2018 Year in Review 

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  • Written by Pique Staff
  • 2018 Year in Review

Nothing like an election year to get the rabble-rousers riled.

Or, in Whistler's case, listening politely and respectfully sharing ideas (for the most part).

Unfortunately, new Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton ran unopposed in the Oct. 20 election—depriving local voters of the sort of fiery, substantive debate that can turn a standard election into a barnburner—and while 20 brave souls stepped forward for six council seats, the campaign never heated up much beyond respectful dialogue—which is a good thing (if a tad boring, from our perspective).

In the end, Whistlerites went the predictable route, electing three incumbents (Jen Ford, John Grills and Cathy Jewett), two former councillors (Duane Jackson and Ralph Forsyth) and Whistler Blackcomb environmental guru Arthur De Jong, who Crompton referred to on election night as "the most qualified rookie in the history of local government."

The new council was sworn in for a four-year term on Nov. 6.

"What animates me, and what I hope will animate our community going forward, is a pursuit of depth; of roots; of permanence," Crompton said in his inaugural address.

"I believe in the next election someone will stand in front of this community and say, 'My name is, and I was born here, and I want you to vote for me,' ... I think that will be an exciting day.

"I am going to work very hard for that person to be able to call this home and raise a family here."

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

While a new council is in place for 2019 and beyond, 2018 was very much the end of an era.

After 17 combined years behind the council table, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden announced, in May, that she would not be seeking re-election come the fall.

"It has been an absolute privilege to serve the community for the last seven years as the mayor. We've accomplished quite a number of amazing things over the course of that time," Wilhelm-Morden told Pique at the time.

"The top 10 (campaign promises) that I ran on in 2011 have been met, for the most part—of course there's always more work to do, but it's time for me to step aside and to spend some more time with my family and with my friends, and devote more time to my law practice as well."

Council was busy in Wilhelm-Morden's final year, working on regional transit, a new smoking bylaw, updating the Official Community Plan, transportation, the artificial turf field (now known as the Andrée Vajda Janyk Sports Field), updating solid waste and water use bylaws and much more.

But looking back through the pages of Pique, housing was far and away the most common theme of 2018.

The biggest news story of the year, as voted by Pique readers, was Vail Resorts' announcement in September that it will build a 200-bed staff housing building.

The building is expected to be open for the 2020-2021 ski season.

For council's part, it moved ahead with recommendations from the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing, such as new Whistler Housing Authority builds, private developer proposals for employee housing (much to the chagrin of some local residents—this story is one to follow in 2019), and developing Phase 2 of Cheakamus Crossing.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is targeting at least 550 new rental units in the Cheakamus neighbourhood, with a potential move-in date as early as spring 2021.

In early November, council moved to form a new development corporation using similar terms and private-sector experience as the Whistler 2020 Development Corp. (WDC)—the board stepped down in June—to oversee housing projects throughout all of Whistler.

"The WDC focused primarily on Cheakamus Crossing and Olympic housing. We want to consider a mandate that would include all municipal land," Crompton said, adding that former WDC chair Eric Martin has agreed to help manage the transition.

"It will take some time to establish the corporation, but we're asking municipal staff and contractors to carry on with the momentum they've built (on Cheakamus Crossing Phase 2), and the new corporation will be the beneficiary of all of that work."

In December, Whistler drew the ire of the oil industry with a letter asking oil companies to "pay their fair share" of climate costs.

The initiative—passed by the previous council in September—was roundly criticized as hypocritical and tone-deaf.

The industry outrage over the letter led CIBC to pull the oil and gas sector from its investment conference in Whistler this month, along with anecdotal claims of lost business and potential boycotts from others.

"I could have chosen a better venue. I certainly should have sent a better letter. As I've said, I regret making any guests feel unwelcome. We were tone deaf. We do, as a resort, depend on oil and gas," Crompton said on Dec. 18.

"So I don't disagree with the charge that the letter was hypocritical. But as a friend said to me, this issue is just too large for us to wait until all of our hands are clean."

BURN ONE DOWN

After some delays, one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's big campaign promises finally came to fruition on Oct. 17 with the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Whistler decision makers are taking the cautious approach in prohibiting cannabis stores in Whistler, allowing them to carefully consider all retail inquiries (of which there have been dozens) before deciding on the best way forward.

Only time will tell if Whistlerites will be able to get their ganja at the local mom-and-pop pot shop before 2019 is out.

Speaking of fires, B.C. outdid itself once more in 2018 with another disastrous wildfire season.

More than 13,000 square kilometres burned, making it the worst wildfire season on record (beating out the previous record set in 2017).

Along with fuel thinning and FireSmarting efforts, Whistler bolstered its response efforts with two new FireWatch cameras (capable of detecting smoke in the valley) and three new wildfire response vehicles.

Though there were a few smoky weeks and anxiety to spare, Whistler again avoided the worst of it (knock on wood, again).

Local officials were relieved to hear at the Union of BC Municipalities Convention, held in Whistler this past September, that the Resort Municipality Initiative program, which funnels provincial cash to tourism-based communities for marketing and programming, will remain an "ongoing" program for the foreseeable future, and again, in November, to learn a long-gestating application for an increase in Municipal and Regional District Tax (or hotel tax) from two per cent to three per cent had been approved.

A bowling alley proposed for Whistler Village drew lots of attention in the spring—both from rolling enthusiasts anxious to hit the lanes and from the local bar and restaurant sector, who opposed the new competition en masse in a letter-writing campaign.

A Sept. 18 public hearing for the facility was cancelled due to some "11th-hour" issues with the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, and the process is now on hold for the time being.

 

CRIME

By Brandon Barrett

If you're a regular reader of the Police Briefs that grace the pages of Pique on a weekly basis, you can start to pick out some of the most common crimes in Whistler. Being the party town that we are, it should come as no surprise that the blotter is often filled with reports of public intoxication, drunk driving, and even the odd village brawl.

This year was no exception to that rule: relatively minor offences still rule the day. But, in 2018, Whistler and the surrounding area was also home to a handful of headline-grabbing crimes that caught the attention of not just locals, but in some cases, an international audience as well.

Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes said he believes it's a trend indicative of the resort's continued growth.

"When you get larger in all respects, you tend to see the negative that comes along with that," he said. "That's just something we're going to have to deal with in the years forward."

It certainly wasn't all bad news, however. Survivors of sexual assault in the Sea to Sky now have another avenue to justice thanks to a pilot project that gives victims an option to report their assault anonymously to police through a certified third party.

Bike theft, one of the most persistent offences in a town filled with high-end mountain bikes, took a significant dip this year, thanks in part to the continued success of the RCMP's bait-bike program.

Hayes credits the RCMP's successes this year to a more visible role in the community.

"Without the community's input, we are going to stagnate in terms of our ability to reduce crime in certain areas," he said. "I think, in the last year, because of some of the outreach we've been doing and some of the ways we've been trying to get the community involved with us, we've seen some real improvements in that regard, and I'm really proud of that."

Read on to hear more about the year that was in crime, in which we highlight some of the biggest headlines and trends in Whistler and Pemberton.

Whistler RCMP seizes thousands of dollars in cash and drugs

A search warrant executed at a village home last March netted Whistler police a trove of cash and drugs. On March 30, Whistler RCMP, suspecting drug trafficking at a residence on Main Street, arrested a 20-year-old U.K. man as well as a 24-year-old Australian man.

Police reportedly found thousands of dollars in cash, a "significant amount" of cocaine and MDMA, along with marijuana plants, large quantities of marijuana in various forms, psilocybin, and drug paraphernalia, according to a police statement.

Body of missing Australian Alison Raspa found in Alpha Lake

In what was one of the most tragic stories of the year, Whistler police, in March, recovered the body of an Australian woman who had been missing for months, confounding both police and the community.

On the evening of March 16, members of the public notified police that they had spotted what they believed to be human remains floating in Alpha Lake. Authorities later confirmed the body was that of 25-year-old Alison Raspa, who had gone missing nearly four months prior.

A native of Perth, Australia, Raspa was last seen leaving Three Below Restaurant just after midnight on Nov. 23. Tracing her path to Alpha Lake that night led to more questions than answers. Investigators pieced together that she spoke with a friend on the Village Stroll after leaving the bar, before boarding a bus to Creekside, which was captured on CCTV footage. At approximately 1:15 a.m., she texted friends she was lost.

Adding to the mystery was the fact that several of Raspa's personal items were found in two different locations near the lake: her cellphone was recovered in Alpha Lake Park the morning after she was last seen, and her backpack, wallet and jacket were found at the intersection of Highway 99 and Lake Placid Road.

Although there were puzzling elements to the case, police didn't suspect that foul play was a factor.

The results of a Coroners Service inquest into the cause of Raspa's death, which could shed some further light on what happened that November night, are forthcoming.

Several duped by tax scam in Whistler and Pemberton

A handful of Whistler residents fell prey to a tax scam that was reportedly on the rise across the country this year. In April, a 30-year-old server lost nearly $10,000 after a caller posing as a Canada Revenue agent demanded immediate payment for back-taxes, threatening jail time if she did not cooperate. The woman ended up transferring cash in $1,000 increments to the scammers through a Bitcoin machine in the Summit Lodge.

Bitcoin payments are irreversible, and can only be refunded by the person receiving the funds.

Less than two months later, the phone scam claimed another victim, this time in Pemberton. On June 5, an individual notified Pemberton RCMP that they had received a call from someone falsely threatening for back taxes owed. In this instance, the scammer asked the victim to purchase prepaid Apple or iTunes gift cards in large quantities—a tactic similar to the earlier ploy in April. The scammer then instructed the victim to peel off the security covers on the cards and provide them with serial numbers over the phone.

The following month, on July 10, a person reported being defrauded out of $2,000 by a caller who, again, posed as a Canada Revenue agent and demanded payment using Bitcoin.

The RCMP reports that there have been over 56,000 complaints to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and a reported loss of more than $10 million since the police agency began tracking tax scams in 2014.

Bike thefts dropped significantly in 2018

Reports of bike theft were down significantly this year, thanks in part to the continued success of Whistler RCMP's bait-bike program.

At press time, police reported a 57-per-cent drop in bike theft compared to 2017, valued at approximately $40,000.

Police have taken a multi-pronged approach towards bike theft in the community. In 2017, Whistler RCMP began working with Garage 529, a bike registration and recovery service that asks users to register their bike's serial number and upload photos of their bike. It also alerts other users in the area when a bike is stolen. The RCMP says it, along with volunteers at local events, have helped register "hundreds" of bike owners to the app.

Whistler RCMP's bait-bike program has also paid dividends towards reducing theft and identifying repeat offenders. Partnering with local businesses, police strategically place a rotating fleet of bait bikes around the resort, which are monitored live through police dispatch. When a bait bike is stolen, police are able to pinpoint its exact location at a given time.

Using that data, investigators analyzed the thefts and "discovered that the vast majority of high-value thefts" could be attributed to suspects travelling from the Lower Mainland to the resort to find and steal expensive bikes, police said. As a result, police were able to arrest and advance charges on several suspects this year.

"The reason we've had some of those large successes in terms of recovering thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods, is because the members I have working for me here, I tell them that we don't stop because the bad guy goes back to wherever they happen to live outside of Whistler. We continue to follow them," Hayes said. "So, if our investigation leads us to another municipality, then that's where we do the warrant and where we seize (the stolen goods)."

'Sophisticated' marijuana grow op busted south of Pemberton

Pemberton police shut down a "sophisticated," 5,000-plant marijuana grow-op outside of Pemberton in late September.

On Friday, Sept. 28, Pemberton RCMP, in conjunction with RCMP Air Services, observed what appeared to be a large outdoor grow-op on the west slope of Lillooet Lake, south of Mount Currie.

Officers attended the scene to find "what can only be described as a large, sophisticated outdoor growing operation," police said. Approximately 5,000 plants in various stages of growth and around 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of dried marijuana ready for distribution were seized.

Police would go on to arrest a 31-year-old Ottawa man, a 34-year-old Gibsons man, and a 37-year-old Whistler man at the scene.

Former Whistler artist Zube Aylward found murdered

The brutal murder of former Whistler artist Patrick "Zube" Aylward rocked the small town of Seton Portage, Whistler and beyond when his body was discovered on the side of an isolated road this fall.

The 71-year-old Aylward, perhaps best known as the designer of the whimsical Mushroom House in Emerald Estates, was found dead on Highline Road on the afternoon of Oct. 13.

Nearly three months later, and police have still released few details on the incident, other than to say the homicide was a targeted attack and there is no threat to the public. Speaking to Postmedia, Seton Portage volunteer Fire Chief Frank Richings said Aylward was the victim of a home invasion-style robbery, and that his wife, Pat, narrowly escaped the intruders before notifying police.

Along with designing the 279-square-metre Mushroom House, which sold for $3.5 million in 2007, Aylward had built an ornate home near Anderson Lake, outside of Seton Portage.

Aylward was also known to grow marijuana plants in the greenhouse on his Anderson Lake property; Richings estimated there were more than 100 plants, and it is unclear if the European artist had a license to grow them.

The murder, as well as unconfirmed reports circulating of its grisly nature, sent shockwaves through the small, rural town.

At press time, no arrests had been made, and police have remained tight-lipped on the details of the case.

"Investigators have not released any further information with respect to the progress in their investigation," said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk with the Southeast District, who is the lead communication officer on the case, in December.

The RCMP has set up a dedicated tip line for the investigation into Aylward's death, which can be reached at 1-877-987-8477.

Sexual assault survivors now have third-party reporting option

Survivors of sexual assault in the Sea to Sky now have the option of reporting their sexual assault anonymously through a third party, a move that should help break down barriers to justice.

In November, the Howe Sound Women's Centre (HSWC) announced the details of a pilot project that gives adults in the corridor aged 19 and over an avenue to anonymously report the details of their sexual assault to a local reporting worker that specializes in "emotional, practical and other supports."

The new option provides a buffer between survivors of sexual assault and the police. When a third-party report (TPR) is made, anonymous information will be entered into the police database, and the local detachment will contact any police jurisdictions where the information may be relevant. A dedicated officer at the RCMP's E Division will also examine the report for any recurring criminal patterns.

The new option does not replace a formal police investigation, and is intended as a last resort for survivors who would not otherwise report their sexual assault to police. Anyone who uses the TPR option can also apply to the Crime Victim Assistance Program to access specialized support, such as trauma counselling.

Shannon Cooley Herdman, sexual assault prevention coordinator at the HSWC, believes third-party reporting will increase disclosure rates in the Sea to Sky.

"There is a little more choice in how you engage with the justice system," she told Pique in November. "It may appeal to people who aren't going to be in town long, whether they're a seasonal worker or just a visitor. They may want to share the details of their sexual assault anonymously without getting committed to a long-term court or investigation process."

There were 19 police-reported incidents of sexual assault in Whistler in 2017, the most recent data available.

Assault charges stayed in case against Whistler councillor

Assault charges against former Whistler Councillor Steve Anderson were stayed by the Crown in November.

The matter was wrapped up in Pemberton court on Nov. 20, and there are no future court appearances scheduled for Anderson.

The charges—two counts of assault laid on Aug. 13—stemmed from an alleged incident in Pemberton on Aug. 2, though details remain scarce.

Crown Counsel Joseph Marin declined to provide specific information on the case.

"Crowns constantly revisit their charge approval standard at every step, and I concluded the charge approval standard was no longer met," Marin told Pique, of why the charges were stayed.

Reached by phone, Anderson also declined to provide specifics, but said it was unfortunate that a small incident took so long to work its way through the courts (partly because of changes to Crown counsel during the summer holidays).

"It's too bad it took so long for the Crown to realize there was nothing there," Anderson said. "(It) should have never been brought forward in the first place, but such is life."

Anderson took a leave of absence from the council table after the charges, sitting out the last two months of his term and missing out on running for re-election on Oct. 20.

"I would have liked to retain a seat on council, although unable to get traction on my proposals for the many issues we faced last term," Anderson said.

- With files from Braden Dupuis

 

SPORTS

BY DAN FALLOON

Every four years, Whistler seems to get a second Christmas in February and March. And with the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, 2018 provided us with our long-awaited quadrennial present.

With so many Sea-to-Sky locals starring at the Games, here's an Olympic-heavy look at the year that was, along with some of the other notable developments in the local sporting world.

Cassie Sharpe

A Whistler resident by way of Comox, Sharpe couldn't have done any better with the pressure on, entering finals as the top qualifier before she stomped both runs in the halfpipe ski final on Feb. 20. Sharpe's winning score was ultimately a 95.80.

She entered the Games on a roll, taking a win at Snowmass and third in superpipe at the X Games; Sharpe also capped the FIS World Cup campaign with a triumph in Tignes, France to claim the Crystal Globe.

Mollie Jepsen

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus had a breakout year in 2018, winning the FIS Crystal Globe before capturing four medals at the Paralympics, including gold in the super combined.

The 19-year-old was also invited to speak at Parliament Hill for Ottawa's Canada Day celebrations.

Reid Watts

The 2010 legacy baby made his Olympic debut, taking 12th in the men's luge in PyeongChang. To start the 2018-19 season, Watts took his first-ever World Cup medal here in Whistler during the team relay event on Dec. 1.

Marielle Thompson

The 2014 Olympic ski-cross champion had a hard road to travel in her attempt to repeat. After suffering a knee injury before the 2017-18 campaign, Thompson's chances to defend her gold were highly in doubt. Through hard work, the resilient Thompson was healthy enough to start at the Games, but a crash in her first heat knocked her from contention. Thompson started 2018-19 with two wins in Austria, however, signalling that she'll once again be a force to be reckoned with before long.

Broderick Thompson

Marielle's younger brother opened 2018 fresh off his career-best eighth-place in Alpine combined in Bormio, Italy, on the third-last day of 2017. Thompson then took 23rd in Alpine combined at the Olympics. He was also 23rd in the super-G and 35th in the downhill. Unfortunately, Thompson crashed in early-season training in the fall and is expected to miss the 2018-19 campaign.

Jack Crawford

At the Games, the former Whistler Mountain Ski Club skier took 20th in Alpine combined, 25th in downhill and 29th in the giant slalom.

Manny Osborne-Paradis

A veteran of the Canadian ski team, Osborne-Paradis finished 14th in the downhill and 22nd in super-G at the Games. He followed it up with a season-best fifth in the super-G in Kvitfjell, Norway. Osborne-Paradis was injured in a crash while training for the Lake Louise World Cup race and is out indefinitely.

Jane Channell

In her first Olympics, the North Vancouver skeleton racer finished 10th.

Mercedes Nicoll

In her fourth and final Games, Nicoll took 18th in the snowboard halfpipe competition. After announcing her retirement, Nicoll, who has been vocal about her own struggles, committed to supporting mental-health initiatives, such as jack.org.

Simon d'Artois

The halfpipe skier had a heartbreaking result at the Olympics, finishing 13th in qualifiers and narrowly missing the 12-skier final. He did bounce back, however, taking a third-place finish in Tignes to cap the season.

Teal Harle

The Whistler resident via Campbell River finished just out of the medals in the slopestyle event, placing fifth with a score of 90. He also excelled on the World Cup circuit with a win at Mammoth, as well as a big-air bronze in Quebec City.

Yuki Tsubota

In her second Games, Tsubota took sixth in the slopestyle event, with a 74.40. She capped 2017-18 and started 2018-19 with two third-place finishes: the former in slopestyle in Seiseralm, Italy and the latter in big air in Cardrona, New Zealand.

Logan Pehota

The Pemberton freeskier posted an incredible score of 98.00 en route to winning the first Freeride World Tour event of the season at Kicking Horse in February. Pehota finished 10th overall in 2018 and opted against returning for a fourth season in 2019.

Cameron Alexander

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club grad took a fifth-place finish in the super-G at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Switzerland to lead the local contingent, which also featured Riley Seger and Stefanie Fleckenstein.

Jake Allison

The Whistler powerlifter won the 66-kilogram division at the Canadian Powerlifting Union Nationals in Calgary, emerging as the top junior lifter across all categories.

Benita Peiffer

The local biathlete competed at the IBU Junior World Championships in Estonia in February, taking 11th in individual competition and 10th in the team relay.

Olivia McNeill and Benjie McMaster

The Whistler Freeride Club pair qualified for the Freeride Junior World Championships at Kappl, Austria. McMaster took seventh in the men's event while McNeill took ninth on the women's side. McNeill qualified to return in 2019.

BC Winter Games

Local athletes captured 20 medals at the Games in Kamloops this past February, with alpine skiers Kaila Lafreniere and Sara Stiel, biathlete Simon Long, snowboarder Juliette Pelchat and freestyle skier Daniel Gannon all earning gold medals along the way.

Whistler Cup

In its 26th year, the Mackenzie Investments Whistler Cup saw a repeat winner in the U16 category, as Switzerland went home with the crown for the second consecutive year. On the U14 side, Ontario 1 captured the Festival Cup. In terms of individual awards, Whistler Mountain Ski Club's Sara Stiel won the U14 Nancy Greene Award while Canada 1's Sarah Brown won the U16 award. As for the Dave Murray Award, Quebec's Philippe Bergeron won the U14 trophy while John Daniel Profitt won the U16 award. The awards go to Canada's top skier in each age category.

World Ski and Snowboard Festival

Headlined by the return of the Saudan Couloir Ski Race Extreme, including a visit from legendary Swiss skier Sylvain Saudan himself, the shortened World Ski and Snowboard Festival got a boost of nostalgia in 2018. Stan Rey and Marie-Pier Prefontaine captured the men's and women's pro divisions, respectively. Elsewhere, Elena Gaskell and Evan McEachran won the big air event, while Max Parrot and Julia Marino won the boarderstyle competition.

Jesse Melamed

The season got off to an early start for the Whistler Enduro World Series (EWS) star as he topped the Andes Pacifico stage race in Chile in February. He then kicked off the EWS season with a fifth-place finish, also in Chile, in what would be his best result of a campaign in which he missed the Whistler race due to injury. He still finished ninth overall.

Andréane Lanthier Nadeau

On the women's side of the Enduro World Series, the Whistler resident missed the first half of the season with a wrist injury, but excelled after returning, finishing the season with back-to-back third-place finishes in Spain and Italy to finish in 11th overall.

Finn Iles

Iles' first year at the elite level got off to a great start, as the Whistler downhill phenom took third in the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill in New Zealand on March 25. He also celebrated his 19th birthday at home during Crankworx with a Fox Air DH triumph. In the UCI overall standings, Iles finished 19th, posting a best result of fifth at Vallnord, Andorra in July.

Lucas Cruz

As an up-and-comer on the junior circuit, the Pemberton rider excelled at the first Crankworx of the year, winning the Air DH event. On the UCI World Cup tour, Cruz took a top result of fourth in Losinj, Croatia. He also won his category at nationals at Panorama.

Christina Chappetta

Local ripper Christina Chappetta went international this year with a large Whistler contingent at her side as part of a deeper connection with the French resort of Les Deux Alpes. While there, she won her age category and placed second among women in the treacherous Mountain of Hell race.

BC Summer Games

Locals found success on the water in the Cowichan Valley during the July Games. Pemberton Canoe Association athlete Landon Drain took home three gold medals, while teammate Anna Beaudry also topped a race.

Subaru Ironman Canada

Victoria's Brent McMahon beat the heat to win the annual triathlon, finishing nearly nine minutes ahead of runner-up Jeff Symonds of Vancouver.

Ironman is slated to return to Whistler as part of its five-year deal with the resort in July 2019.

Crankworx

In a historic moment for the annual mountain-bike festival, American Nicholi Rogatkin became the first rider to capture the Triple Crown of Slopestyle after battling back and forth with Canadian Brett Rheeder at Red Bull Joyride. In the overall tour standings, American Jill Kintner defended her title as Queen, while New Zealand's Sam Blenkinsop won the King of Crankworx crown.

Mikayla Martin

In just her second year of ski-cross competition, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus won the FIS Junior World Ski Championships race in Cardrona, New Zealand on Aug. 27.

 

ARTS & CULTURE

By Alyssa Noel

T his past year was instrumental in helping Whistler's arts and culture scene continue its slow and steady journey to becoming an integral part of the resort's four-season offerings.

Overall, events, festivals and institutions largely grew and flourished—and are poised to return in 2019 stronger than ever.

Here's a look at some of the highlights.

January

One of the first big art events of the year was a local favourite. Deep Winter sent six world-class snowsport photographers into the wilds of Whistler Blackcomb, with France's Jeremy Bernard emerging as the winner, earning $5,000 and the title of King of Storms along the way.

Washington's Justin Kious came in second while third place went to Florian Breitenberger from Germany.

Meanwhile, the year also kicked off with some good news for art-loving kids. The Audain Art Museum announced it would be offering free admission to visitors 18-years-old and younger—raising the age from 16.

The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, North America's longest running LGBTQ ski festival, also returned to celebrate its 26th year with parties, comedy shows, music and, of course, skiing.

February

The Cypress Point Winter Carnival returned to the shores of Alta Lake in February with the theme, "Let Winter Prevail." That line was gleaned from learning that, when it comes to the weather, Mother Nature is gonna do what Mother Nature does. The festival's fifth year featured music, arts and outdoor activities at The Point Artist-Run Centre.

Another highlight of the month was longtime children's entertainer Fred Penner performing at the Maury Young Arts Centre. The show was part of the Arts Whistler performance series and was a highlight for executive director Mo Douglas. "It was probably one of the rowdiest shows I've ever seen in that theatre," she said. "Their enthusiasm was off the chart. It was the biggest meet-and-greet after a show. I have never seen so many 30-year-old men show up as their seven-year-old selves."

March

A whopping 40 musicians climbed onstage at the Maury Young Arts Centre to celebrate International Women's Day this year. Dubbed Raising Our Voices, the event was a huge success.

Alongside 22 performances, it also included a fundraiser for the Howe Sound Women's Centre.

Over at the Audain Art Museum, Dr. Curtis Collins was named as the new director. He replaced the organization's inaugural director Suzanne Greening. With a PhD from the Department of Art History and Communications Studies at McGill University and experience as both a curator and director at other museums across Canada, Collins made the move from Edmonton where he served as an assistant professor at MacEwan University. "This position and this place feels like it's the perfect fit for me at this time," Collins said back in March.

April

There was another shakeup at the Audain Art Museum in April. Chief curator Darrin Martens—the first person to hold the position at the museum—announced he had accepted a job in Ontario. The museum later announced in June that it had hired Kiriko Watanabe—who had worked as assistant curator at the West Vancouver Museum, among other places—to replace him.

Other major arts news for April was the return of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. While the end-of-season blowout might happen every year, in 2018 the fate of the festival was unclear after longtime producer Watermark Communications stepped down from organizing it the year prior.

In the end, Whistler Blackcomb and Gibbons Whistler banded together to bring the festival to life for a shortened six-day event. "I can't say that six days is where we'll end up in the future," said Marc Riddell, WB communications manager at the time of the announcement. "This is really a growth opportunity; it's about getting back to what we do well as a company, focusing on those key components, and then looking at how we expand that."

The winners of the festival's staple arts events, meanwhile, were Vancouver crew Jordan Ettinger and Boe and Charles Nasby for their film H.E.N.K. at the 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown; French skateboard photographer Fred Mortange for the Pro Photographer Showdown; and The Burrrlapz from Fernie for Intersection.

The jam-packed month of April wrapped up with the Whistler Excellence Awards, which included the Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture category. That honour went to filmmaker, actor, director, educator and all-around-talent Angie Nolan this year.

May

Arts Whistler chose a pair of local icons to honour this year. In May, the organization hosted the exhibit Don and Isobel-The Life, The Legend, The Laughter, The Leathers, complete with the varied art of Isobel MacLaurin—as well as her hand-painted coffin.

The retrospective also highlighted the work of Don MacLaurin—who, among other things, helped preserve the Ancient Cedars, Musical Bumps and Lost Lake Park—who died in 2014. (Isobel is still very much alive and thriving, in case you're wondering.)

To that end, the Whistler Museum concurrently hosted their exhibit Don and Isobel: A Retrospective of Community Builders, while the Audain Art Museum held a "paint like Isobel" family night and the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre displayed a show called Inspired by Isobel-Student Works by Whistler Secondary School students.

June

One of the highlights of summer in Whistler is catching an outdoor concert sprawled out on the lawn of Whistler Olympic Plaza. This year, the Resort Municipality of Whistler's lineup for the annual Whistler Presents Summer Concert Series included everyone from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to Bedouin Soundclash, Hey Ocean! and Stars.

July

The summer season is jam-packed with festivals. In the resort, the Whistler Children's Festival marked a major milestone, marking its 35th year—making it Whistler's longest-running festival.

Down at Alta Lake, The Flag Stop Theatre and Arts Festival drew crowds for three days of theatre, art, music and food—culminating in a production of All Relative, an original play written by Pique's own Brandon Barrett. (The play went on to a two-night run at the Maury Young Arts Centre in September.)

August

Yogis descended upon Whistler once again for the Wanderlust Festival in August. The event featured food, music, wellness events and, of course, plenty of yoga.

Shortly after, Whistler's largest event, Crankworx, rolled in, bringing with it Dirt Diaries, the popular mountain-bike film competition that screens for free at Whistler Olympic Plaza. This year, Damien Vergez took home the top spot for his film, Mother Earth.

Sad news also emerged when the Vibe Dance Centre announced that it would be closing the doors to its Function Junction location after eight years of teaching locals jazz, tap, lyrical, hip hop and other forms of dance.

"This was a very difficult decision and it has been an emotional time for me as well as many others," owner and choreographer Heather Stremlaw told Pique in an email.

September

The sunny days might have lingered, but Fall for Arts rolled into town in September. The Arts Whistler initiative puts the resort's arts offerings centre stage for the traditionally rainy season, when locals regroup after a busy summer and prepare for the equally insane winter ahead.

One highlight of that initiative was the return of the Hear and Now Festival, which featured three days of local musicians performing around the village.

Also later that month, master carver James Hart and several Haida dancers travelled to the Audain Art Museum for The Dance of the Screen. The event brought to life Hart's massive sculpture that greets visitors to the museum as they enter the permanent collection.

The jaw-dropping First Nations performance marked the first time the elaborate piece had been danced and served as a fundraiser for the museum as well.

October

The Whistler Writers Festival, once again, brought big literary names to town for its 17th year. The fall festival featured Peter Carey, Eden Robinson, Ian Hamilton and Ali Hassan for 2018.

Another much-loved local event also returned for the first time since 2015. (The hiatus was in part due to the passing of its co-founder Chili Thom in 2016.) The Heavy Hitting HorrorFest—which is run by Pique film columnist Feet Banks—quickly sold out and, ultimately, wound up crowning Conrad Schapansky and Brad Chornoby with top honours for their film Uncle Daddy.

Down at The Crystal Lounge, alt-country duo Fallow State took $1,000 and first place at Whistler's Music Search. Helen Hamilton took home second and Mikkal Waters won the Dave Morris Award for Originality in Music.

November

Winter returned—well, kind of. The snow might've been a little late this year, but the Holiday Market (formerly called Bizarre Bazaar) rolled around right on time with a sold-out room full of vendors for holiday shoppers. Likewise, Bratz Biz youth artisans also sold their impressive wares for the crowd at the Whistler Conference Centre.

December

While technically the Whistler Film Festival kicked off in November, we're considering it a highlight of December as well. This year, there was an impressive list of buzzworthy offerings, but the film A Colony by director Geneviève Dulude-De Celles took the coveted Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature Film.

 

PEMBERTON

By Joel Barde

While it may be known for its laidback lifestyle, 2018 was anything but quiet for the community of Pemberton.

A long-considered boundary extension proposal was put to rest after Area C residents voiced loud opposition to the deal presented to them, and the Village of Pemberton (VOP) was awarded a major federal government grant that will be used to upgrade its aging downtown core.

Council also saw a significant shakeup, with three new faces winning seats in the October election and Mike Richman regaining his mayor's chair by acclamation. With no sign of things slowing down—and plenty more important decisions in store—2019 is poised to be another eventful year for the Spud Valley.

Boundary extension

Do you want to join the VOP? That was the question on the minds of approximately 500 Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Area C residents this spring, as they considered a proposal that would have seen them included within VOP boundaries.

The proposal would have grown the VOP to encompass the Miller Creek Independent Power Project (IPP), the Rutherford Independent Power Project, an area surrounding the Industrial Park, and an area along Highway 99 that lies between Harrow Road and Pemberton Farm Road East, adding just over 200 properties to the Village.

There was, however, vocal opposition to the idea from the start, with many saying that the change would result in higher taxes with little in the way of additional services.

According to calculations presented to Area C homeowners, the change would have carried a potential tax impact of $577 a year for a $600,000 sample residential property, and $544 for "a typical Class 9 farmhouse."

Dan Huang, an independent planner charged with giving council and the public the information they needed to make an informed decision, led much of the discussion around the extension. In his final report, he acknowledged the extension was primarily about giving Area C residents more say in governance and land-use planning.

"Unlike many boundary extensions, which involve the provision of new services (e.g. water, sewer) to lands beyond the municipality, the main goals of this boundary extension (are) to address the current issues around community identity, representation, land use planning control, and existing service delivery," wrote Huang in his report.

In the end, Area C residents voiced their overwhelming opposition to the proposal in a petition that collected 205 signatures against the boundary extension. Fewer than 10 residents either abstained or said they were in favour of the expansion plan.

In an emailed statement to Pique in June, Alyssa Belter of Plenty Wild Farms said that her family strongly identified "with the farming community in Area C and think it is detrimental to have Pemberton Valley farmers divided between two different jurisdictions."

On the VOP's side of things, the extension plan would have brought in an additional estimated $395,000 a year in tax revenues. But in the end, Huang ascertained that it would have also presented a significant liability for the VOP in the form of road upgrades. The "potential financial impacts to the Village of Pemberton for future road capital upgrades are significant," he wrote.

After council unanimously voted against the extension, Richman cited the road issue as the "deal breaker."

Capital projects

2018 was a big year for the long-term development of Pemberton.

On March 13, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP, announced that the VOP would receive more than $5.3 million in federal government money to spend on aging infrastructure and downtown revitalization.

The money stems from the federal Gas Tax fund. Given Pemberton's small tax base (a one-per-cent municipal tax increase results in about $13,400 in additional revenue) the grant was seen as momentous.

"It will invigorate our downtown and make it more welcoming, and it takes us forward to make the village a more walkable, better connected, and safer community," said Richman.

Richman, however, would later step away from the project after Randy Jones, the former owner of Mile One Eating House, raised concerns about a conflict of interest given Richman's involvement in a new Frontier Street restaurant, Town Square.

Richman led a group of investors who purchased the former Centennial Café this year, and in a letter to Pique, Jones suggested that that could present a conflict of interest given the importance of parking to businesses in the downtown core.

After skipping discussions on parking configurations on Frontier Street and garnering a legal opinion on the matter, Richman eventually rejoined the discussions on the downtown-enhancement plan.

"To be clear, I have never once taken a moment in my time serving here at this table, as a councillor or as a mayor, and looked to put my interests first, never once," said Richman, when addressing the issue at a Nov. 27 council meeting.

The Village also began work on an eight-hectare parcel of land, located off Pemberton Farm Road East, that would serve as the Village's recreational grounds. Construction on a soccer field was completed in early October.

The VOP also completed construction of the Friendship Trail Bridge, the pedestrian bridge that crosses along the south side of the Lillooet River highway bridge.

The entrances, however, are currently barred off, as the Village's plan for a transition section met with opposition from the landowners.

New faces at the council table

From developing rules and regulations around retail cannabis, to deliberating on what building variances to approve, Pemberton council had a busy year of decision making.

Council also saw some significant turnover in October's municipal election, with only Councillor Ted Craddock and Richman choosing to run again.

While Richman won by acclamation, Craddock faced off against four other candidates: David MacKenzie, Leah Noble, Amica Antonelli, and Ryan Zant.

Following a well-attended all-candidates meeting, Noble, Amica, and Zant were elected to serve the next four years. A total of 524 votes were cast in the Oct. 20 election—about 30 per cent of eligible voters.

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