Alta states 

The ‘new’ W/B Paradigm: Is a private club appropriate on public lands?

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  • One For All

The e-mail solicitation was signed by David Brownlie. And it invited specially-chosen W/B guests to fill out a survey and offer their “opinions and preferences regarding a private members’ club that could provide privileged access to (on-mountain) amenities.”

I didn’t get a copy of the survey of course. Neither did the Pique’s esteemed editor, Bob Barnett. I guess we didn’t fit the desired economic profile. Fortunately, an Alta States reader who was incensed with the idea, made sure to send me her invitation. “I consider it an odious proposal,” she told me on the phone. “It goes against everything I believe in. Everything that Whistler stands for. I think this ‘private club’ thing needs to go public.”

So that’s what I’m doing. And between you and me, I trust and pray she’s not the only one to have rejected the idea out-of-hand.

Why? As many would argue, private clubs are nothing new on the mountain resort front. After all places like Vail’s Game Creek Lodge have been solid fixtures — and great income earners — for years. In Ontario, private ski clubs like Osler Bluff and Craigleith have thrived for decades. So what’s the problem with launching one at Whistler?

Lack of wealth certainly isn’t an issue. After all, there are enough wealthy patrons willing to segregate themselves from the hoi poloi — that’s the rest of us for those who don’t speak Greek — to probably support three or four private clubs at Whistler. So why not create yet another source of income for the folks at Intragreed, er I mean, Intrawest?

Alas, wealth is only one issue in this argument. And it’s not even the most important one.

What disturbs me most about this initiative is much more fundamental. Intrawest — and its parent company Fortress — conveniently keep forgetting that they are operating on public land here. Yes, that’s right, the people of B.C. own the mountain land on which you and I ski and ride and bike and hike year-round. In America it’s called Forest Service Land; in Canada, it’s called Crown Land. And it’s all OURS. The only thing Intrawest owns outright is the infrastructure on the slopes.

Indeed, we should never forget that a whole bucketful of B.C. taxpayers’ money went in to building — and sustaining — this place in its developmental years. And without that timely infusion of cash in the early 1980s, Joe Houssian and his urban developer colleagues would have never been attracted to this valley in the first place.

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