December 08, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

A Pass to Play 

Whistler's Spirit Pass is not just a key to the mountains; it's a key to the town's success

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Why live and work in Whistler? It's a fair question. This isn't a cheap place, and with short summers and long winters it's not ideal for some. However, for those who love the snow it's a Mecca. Living in the shadow of Whistler and Blackcomb the slopes are always on our minds, it's a craving that must be sated and can only be done so with a sought after season's pass.

For many, however, a season's pass is out of financial reach. That's why, 25 years ago this year, business owners and resort stakeholders came up with the idea of offering a discounted pass in return for a few hours spent learning how to help make the visitor experience in Whistler second to none.

It was the birth of the Whistler Spirit Pass — and today many would argue it is even more important and valuable as the resort fights to stay a top choice for tourists in an age of financial stress.

Getting the message out to all of Whistler's "ambassadors" that the resort is an awesome place to play, live and grow all year round is a key strategy for success.

And that's a message new Spirit Pass attendees can't help but take away.

"It gave me a wider perspective of the resort," says Liam Daly who arrived in Whistler from Scotland a couple of months ago and is now working behind the bar at The Mix by Ric's.

"I had heard about a discounted pass before I got to the resort, and although it's a huge bonus that my employer gets the discount for me, I would have done anything to get a pass and stay in Whistler."

But for some paying for a full price pass simply isn't an option.

Newcomer, Leanne Jagger, who works for Just Cleaning, says, "It saves me money, that's the main thing, for three hours of my time it's definitely worth it. Without the discount it would have been a difficult decision, it's just so expensive."

When asked what she gained from attending she says, "It was interactive and interesting, it was good to hear people's favourite things they'd done so far — it gave me a few ideas! I went to the session alone and after the girl next to me won a Starbucks card we went for coffee after – it's a great way to meet people and ask questions."

The Spirit Pass Program is one of three customer service initiatives, which make up the "Whistler Service Strategy" run by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce. Launched at the beginning of each winter season the program aims to train all resort staff in customer service so that visitor experience is outstanding and becomes part of seamless holiday memory filled with good times.

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