Another quiet May long, but the work isn't over 

'Well-behaved' crowds a far cry from years past

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CLINT TRAHAN/COURTESY OF THE RESORT MUNICIPALITY OF WHISTLER - GOING STRONG Whistler's GO Fest was well-attended over another relatively quiet May long.
  • Photo by Clint Trahan/Courtesy of the Resort Municipality of Whistler
  • GOING STRONG Whistler's GO Fest was well-attended over another relatively quiet May long.

Whistler's May long weekend has made big strides in shedding its reputation as a weekend to avoid in recent years, but local officials aren't fooling themselves into thinking the work is done

"This is not something I think we fix and walk away from," said Mayor Jack Crompton.

"In my opinion, we will continue to invest in programming that builds on that family-focused atmosphere, (and) we will continue to invest in strong and consistent policing so that the resort is a safe place to be. "

The Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) GO Fest—designed to attract families to the resort—helped provide a "vibrant atmosphere" in Whistler Village, Crompton said.

"Nice weather, lots of people, and anecdotally I saw more families than I had in the past," he said.

"And (I was) happy to hear from the RCMP that May long weekend was a peaceful one for Whistler ... I think that speaks to the diligence of the RCMP throughout the village, and the RMOW focus on creating a positive, all-ages atmosphere, which is the primary goal of GO Fest."

The five free musical performances were well attended, Crompton added, with between 500 and 1,500 in the crowd for each show.

In past years, the local police blotter wrapping up the notorious weekend was typically dotted with reports of violence, vandalism and unruly mobs.

In 2015, the violence came to a head when 19-year-old Luka Gordic was swarmed and stabbed to death in Whistler Village (two of four people convicted in his death have filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal, while a third—who was sentenced as an adult to life in prison—is appealing that sentence. All three were 17 at the time of the attack and are protected under a publication ban. The fourth offender, Arvin Golic, was tried as an adult, convicted of manslaughter, and given seven years last June).

But during the 2019 edition of the May long weekend, police were mostly kept busy with "folks who chose to drink too much," said Staff Sgt. Paul Hayes.

Whistler and Pemberton RCMP responded to 117 calls for service from May 17 to May 20, Hayes said in an email, with alcohol being a factor in many of them.

"Overall this year the crowds were well behaved and seemed to be mostly families and folks very much enjoying everything Whistler has to offer," Hayes said.

"Most of the files we attended to over the weekend were centred around assaults and causing disturbances—almost all had an alcohol component."

Official stats from the weekend weren't ready as of press time, but Hayes said he suspects they were on par or below the stats from last year.

As it did last year, the Whistler RCMP set up a large check stop just north of Brandywine on Friday evening, but was not responsible for a stop further south near Britannia, Hayes said.

(Pique reached out to the RCMP's BC Traffic Division with questions about the Britannia stop, which caused long traffic delays on Friday, but did not hear back before press time.)

"I can say that over the course of the weekend Whistler RCMP continued to remove drivers from the road for alcohol-related reasons along with prohibited drivers, vehicles without insurance and various Motor Vehicle Act and regulation offences," Hayes said.

The local hotels didn't have any problems to report either, said Saad Hasan, chair of the Hotel Association of Whistler.

"It was very smooth, very uneventful, and we certainly want to give credit to the organization, to the RCMP and also to the municipality," Hasan said.

"It was a very positive experience, I think, for our guests who were in town, and really enjoyed the weather and also the family events that we had, so I think all in all (it was) a good solid weekend."

Like the police stats, it's too early to say how full the resort's hotels were, but "it seemed like everyone was consistent with their pace and did well," Hasan said.

While the weekend's course correction is welcomed, like Crompton, Hasan sees more work ahead.

"I would say we should stay the course, I would say we should keep our foot on the pedal, but I would hesitate to say that it's behind us and now we can sort of relax," Hasan said.

"I think it's a question of creating a habit, and I think we are (heading) in the right direction, looking at the past couple of years ... but to change the habit, I think we have to stay the course for another few years before we can say that it is safely behind us."

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