opportunities for our resort and for our community," said WB's COO Dave Brownlie. "This transaction will provide greater resources to support Whistler Blackcomb's current operations, as well as our ambitious growth plans, and ensures the long-term future of our resort."

The most immediate changes Whistlerites will notice will be in the price of ski passes: when Vail's Epic Pass comes online at Whistler Blackcomb next season, it will likely cost around US$849.

The long-term implications of the deal remain anyone's guess, but there has been no shortage of speculation.

The deal has already had a direct impact on at least a few dozen locals — on Nov. 17, Vail announced it had laid off 60 WB employees due to redundancies in its corporate structure.

But WB was a contender for "biggest news story of the year" long before the Vail news broke. In April, the mountain operator announced Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance — the largest investment in company history (to the tune of $345 million).

The three-phase project will include the development of a new lift, an indoor adventure centre and waterpark, two high-end real estate developments, a doubling in size of the bike park and a revitalized Blackcomb base.

Much like the Vail deal, many questions remain around the Renaissance project, and Pique will be following every step.

In July, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) presented its updated Economic Partnership Initiative report, which detailed the resort's astounding financial growth in recent years.

The key numbers: Whistler now has a Gross Domestic Product of $1.53 billion per year, representing annual growth of 5.6 per cent since the 2012 report.

Whistler generates $500 million every year ($1.37 million every day) in tax revenue for federal, provincial and municipal coffers, and the resort is responsible for about 25 per cent of the entire annual tourism export revenue of B.C., up from 21.5 per cent in 2012.

The average destination visitor spends $265 per day in Whistler, while the average regional visitor spends $125 per day.

There are 15,051 people employed in the resort — up 10 per cent from 2012 — and an average of 2.7 million unique visitors every year (a growth rate of 2.2 per cent every year).

In May, Tourism Whistler (TW) reported that 2015 was the resort's best year ever, with record-breaking room nights in both summer and winter.

TW CEO Barrett Fisher told Pique it was favourable weather — a hot summer and snow-packed winter — that made the boom possible.

"The stage was set for Whistler to blow its previous records out of the water and that's exactly what has happened," she said.

Growth is good, we've been told, but it's not without its challenges.

And in 2016, Whistler started to feel the pressures of its recent success.

At the council table

The final months of 2016 in Whistler were dominated by talk of housing.

Availability has been steadily declining in recent years, but by summer of 2016 the problem had morphed into a local crisis: longtime Whistlerites forced to move elsewhere due to a lack of supply, newcomers from all over left wanting or waiting, exorbitant-and-climbing rent prices and an ever-increasing number of landlords choosing to (illegally) rent their homes on Airbnb.

One of the favourite phrases of local officials in recent years, when talking about struggles associated with Whistler's success (such as traffic congestion or the need for year-round staff), is that it's "a good problem to have."

The phrase didn't get tossed around so much once the housing crisis began to ramp up — losing dedicated community members because of growth and greed is never a good thing.

In October, the RMOW announced the formation of its Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing, which has been looking at ways to increase the availability of housing in the community.

So far the task force has launched a new program for matching businesses with homeowners — called Home Run — and stepped up enforcement of illegal nightly rentals.

There are also three new resident-restricted housing projects in various stages of development at Cheakamus Crossing, which will add another 250 beds to the inventory.

More initiatives will be rolled out in the New Year.

If housing was the community's biggest challenge in 2016, traffic congestion was a close second. The busier we become, the harder it gets to move in, around and out of the community.

The RMOW spent much of the year working on traffic congestion issues through its Transportation Advisory Group, and Whistlerites will get a look at some of the group's work at a public forum in January 2017.

It wasn't the most dramatic year at the Whistler council table, but there were some small controversies worth noting here.

At its first meeting of the year, council rescinded and amended a bylaw allowing sales from artists' home-based studios, after artists expressed distaste over the associated $750 fee (the solution — to allow the fee to be paid in three annual instalments — didn't go over very well with artists either).

The fee was lowered to $600 in July, and Arts Whistler stepped up to cover the costs for some artists through a federal grant.

In March, council attempted to place a moratorium on the RMOW's infill housing zoning, after an infill application drew the ire of some Alpine residents.

But to do that, it turned out, council would have to undertake a full rezoning process, including a public hearing, and by April the moratorium was lifted.

"Really, with making that (moratorium) motion, it was simply to send out a message to the community that infill housing has some significant issues attached to it, so if you were at all thinking about buying a lot for the purpose of infill housing, go and talk to staff and talk to us before you do that," Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said afterward.

Another big story from 2016 was the ongoing saga of the District Energy System (DES) in Cheakamus Crossing.

The controversial and confusing heating system has cost Cheakamus residents thousands in repairs, and in 2016 the RMOW took a look at the system to determine the fallbacks.

In October, the municipality committed $350,000 to repair DES heating units.

Aside from those minor missteps, it was business as usual at the council table, and some notable projects got completed in 2016.

The long awaited Train Wreck Bridge opened to the public in July, allowing safe, legal access to one of the resort's most popular hikes.

Sharp, new "wayfinding" signs went up around town, marking important destinations and areas and offering visitors a more cohesive sense of place during their stay in Whistler.

In November, the RMOW cut the ribbon on a new Nesters Crossing Valley Trail underpass north of the village, completing one of the last major connections of Whistler's renowned trail system.

The trail and underpass will be illuminated with light and cleared of snow in the winter.

Bears, toads and a divisive coat of arms

From the late summer and into the fall, Whistler's bears had a bit of a rough go.

A cub was accidentally killed during the annual Ironman event, when its mother was tranquilized and fell on the cub, smothering it during transportation by the Conservation Officer Service (COS).

The next month, a bear and her two cubs were destroyed after an encounter with a bike rider on the Lost Lake trails.

In response to that incident, the Whistler Wildlife Protection Group was formed.

"Whether it's the (RMOW) needing to do more, whether it's hotels informing guests when they arrive that if they litter there are high fines, something has to be done," said founder Ranya Dube.

"The community is going to have to push and be a pain in people's backsides to get it done, but I'm OK with that."

The group has continued to meet, and will likely be one to watch in 2017.

While the community grappled with its treatment of bears, another friend of the forest caused quite a stir in August as well — the Western Toads of Lost Lake managed to close off public access to the popular summer spot when tens of thousands of the amphibious creatures went rogue.

The toads typically migrate from the shore to the forest every year, but this year they decided to take their own path, ending up in the park and underfoot.

The RMOW put out a call for volunteers to safely see the toads to sanctuary, and access to Lost Lake was reopened after a week.

In the end, far fewer of the toads were killed by humans than in previous years, the RMOW said.

In March, the RMOW officially unveiled its first Coat of Arms, featuring a bear, a hoary marmot and a whiskey jack, among other local symbols.

The Coat of Arms prompted an epic, 1,300-word Letter to the Editor from Doug Garnett.

"A non-representative sample of my friends agree with me: junk this ridiculous coat of arms design, fire the committee who came up with it, and poll the inhabitants of this valley to see if they want to have local government waste time and money on a silly coat of arms," Garnett concluded.

 

Crime year in review

By Brandon Barrett

2016 was a year of change in many ways for Whistler.

Between Renaissance, Vail's acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb, and the continued growth the resort is experiencing, the Whistler of 2016 looks a little different than the Whistler of today. That trend extended to the RCMP over the past 12 months, with both the resort's and the corridor's top cops leaving their positions — their replacements set to drive the future direction of policing in the community.

But, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and Whistler saw its fair share of crimes that are no more out of place today than they would have been in years past. Public intoxication, minor drug busts, bike thefts and rental fraud still fill up the police report on a weekly basis, but every so often you get a case that breaks the mould and surprises the community.

Pique looked back on all the headline-making crimes from the past year along with a few that made us giggle on the Lighter Side of the Blotter.

January:

Whistler man dies of drug overdose 

The year started on a tragic note with a Whistler man dying of a drug overdose in late-January. Pemberton RCMP were dispatched on Jan. 23 to a Pemberton Meadows home where, despite administering CPR, paramedics could not revive the 32-year-old. A friend of the deceased, Shawn Kisielius, initially told Pique he had reason to suspect the drug was fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid that has ravaged British Columbia, but a later toxicology report confirmed it was cocaine.

Kisielius said it's a tragedy that could happen to anyone.

"Everyone says you don't see it coming," he said. "(My friend) was big and strong and healthy, so don't think you're invincible, don't think you're an exception."

Pricey painting goes missing from Whistler gallery

A painting with a hefty price tag went missing from a local art gallery's storage unit on Jan. 14.

A U.S. buyer purchased the work by Canadian painter Jane Waterous on Jan. 3 from a Mountain Square gallery. It was moved to a nearby storage unit for shipping before it was noticed as missing.

Police at the time said it's unclear how the painting went missing, as there was no sign of forced entry into the alarmed storage unit.

The painting is valued at more than $25,000.

February:

Puzzling hit-and-run likely stemmed from domestic dispute

Police were left scratching their heads after a hit-and-run in Pemberton Feb. 6 that investigators believe stemmed from a domestic spat.

Police initially responded to reports of a white, late-model Chevrolet pickup truck that had struck a female pedestrian along Highway 99 just south of Portage Road. After the incident, witnesses reportedly told police the driver placed the pedestrian in the vehicle before driving off.

Police eventually tracked down and arrested the driver, a 35-year-old Port Douglas man, and determined he was in a relationship with the woman. It's believed the incident stemmed from a domestic dispute and that the driver may have struck the woman intentionally.

The woman was taken to a local hospital before being released. She suffered minor injuries.

March:

Whistler ski injury expert sentenced to house arrest over sexual assault of underage boy

A former local ski patroller and noted ski injury expert was sentenced in March to house arrest in Whistler stemming from the sexual assault of an underage boy from over 20 years ago.

In November, a B.C. Supreme Court judge found Robert Cadman, 54, guilty on two counts of sexually assaulting the teenaged boy.

Although the jury heard evidence on a number of alleged sexual assaults between 1993 and 1997, in March the judge ruled that Cadman had committed only two assaults during that span: one at a UBC residence while Cadman was a grad student, and another at a home in Whistler when he worked as a patroller.

The victim was 13 and 14 years old at the time of the assaults.

Ultimately, Justice Patrice Arbour decided on a conditional sentence of two years less a day in spite of the prosecution's push for a three- to four-year prison sentence for Cadman. Under the conditions of his sentence, Cadman has to remain under house arrest 24 hours a day and is permitted to leave only under certain circumstances.

The judge felt that Cadman, who worked as a teacher for many years in the Vancouver area, posed no risk to the community.

"In the circumstances of this case, the offender would serve his sentence in a relatively small community where he and his family have been well known for many years," said Arbour in his decision. "The notoriety of his actions and his convictions may well be greater than were he to be incarcerated."

Cadman is a noted expert in ski injury prevention with a doctorate in medicine and education from UBC.

April:

Boy, 11, threatens classmate with weapon at Pemberton school

Pemberton police investigated a troubling incident at Signal Hill Elementary School in April after an 11-year-old boy allegedly pulled a multi-tool on another student. A school employee who witnessed the April 6 incident was able to intervene and safely secure the weapon before things took a turn for the worse.

School officials initially handled the incident internally until the mother of the threatened child went to police. The first blemish on the student's record, he was suspended for two days.

Signal Hill conducted a violence risk assessment in the wake of the threat and determined the general school population was not at risk. Marilyn Caldwell, director of instruction for learning services in School District 48, told Pique at the time she was satisfied with how the situation was handled.

"Kids make mistakes," she said. "We have to ensure that we help to understand the impact of the decision they made, and that the student can remain in the school population with dignity."

May:

A change of pace on mellow May long weekend

Whistler breathed a collective sigh of relief last May long weekend after the notoriously troublesome holiday passed mostly without incident in 2016.

"It was noticeably different than it has been from other May 24th weekends," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden after the holiday.

Whistler RCMP reported a major dropoff in calls for service last year — 74 compared to 169 in 2015 — and no major violent incidents to speak of. A total of 21 people were lodged in cells over the course of the weekend.

"We did not see the large groups of youth that we saw typically in years past," noted Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair following the holiday.

Officers' high visibility, combined with a $30,000 operational plan that included police road checks on Highway 99, helped to stem the tide of unruly behaviour from years past, LeClair noted.

Local officials have used a multi-pronged approach to reclaim what has become something of a black eye on the resort calendar. The municipality's May Long Weekend Committee was formed three years ago after a particularly raucous holiday, and following discussions the Great Outdoors Festival was launched as a way to attract a more family-oriented demographic.

"This was our third year and I think the programming was attracting people and the right kind of people," said Wilhelm-Morden.

June:

Head of Whistler RCMP retires after 30-year career

Whistler's top cop capped off a remarkable policing career this June, announcing his retirement after 30 years with the RCMP.

"This truly was the best posting ever," said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair on the eve of his retirement.

LeClair's announcement came after a nine-year stint as operations NCO for the Whistler and Pemberton detachments, a period in which he effectively ushered the resort through its Olympic year and played a key role in several high-profile cases.

"He has been such a wonderful face of the RMCP in our community," said Wilhelm-Morden. "He's definitely going to be missed."

LeClair's legacy will be forever linked to his work alongside Whistler and Pemberton's search and rescue teams. He helped police forge a close relationship with those volunteer groups, and could often be found on the ground helping with rescue efforts — something no detachment commander had previously done.

He'll also be remembered as a "hands-on" officer who led by example and possessed a natural inclination towards investigative work.

"He's an operational-minded policeman, so he's out there and he knows the job well. He knows how to get from Point A to Point B and he definitely knows how to take the young guys along and show them the ropes," said former detachment head Norm McPhail.

LeClair will continue doing contract work in Whistler and currently serves as a reservist constable. His permanent replacement has yet to be named.

Hitchhiker escapes assault in moving vehicle

A quick-thinking hitchhiker reportedly escaped an assault in June after the driver touched her inappropriately.

The woman told police a man picked her up from Creekside the night of June 17 and refused to drop her off at Alta Lake Road as requested. He then allegedly proceeded to "touch her inappropriately," police said.

The woman posted to Facebook to detail her getaway and warn others.

"I gave him the opportunity to stop for about 20 seconds and when he kept driving and began touching various parts of my body and saying 'I love you' I put the car from Drive to Park. The vehicle stalled and I got out and ran," she wrote.

July:

Armani-wearing jerk caught on tape berating Whistler bus driver

A video that went viral this summer captured a racist and rude passenger lashing out at a Whistler Transit driver.

The June 18 incident was filmed by another passenger and showed the man boarding the bus and telling the driver: "I'm having a cigarette outside. I put it out. And I get that... Don't talk to me again tonight. You don't say another word to me and if you want to call the police, you call them... You need to understand who you work for."

The gem of a human went on to exclaim to the driver that his supposedly Armani suit is "worth more than you make in six months." At one point he also urged the driver to "go back to your country."

John Barry, BC Transit manager of corporate and online communications, said the driver, who did not appear to respond to the taunts, handled the situation like a pro.

"In this case, he basically kept calm," said Barry.

Four injured in collision that closed Hwy. 99

Four people were taken to hospital July 9 after an accident Lions Bay that snarled weekend traffic on Highway 99.

The head-on collision occurred near Kelvin Grove Way and resulted in a passenger being airlifted to hospital with life-threatening head and spinal injuries, police said. Three others were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The highway was closed in both directions for hours while a BC Ambulance helicopter attended the scene.

Two other accidents occurred in nearly the exact same stretch of road in Lions Bay in the days that followed.

A petition calling for additional concrete barriers to be installed along sections of highway in Lions Bay saw renewed interest following the crash, with over 3,000 signatures so far.

Police investigating alleged stabbing at Pemby Fest 

The 2016 Pemberton Music Festival went off without major incident until the early hours of July 18 when a 21-year-old West Vancouver man was stabbed in the employee camping area.

The suspect allegedly stabbed the victim in the head with a pair of scissors. The attack reportedly stemmed from an earlier dispute when the suspect was asked to leave the area. A 23-year-old man was charged with aggravated assault and made his first appearance in court on July 19.

In total, police arrested 53 people and dealt with 209 offences associated with the popular music festival.

August:

Man reportedly robbed at knifepoint in Creekside 

A local man was reportedly robbed at knifepoint in Creekside on Aug. 21.

Police attended the scene on Lake Placid Road where they were advised by a third party that an unknown male approached another male and "held a knife to his face/throat area" asking for money, police said. The victim reportedly handed over the cash he had on him before the suspect fled the scene.

September:

WAG staff shaken by attempted break-in

Staff at the community's only animal shelter was left shaken in September after a "violent" man attempted to break into the facility to retrieve his impounded dog.

Police responded to an incident on Sept. 16 at Whistler Animals Galore (WAG), where the 38-year-old local man was reportedly trying to gain access to the shelter afterhours.

The man "angrily banged on the door and yelled at us, accusing us of stealing his dog," according to an email from WAG's communications coordinator Catherine Mazza. Bylaw officers reportedly impounded the dog after it was found unattended on municipal property.

Mazza said the man was seen kicking the glass door and ramming a rock and metal bike rack against it, before dragging the rack to an open window at the rear of the facility to try and climb in.

"It was an absolutely terrifying experience," Mazza wrote.

The man was arrested for mischief and subsequently released on conditions with a future court date.

RCMP names new Officer in Charge for Sea to Sky Region

The RCMP named a new Officer in Charge for the Sea to Sky in September, Sgt. Kara Triance.

Triance brings 16 years of policing experience to the new role, including a posting as the Rural Area Commander for the Vernon/North Okanagan region.

Triance now oversees policing in Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish, Bowen Island and Lion's Bay.

Triance replaced Insp. Neil Cross after he spent a decade in the Sea to Sky, including six years as the corridor's top cop.

October:

Diamond thieve's crime spree reportedly included Whistler store

In October, it came to light that a pair of diamond thieves may have extended their nationwide crime spree to a Whistler jewelry store, according to employees of Keir Fine Jewellery.

"A series of events... have led us to believe Keir has been one of the victims of this very slick, well executed crime spree," read an October Facebook post from the store.

Jewellers across Canada were warned to check their stock for fake diamonds after the Ontario couple was charged in a brazen bait-and-switch that impacted stores from coast to coast.

Police arrested Grigori Zaharox, 70, and Natalia Feldman, 44, on Oct. 20 outside a Vaughn, Ont. condo complex. Wanted for an Oct. 7 theft at W. Smith and Co. Fine Jewellers in Saint John, N.B., the couple reportedly pretended to argue before switching a $10,000 diamond with a fake while the store clerk was distracted.

Keir Fine Jewellery co-owner Nicole Shannon said the couple used similar "distraction tactics" at her store. She said staff first discovered the diamonds went missing this summer and employees "immediately recognized" the suspects once footage of the couple went public.

November:

West-side trail signs removed

In November, local bikers and hikers warned that a concerning number of signs have been removed from west-side trails in Whistler.

Over several months, residents reported anywhere from five to 10 signs, as well as other items such as reflectors, have been removed from trails. The signage was a collaborative effort between the Alpine Club, WORCA and the municipality.

"One of the things we wanted to get across here is that we want the community to help us out with this to deter this type of action," said Grant Lamont, who has worked on the signage project.

December:

Police investigating complaint against Whistler detachment 

The RCMP began investigating a complaint made against the Whistler detachment in December after an officer allegedly confiscated a woman's cell phone, which she was using to film an arrest. She was herself arrested after she allegedly refused to hand the phone over.

According to media reports, Vancouver resident Valerie Connelly was walking through the village on Nov. 19 when she saw officers making an arrest.

She took out her phone to record, thinking the footage may be of use to police. As Mounties were finishing the arrest, Connelly told the CBC when they reported on the story, the police noticed her shooting video, and confiscated her phone. When she refused to give police her passcode, she claims she was arrested.

She was eventually released without charge and told she could retrieve her phone during business hours.

In a statement provided to Pique last month, Insp. Kara Triance said a "comprehensive review" of the incident and the public complaint had been launched.

"I can assure the public that, in due course once the investigation is concluded, we will respond with clarity and accuracy on the outcome to the complainant. We will also ensure that if there were errors around authorities, the appropriate course of action will be taken," the statement read.

The Lighter Side of the Blotter

Where's the beef?

A notorious meat thief was caught red-handed pilfering a plethora of protein in February.

Police conducting a routine road stop on Feb. 26 discovered that a 64-year-old driver had been recently charged with "theft of meat" from a Squamish grocery store, said Whistler RCMP's LeClair.

The officer eventually directed the suspect to move a jacket from the backseat, revealing "a large quantity of fresh meat" underneath.

The stolen meat was valued at approximately $180.

But this wasn't the first time our carnivorous bandit made himself known to police.

"We believe this person and his associates are chronic offenders stealing meat," LeClair said at the time.

Prisoner pees on cellmate

Nature called for a Markham, Ont. man this April when he was caught peeing on his cellmate at the Whistler RCMP detachment following his arrest.

On April 2, an officer was alerted to a male in a cell who "took off his pants, sat on his cellmate, and then stood up and urinated on him," explained LeClair.

The 22-year-old was still "highly intoxicated" at the time, police said.

Lover's spat leads to crappy mess for police

Continuing this potty-centric trend, a man left a big stink for Whistler police this April as revenge for his arrest.

On April 11, police received a report of a man shouting obscenities outside and attempting to force his way into a Whistler Road apartment. Eventually the male suspect was able to find a way in, and when officers arrived at the scene, they overheard a loud argument from one of the units between the suspect and his girlfriend. When the man stumbled into the hallway, he was arrested for mischief. His lover was apparently not satisfied with this development, and became extremely "aggravated" with police, repeatedly trying to push past them, LeClair said at the time. The 27-year-old female was arrested for obstruction.

But, alas, that was not the last we would hear from the couple. Once in custody, the 38-year-old male suspect "used his hand to spread excrement on the cell wall, writing profane messages," police said.

Ain't love grand?

Car damaged, filled with frozen limes

Police were left with a sour taste in their mouths this summer after a vehicle was damaged and curiously jammed full of frozen limes.

On June 28, officers responded to a mischief complaint near Gateway Drive, where they found a 2010 Toyota Corolla with a rear window that had apparently been smashed with a frozen lime, said Sgt. Rob Knapton in a release. Other frozen limes were also found in the backseat.

"Someone had written on one of the limes as well," Knapton said. Police did not indicate what was written.

 

Pemberton Year in Review

By Lynn Mitges

Pemberton was rocked in 2016 — first by the revelation that its drinking-water quality was compromised, then by the summer music festival that choked its highways and byways, and then again by slides on Mt. Currie.

In early March, the Village of Pemberton (VOP) issued a public advisory after 20 homes were sampled for elevated levels of lead. In some cases, lead concentrations were up to six times the maximum Acceptable Concentration (MAC) prescribed in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.

Apparently, the low pH levels of VOP water reacts with the plumbing in some homes, which causes elevated levels of lead, which can cause a number of adverse health effects, particularly for children, infants and unborn children.

Within days of the news, concerned Pemberton residents crowded into a council meeting to demand answers about lead-contaminated water.

"Why was the one thing that everybody in this community needs to survive put down the ladder?" asked Garth Phare, president of the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce, referring to the VOP's perceived failure to address water concerns that have been on the table for over a decade.

"Somebody has to be responsible, to step up and take it on the chin. I'm sorry. That's just the way it works," Phare said at the time.

The VOP has known of its corrosive, low-pH water for more than a decade — its own consultant in 2006, EarthTech, pointed it out in a memo dated Oct.19 of that year.

The reaction from some residents was not surprising.

Resident Cindy Filipenko called for the resignations of senior staff.

"I feel the public trust has been broken," she said.

Mayor Mike Richman said staff was looking through files of the history of the water situation to try to understand what didn't get followed up on, and residents were advised to flush their tap water in the meantime.

Within a few months, council voted to pursue a soda-ash treatment of the water at a cost of about $560,000, for which council committed $425,000 and it's not anticipated to result in an increase in utility rates.

Sound check

The Pemberton Music Festival raised some concerns in 2016 because there was outcry that area farmland not be used for festival camping and parking. Specifically, concerns about well water, soil contamination from parked cars, and alleged clearing within a riparian area were all brought to light.

The lengthy, multi-level correspondence — between land owners, neighbours, the Squamish-Lillooett Regional District (SLRD), the VOP, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and even the Environmental Appeal Board — was down to the wire just before the festival began.

Just two weeks before the festival kicked off July 14, approval was granted by the ALC for non-farm use on several tracts of Pemberton farmland. Within days, the SLRD granted Temporary Use Permits for the land.

The ALC found that the current size of the festival — including the approved areas — "are more than adequate." But the approval came with a condition: the VOP, the SLRD and festival organizers were "strongly encouraged to reconfigure the festival layout and the number of participants before approaching the ALC with any future requests."

And then the focus shifted.

Dozens of tired Pemberton Music Festival fans took to social media the day before the festival opened July 14 to voice their anger at having to wait up to seven hours to access the onsite campground.

Getting to the festival campsite was a two-step process, with campers parking nine kilometres away from the site and being bussed in, then registering once arriving there.

It was no small feat considering 2016's record-breaking attendance. A total of 180,000 people came to the 2016 festival — about 45,000 per day and with a total of 17 million impressions on social media and a reach to more than 100 million fans. A total of 110,066 people attended in 2015.

There was some irritation around shuttle wait times — some people reportedly didn't make it back to Whistler Creekside until 5 a.m. on Sunday morning after Saturday's shows — and an early morning stabbing incident on Monday, July 18, sent a 21-year-old West Vancouver man to hospital with serious injuries.

By November, area residents gathered for a post-mortem on the festival — and Huka Entertainment's David Buttrey listened to their testimony about rude behaviour from festival-goers, specifically young people who were drunk, who defecated in local rivers, verbally abused residents, and — once it was all over — left mounds of detritus in their wake.

Buttrey assured locals that Huka is looking at all the complaints and it is a work in progress.

"The traffic, the trash, the noise, those are the things we're actively trying to reduce," said Buttrey.

Summer of success

The Sea to Sky corridor is a product of its own success. And 2016 seemed to be the year that marked the end of the innocence.

Joffre Lakes, Strawberry Point and every backcountry gem seemed to overflow with cars, tourists and garbage. Area residents — and hiking aficionados from the Lower Mainland — started to call for action.

"I think we should be lobbying to protect this area. It's part of our venture gateway," VOP council member Jennie Helmer said at a September meeting.

Counc. Ted Craddock said it's not just the Pemberton area, but the entire Sea to Sky corridor that is reeling from the number of tourists.

"If you start from Squamish and take it all the way to Lillooet, the pressure is the same everywhere," he said. "At the (Sea to Sky) gondola, people are parking on the highway — from here to past Lillooet, you can't camp."

Tourist traffic has ramped up — with new ventures such as a bus that brings tourists from Vancouver to recreation spots throughout the corridor. And everyone agrees that the spike in numbers is sudden, compared to areas such as Cultus Lake or Harrison Hot Springs, where the increases occurred over years.

Mike Richman, VOP mayor, said: "We're a product of our own success," and cited the provincial government and its mandate to double tourism in B.C.

"Then you have to accommodate it," Richman said. "It's constant — we're the recreation mecca."

And it's not just tourists wanting to hike and explore the backcountry. Destination weddings in Pemberton area resulted in more than $8 million in total economic output in 2014 alone, with some residents calling for a moratorium on commercial events

With new provincial regulations in place around agri-tourism and non-farm-use commercial events, the SLRD moved to adapt zoning bylaws for areas A through D, as well as a policy that will guide commercial events taking place in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

The provincial changes redefine agri-tourism, and include new definitions for events, such as weddings, and limit to events to 150 people, to no longer than 24 hours in duration, to no more than 10 events per year, and prohibit permanent facilities from being constructed for events.

Housing crunch

There's an ongoing outcry for increased housing in the Sea to Sky corridor. The unseen stress is building and more marriages are breaking up, leaving mothers with children seeking places to live.

Shannon Didier, Pemberton Homeless Prevention and Outreach Worker, told VOP council in the fall: "I don't think there's an awareness of what's there... Our safe home program has been off the hook busy for seven to eight months, full pretty much daily," said Didier. Couples are facing additional financial stress living here, which often translates into people spending beyond their means. Didier said the stress is taking its toll on relationships. And the most heartbreaking situation is that of seniors: "You can't put them in a shared room," she says, adding that seniors on pensions are falling through the cracks.

One factor under examination is the increased rentals through agencies such as Airbnb, which enjoy tax exemptions. Pemberton Valley Lodge owner and the current president of the BC Hotel Association David MacKenzie said there is a movement underway to lobby to rescind the tax exemption for short-term rentals in small operations.

MacKenzie said if the tax were rescinded, it could bring in upwards of $50 million annually if nightly operators were registered and paid their share.

One project underway is a sustainable, 45-unit housing complex on Arbutus Street in Pemberton. The units are likely to appeal to seniors and low-income families.

The four-storey building will be state-of-the-art construction and will feature a contemporary design. It will produce as much energy as it consumes. The site includes a community garden, onsite bike- and ski-tuning room plus storage lockers for renters. The design also includes provision for two electric vehicles owned by the Moda car-share program.

The wrath of Mother Nature

The triple threat of volcanic rumblings, flooding and rock slides on Mt. Currie are a reminder to area residents of the temperamental ecosystem in which they live.

Mt. Meager in July revealed its active fumaroles — holes on or near volcanoes that emit gases. There is no danger to the public, but the dormant volcano is under surveillance.

The fumaroles were observed in July by someone in a helicopter that passed over the area. Air samples around the fumaroles — plus samples from the ice atop Meager — identify hydrogen sulfide, a toxic. But there is no sulfur dioxide gas detected, which would point toward seismic activity.

And from gas to liquid in the blink of an eye.

Heavy rainfall in November flooded areas in Pemberton, and the VOP issued an evacuation alert for Airport Road.

At North Arm Farm, Emma Sturdy and her crew spent about seven hours relocating livestock and equipment to higher ground on the property as the river levels rose. The driveway to the farm was flooded under almost one metre of water.

One Mile Lake Park and trails were reopened after a temporary closure was issued as a safety precaution.

Wrapping up a busy year was the announcement that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to commit $60 million in funding to stabilize the Ten Mile Slide area of Highway 99.

"This is a pretty complex stretch of road and we've known for many, many years that the slide area moves and we've monitored that on a daily basis," said Jackie Tegart, MLA for Fraser-Nicola.

The new remedy — work for which will begin in the spring of 2017 — involves placing about 400 soil anchors above the highway, plus a shear-resistant wall below the highway, and includes rebuilding the section of Highway 99 just north of Lillooet to make way for a paved road. The long-term work is scheduled for completion in 2018.

 

Sports Year in Review

By Dan Falloon

Being smack-dab inbetween Winter Olympic years didn't slow down any of the local winter athletes while a batch of summer athletes had 2016 to remember. Take a short stroll down Memory Lane as Pique recalls some of the top accomplishers and events from the past 12 months.

World domination

Finn Iles

Iles' year started with a new agreement to represent Specialized. He got off to a great start in Lourdes, France, capturing his first UCI DH World Cup win in the junior men's division, beating Matt Walker by 1.5 seconds to secure the victory. He also took the top spot at Fort William, U.K. and was dominant in Crankworx action at Les Gets, France, winning by 9.6 seconds. He proved he also had the tricks, winning the Official Whip-Off World Championships for the second time, two years after pleasing the crowd following the #LetFinnIn campaign in 2014.

Marielle Thompson

The ski-cross racer topped Anna Holmlund in the second of two races in Watles, Italy in January before continuing that streak with a pair of triumphs in Nakiska, Alta. She then placed second to fellow Canadian Kelsey Serwa in the first Skier X competition at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. since 2012. Back on the FIS World Cup circuit, Thompson also won in Idre Fjall, Sweden but ultimately fell just short of her third Crystal Globe, though she helped Canada claim the Nations Cup awarded to the highest-placing country at the end of the season. Thompson started the 2016-17 season on fire, coming first in: Val Thorens, France; Arosa, Switzerland; and Montafon, Austria.

Cassie Sharpe

The freestyle skier in Whistler by way of Comox stomped two superpipe runs at the Winter X Games in Oslo in February to knock off four-time champion Maddie Bowman.

Darcy Sharpe

Cassie's younger brother held his own on the snowboard with a season highlighted by a third-place showing at Air & Style Beijing in late November.

Lauren Cameron

The Freeride World Tour rookie from Whistler took a podium appearance in Fieberbrunn Kitsbuhler, Austria in March after waiting three days to compete because of challenging snow conditions.

Logan Pehota

As a rookie, the Pembertonian placed second overall on the Freeride World Tour, including a win in Haines, Alaska (with a 90.00 score, no less) and a runner-up showing in Chamonix.

jackson bathgate

The 18-year-old freeride skier was amazing in Andorra this year, winning events on consecutive weekends. The latter was certainly the bigger one, as Bathgate came home with the 2016 Freeride Junior World Championship in January.

Will Routley

The veteran road racer had a strong 2016, winning the second stage of the GP Liberty Seguros in Portugal and taking third at the 2016 Global Relay Canadian Road Championships in Ottawa in scorching conditions. He also notched a third-place finish in the Choice Markets Criterium as part of B.C. Superweek. Routley announced in December, however, he was retiring from the sport to focus on his new kombucha business.

Jane Channell

The North Vancouver skeleton racer put it all together in 2015-16, overcoming an early-season hamstring injury to finish third overall in the women's standings. Channell won her first two medals, a silver in Park City, Utah and a bronze in Winterberg, Germany.

Teal Harle

The freestyle skier posted a big performance in the Czech Republic, taking second at the Excellent Soldiers meet in Destne. To start the 2016-17 season, he notched a fifth-place in the Milan big air event in Italy.

Yuki Tsubota

The 22-year-old slopestyle skier picked up a big win at the U.S. Grand Prix at California's Mammoth Mountain in January, finishing a full seven points up on Giulia Tanno of Switzerland.

Reid Watts

The Whistler luger placed 32nd in his FIL World Cup debut in Sigulda, Latvia, in January and enjoyed the feel atop the podium at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, taking a bronze medal.

Matt Riddle and Adam Shippit

The sled of Whistlerite Riddle and Pembertonian Shippit also attended the Youth Olympic Games, taking fifth. They later made their World Cup debut in Whistler, placing 18th in December.

Mackenzie Wilson

The local freestyle skier placed fifth in the halfpipe at the Youth Olympic Games in her return from injury.

Veronica Ravenna

The Whistler luger, who represents Argentina, placed seventh at the Youth Olympic Games. She then made her World Cup debut in December, taking 16th in Park City, Utah.

Lucas Gebauer-Barrett

The Whistler luger, wearing Great Britain's colours, was 10th at the Youth Olympic Games.

Parker Reid

The Whistler bobsleigh pilot made a little bit of history, competing in the first-ever mono-bobsleigh event at the Youth Olympic Games. Reid placed 12th.

James Crawford

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club competitor hit the podium at the World Junior Championships near Sochi, Russia in February, taking second in the super-G. He later placed fifth in the alpine combined at the same event.

Stefanie Fleckenstein

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club up-and-comer took 20th in the downhill at the FIS World Junior Championships near Sochi. She then finished second at the Sport Chek Canadian Championships downhill race here in Whistler in March, sharing the podium with sister Katie, who was third. The national race for 2016-17 was bumped up to December, and Fleckenstein jumped a spot to take the win in Lake Louise, Alta. a week after making her FIS World Cup debut.

Whistler Demo Team

In the sport's return to the resort, the Whistler Demo Team took third place at the Aspen World Synchro Championships in April. The squad took first in the bumps category while also placing third in the racing event.

Sofiane Gagnon

The up-and-coming moguls skier attended the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Åre, Sweden, placing 17th in the dual moguls and 27th in moguls.

Jesse Melamed

The Whistler enduro rider had a breakout year in 2016, posting strong midseason results like a 16th at Wicklow, Ireland and 13th in La Thuile before making a jump into the Top 10. He took an eighth-place finish at a challenging course in Aspen Snowmass, Colo. leading into Crankworx, where he took second place at the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro trailing only repeat winner Richie Rude. He then took a third-place finish in Valberg, France and a seventh-place showing in Finale Ligure, Italy to finish the season in ninth overall.

Emily Slaco

The Pemberton rider went to the extreme in 2016, taking fourth at the Megavalanche race in France in July. The race, in Alpe D'Huez, starts on the Pic Blanc glacier.

Kirsten Sweetland

Whistler's only resident in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ultimately placed 41st in the women's triathlon. After the race, however, she revealed she'd been battling late-stage Lyme Disease in the lead-up to the race and was working on recovering.

Cathy Zeglinski

The veteran Whistler racer teamed up with German rider Dani Storch to win the six-day Swiss Epic Flow in Zurich in December.

National treasures

Max Kirshenblatt

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club racer dominated the giant slalom at U18 Nationals, winning both competitions at Ontario's Georgian Peaks.

Manny Osborne-Paradis

The WMSC alum scored a super-G win at the Sport Chek Canadian Championships here in Whistler in March.

Morgan Pridy

The Whistler skier defended home turf during the Sport Chek Canadian Championships, holding off fellow Whistlerites Broderick Thompson and Riley Seger for the downhill win.

Mercedes Nicoll

The beloved local snowboarder performed admirably in her return from a concussion sustained at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. In her third competition back, Nicoll won the halfpipe champion at the Sport Chek Air Nation Freestyle Nationals at Mount St. Louis, Que.

Skye Clarke

The Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club skier took the national U14 slopestyle win in Beaver Creek, Ont. Clarke dominated the competition, finishing 18 points up on the nearest competitor. Teammates Luke Smart, Kai Smart, Anders Ujejski, Michelle Macpherson and Maya Mikkelsen also hit the podium at nationals.

Brenden Kelly

The Pemberton moguls skier, who was on Freestyle Canada's C Team in 2015-15, made an impression with a bronze at nationals in Camp Fortune, Que. to finish behind only household names in Mikael Kingsbury and Philippe Marquis.

Julia Long

The young Whistler racer, known more for her long-distance cross-country prowess, took second in the shorter eliminator race at the 2016 national championships in Baie St. Paul, Que.

Justin Dorey

Halfpipe skier Justin Dorey, the 2012 Dew Tour overall champion and 2005 Whistler Ski Invitational champion, announced his retirement in November.

Robbie Dixon

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus, who took three FIS World Cup Top 5 finishes, called it a career in November.

Welcome to Whistler

IBSF World Cup

The IBSF World Cup came through Whistler Sliding Centre twice in 2016.

The first time, on Jan. 22 and 23, saw a number of firsts as Canadian Chris Spring shot to his first win, edging Russian Alexander Kasjanov for the two-man victory. It was a special moment for Spring, an Australian-born athlete now wearing the maple leaf, as he had suffered a crash during a four-man event in Altenberg, Germany in 2012 that threatened to derail his career. Lascelles Brown served as Spring's brakeman in the event.

There were two two-man races held that weekend instead of a four-man race. In the first, the South Korean team of Yunjong Won and Youngwoo Seo — the eventual Crystal Globe champions — picked up their first-ever win, sharing it with the Swiss duo of Rico Peter and Thomas Amrhein after finishing in a thrilling tie. The South Korean coach, Malcolm "Gomer" Lloyd, had passed away suddenly just a couple of weeks before his death.

In the women's race, a familiar face topped the podium as Canadian Kaillie Humphries won in Whistler once again.

As for the skeleton racing, Germany's Tina Hermann slid to the win while West Vancouver's Jane Channell narrowly missed a medal, taking fourth. As for the men, Latvia's Martins Dukurs scored the win and Canadian Dave Greszczyszyn took a career-best fifth-place.

In the return engagement in early December, Canadian women dominated as Calgary's Elisabeth Vathje won the skeleton race and Humphries won with new brakeman Cynthia Appiah. Russia's Alex Kasjanov took the four-man, Germany's Francesco Friedrich notched the win in two-man and South Korean Sungbin Yun scored the skeleton title.

FIL World Cup

The December races were affected in a big way by a winter blizzard holding up transportation of the sleds from Lake Placid, N.Y., to Whistler. The races were cut to one run from two and the team relay portion was scrapped.

Canadian Alex Gough won the women's race, while American Tucker West came out on top for the men. Germans Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken notched the doubles win on a chilly night at Whistler Sliding Centre.

Ski Jumping Canada Canadian National Championships

Whistler Olympic Park welcomed the Ski Jumping Canada Canadian National Championships in February.

Polish competitor Jakub Kot was dominant, taking not only the national title but also two FIS Cup events held the same weekend. Josh Maurer and Eleora Hamming were the top Canadians.

Whistler Cup

Norway captured the U16 title for the second consecutive year at the marquee Whistler Mountain Ski Club event while Team Ontario secured the U14 crown from two-time-defending champion Japan. Nathan Romanin was the top performing WMSC member, finishing fourth in the U16 slalom and 10th in the giant slalom.

World Ski and Snowboard Festival

In the Monster Boarderstyle event, Felix Dallaire and Stephanie Haines both emerged as the champions despite being relatively new to the discipline. It was just Dallaire's second major boarderstyle event while it was Haines' first.

Whistler Longboard Festival

Sechelt's Dane Hanna and New Jersey's Emily Pross captured what proved to be the final open titles at the Whistler Longboard Festival in July. Organizer Lee Cation announced after racing was finished that the race will no longer be held as he focuses on organizing new events in other locales.

B.C. Bike Race

Colorado Springs' Kelli Emmett dominated the field, winning all seven stages of the legendary single-track race while the men's side was more of a fight to the finish as Jasper, Alta.'s Cory Wallace eked out the win over Squamish's Quinn Moberg. The race began in Cumberland and wrapped in Rainbow Park.

Subaru Ironman Canada

In a year of change for the huge triathlon event, only male professionals came to the resort while the females had a concurrent event on the other side of the continent the same day. Andy Potts of Colorado Springs took the lead during the swim portion of the event and dominated from there, beating Arizona resident Pedro Gomes by just over seven minutes.

The race also added a half-distance event this year.

Red Bull 400

The second year of the big uphill event at Whistler Olympic Park saw youngster Kieran Lumb soar to the win in August.

Just 17, the UBC cross-country recruit bested the world record by a full five seconds by climbing up the park's ski jump in three minutes and 48 seconds.

Rachel McBride nabbed the win on the women's side.

Crankworx

Washington state's Jill Kintner and Czech rider Tomas Slavik both turned in eye-popping performances at Crankworx to claim the Queen and King titles in August.

Kintner was right at home again as she won on the pump track, dual slalom and Fox Air DH courses.

Tracey Hannah, meanwhile, won the Canadian Open and Casey Brown won the Official Whip-Off World Championships.

As for the men, Tomas Genon won the dual speed and style crown, Mitch Ropelato captured the pump track victory, Troy Brosnan won the Canadian Open and Brett Rheeder, after a disappointing showing with the Triple Crown of Slopestyle on the line in 2015, redeemed himself with a victory at Red Bull Joyride.

RBC GranFondo

Abbotsford's Alison Jackson was an alternate for the Canadian Olympic Team, but she bested some of her teammates, including defending champion Joelle Numainville, to capture the women's Giro event at the RBC GranFondo in September. Squamish rider Jack Burke, meanwhile, powered through to score the men's victory.

 

Arts and Culture Year in Review

By Cathryn Atkinson

It has been a busy year of launches and relaunches in Whistler's arts and cultural scene in 2016. Along with this, previous promises by stakeholders in growing cultural tourism have been taking shape, with further developments awaited in 2017.

January

The year opened with $100,000 in grants being given to arts and social groups in Pemberton and local First Nations communities by the Pemberton Music Festival. The funds, raised by ticket sales, went to groups including the Pemberton BMX Society, Pemberton Arts and Culture Council, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 201, and the breakfast and lunch program at the Signal Hill Elementary School.

Whistler photographer Chad Chomlack was crowned King of Storms, taking home first place in the 10th annual Deep Winter Photo Challenge. Chomlack gained entry in the competition as a wildcard.

Squamish-based metal-weaving artist Fran Solar won her third Niche Award in a row, having previously won for 2014 and 2015. The award is given to North American artists and artisans in various categories, Solar's being Forged and Fabricated metal. The award was announced at the annual American Made Show in Washington, D.C.

February

After over 13 years at the helm of the Whistler Arts Council (WAC), executive director Doti Niedermayer left for a new position in West Vancouver. Niedermayer oversaw the growth of WAC from no staff to 20 employees, built relationships between other stakeholders in the arts, and was part of the resort's cultural programming team during the 2010 Winter Olympics. She paid tribute to Whistler as a "get it done" community.

Maureen Douglas, former community relations director for the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) and chair of the WAC board, was appointed the WAC's interim managing consultant to guide the organization through its search for a replacement for Niedermayer.

March

The Audain Art Museum opened on March 12, housing a permanent collection of more than 300 pieces of B.C. art, with significant historical and contemporary works of indigenous art and artifacts, 24 Emily Carr paintings, the largest gathered collection of the works of EJ Hughes in Canada, and many modern B.C. artists. The museum's first temporary exhibition showed the works of Mexican modernists Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco on loan from the collection of Audain founders Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa.

The Whistler Arts Council (WAC) received its largest-ever grant, $489,500 in funding from the federal government for its Cultural Connections project. Local MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones joined Whistler's mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, community cultural officer Anne Popma, and acting WAC executive director Maureen Douglas to make the announcement.

Squamish Valley Music Festival was cancelled for 2016. As of late December, no information has been officially forthcoming on SVMF in 2017.

April

At the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the arts plays as important a role as sport — with competitions Intersection and the Olympus Pro Photo Showdown, music, parties and more. One of the most popular events is the Olympus 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown. with inspiring persistence, Whistler filmmaker Angie Nolan and her team won on her 10th attempt in the competition with the film Control Shift, a technology-versus-love story. She took home the $12,000 prize.

The Pemberton Arts and Culture Council celebrated its 10th anniversary on April 18. Thanks to reorganizing, revenues were up 300 per cent and the arts council hired its first paid executive director, Kiran Pal-Pross.

Sea to Sky Arts Councils, an umbrella group for the region's arts councils from Bowen Island to Pemberton, opened its first touring art show.

After the previous month's SVMF cancellation another music festival is announced Squamish. WOMAD (World of Music and Dance), a U.K. festival founded by musician Peter Gabriel, is looking at Squamish for 2017, organizers told Squamish council. No official announcement as yet.

May

At its annual general meeting, the Whistler Arts Council announced that it will be rebranded, effective immediately, as Arts Whistler (AW). This followed the renaming of Millennium Place to the Maury Young Arts Centre the previous fall.

Acting executive director Douglas said AW wanted that "all the audiences we serve are aware of a bigger picture in Whistler in the arts. We wanted the bigger picture to be better reflected in our name." She added that she hoped AW would become a collaborative leader in Whistler, likening it to a chamber of commerce role, but for the arts.

The National Gallery of Canada loaned a large, precious metal vase of significance to B.C. to the Audain Art Museum. The 112-year-old Ptarmigan Vase was made by Tiffany and Company using 18 layers of bonded metals copper, silver and gold all taken from the same blocks of stone from B.C.'s Selkirk mountains. The vase is on loan for three years.

June

The Audain Art Museum hosted a touring art exhibition of 75 paintings from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick. The works covered 500 years, including those by J.M.W. Turner, Picasso, The Group of Seven, Gainsborough and Lucian Freud.

Arts Whistler made $4,000 available out of its budget of $489,000 federal Heritage Canada Grant for a pilot project to explore the success of home-based artist studios in Whistler. This was ahead of the Temporary Use Permit (TUP) program being brought in to licence home-based art studios by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW).

July

Whistler-Squamish band Northern Ignition wons the Be the Best, Play the Fest competition and a spot on stage at the Pemberton Music Festival.

 Finalists for the first Whistler Independent Book Awards were named in four categories poetry, fiction, non-fiction and crime fiction. The winners were announced at the Whistler Writers Festival in October. The competition supports self-published books.

Pemberton Music Festival opened with four days of music from July 14 to 17, including a free concert at Olympic Plaza. Headliners included Pearl Jam, Snoop Dogg, The Killers and J. Cole. Organizers HUKA increased ticket numbers to 45,000, with tickets almost selling out.

Whistler artist Chili Thom moved to Montana. In an interview, Thom talked about his battle with cancer, his hopes for the future with his wife Lauren, and his happiness at selling out his entire stock of art at his home in Brackendale.

"It was crazy. Traffic was at a standstill on Depot Road and the cops came in to see what was going on. They checked out the art for a little while, too," he said. "Before it even opened, I hadn't taken two bites out of my bagel, and I turned around and there were two people and I let them in... then I walked past the door and looked out. There were 25 people coming down the driveway. I'm pretty happy."

Thom has won the Best Artist in Whistler honour in Pique's Best of Whistler for the previous 13 years.

August

U.K. photographer Tommy Wilkinson won the Deep Summer Photo Challenge, part of Crankworx. A former pro-mountain biker who turned to photography after suffering a crash that left his right arm paralyzed, he had never ridden outside the Whistler Bike Park. His team helped lift him into trees for some shots.

Acting AW executive director Douglas is confirmed as the arts council's replacement for Doti Niedermayer. In a one-to-one interview with Pique, Douglas spelled out her vision for the council. "Whistler doesn't want to recreate an urban cultural experience."

September

Pemberton and Whistler had their own Bachelorette, as Jasmine Lorimer took her quest for love to the TV screens. She described the experience of filming the TV show as condensing five years' of dating into one time, with 20 men vying for her attention.

October

Whistler Writers Festival opened its 15th year with more events and writers. Writers taking part included Emma Donoghue, Madeleine Thien, Nick Bantock and Rosanna Deerchild.

Vancouver-Squamish Indie band Magik Spells won the 7th annual Whistler Music Search. Second place went to The McQuade Trio and the Dave Morris Memorial Award went to Susan Holden and The Groove Section.

November

After over a yearlong fight against cancer, Whistler artist Chili Thom died on Nov. 30. He was 40.

December

Whistler Film Festival (WFF) came together for its 16th year. WFF's head of programming Paul Gratton called the 2016 edition of the festival "by far the best year we've put together," with 86 films, including 15 by female filmmakers. Honoured attendees included Oscar-winning director John Madden, Canadian director Deepa Mehta (who was also chair of jury of the Borsos Awards), and "Canadian Icon" actor Alan Thicke, who passed away Dec. 13, nine days after WFF ended. Before the Streets took home the Borsos Award for Best Canadian Film. La La Land won the WFF Audience Award.

Over 500 friends joined the family of Thom in a raucous, joyful tribute to the late Whistler painter, who passed away the previous month. The memorial night took place at The Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain on Saturday, Dec. 17, and included a shotgun salute. No black was allowed. Thom was named Whistler's Best Artist for the 14th time, and was named Favourite Whistlerite in Pique's annual Best of Whistler vote.

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