Anger management 

Some columns are about a specific set of facts, studies or empirical data. There is nothing like that here, just a gut feeling.

To quote a release from Tourism Whistler this week, it’s shaping up to be another record winter for Whistler. Early season visits are the best ever and hotel occupancy for November and December, including the Christmas period, was up over last year – despite the fact there were 10 per cent more hotel rooms this year.

Whistler and Blackcomb mountains also have "the best snow base in North America" and recently played host to what many have called "the most successful freestyle world championships to date."

And yet, there is a mood of frustration, anger, in some cases even despair among many people in this town.

Perhaps it’s part of a normal mood swing that happens annually about this time. After the frenzy and the euphoria of Christmas it’s natural to feel a little down in January. It can also be tough to make ends meet, but that doesn’t explain some of the things that have been going on.

Molotov cocktails, vicious hate e-mail – these are cowardly acts by angry people. They can in no way be justified, but something has sparked them. The unspoken – and unproven – belief is it was the cancellation of a bike race, but perhaps it goes deeper than that.

The frustration of local liquor licencees with RCMP and the liquor inspector cracking down on infractions spilled over at Monday’s council meeting. Licencees were upset that, among other things, RCMP members had been demanding receipts from restaurant customers to prove that they were complying with B.C.’s antiquated liquor laws and ordering food with their beverages. A greater problem, they said, lies in the fact the province has brought in new enforcement policies but hasn’t co-ordinated them with the updated regulations it promised.

Commercial backcountry operators and recreational backcountry users are frustrated by the province’s failure to bring order to the backcountry. Conflicts are increasing between motorized and non-motorized backcountry users, between commercial operators with tenures and those without tenures. And all the while the financial stakes in the backcountry are going up as quickly as the "carrying capacity" of some areas approaches its limits.

Add to these conflicts the tragedies that occurred on Highway 99 over the holiday period and the plane crash which decimated a Whistler family on New Year’s Eve. And we shouldn’t overlook the economic problems Squamish is facing and the impact that may have on people’s self esteem. Whistler itself has – so far – felt little of economic decline that has hit Squamish and the forest industry, but many people who work in Whistler live in Squamish. The problem is not isolated to one community.

There may be no common denominator among these conflicts and this doom and gloom list of events. But in some instances they seem to be accompanied by a sense that our faith in one institution or another has been for naught. Various arms of various governments have not come through as expected and the two big companies in this region, Intrawest and Interfor, increasingly are playing significant roles in peoples’ lives, whether we work for them or not. Intrawest in particular seems to be the subject of increasing resentment, although most comments – made privately – are related to a specific perceived injustice, rather than the company’s overall performance.

It may surprise people that Whistler-Blackcomb managers and executives are equally frustrated by this silent resentment. They too live here and want to continue to do so. Perhaps that’s the common ground on which to start to deal with some of the anger and frustration in the valley.

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