Calling on locals to give a Whistler Welcome 

At first it may appear as though all Whistler has to offer is acres of unbeatable terrain, a hopping nightlife scene and a non-stop winter party, but Reggie Tika knows differently.

Like many others he arrived in Whistler as a fresh-faced 23-year-old ready to live it up for the season. Three years have since passed and he’s still here.

"We’ve just been voted the number one ski resort and there has to be a reason," said Tika, one of many volunteers at Welcome Week. "Not only do we have the mountains but it’s the people who make the place."

Now Whistler Community Services Society is calling on "the people who make the place," the Whistler community, to help with an official welcome of the newcomers.

Welcome Week is taking place from Nov. 15 to 20 but the welcome won’t be complete without the locals at the week’s flagship event – the Jill Ackhurst Community Welcome Dinner.

The dinner gives locals and newcomers alike the chance to get to know each other on the verge of another busy winter season. Tika didn’t have to be asked twice to sign up for that.

"I think it’s a great program. That’s why I wanted to put 120 per cent towards it because it creates such a great awareness of the resort," he said.

Tika has signed up to not only host a table at the welcome dinner but also help in the setting up and cleaning up afterwards.

The dinner will be the crowning event in a week packed full of stuff to help seasonal workers with the transition to their new Whistler life. Welcome Week will include a ski and snowboard movie night to get people psyched for the season, a pool party at the Meadow Park Sports Centre, a Scavenger Hunt guiding newcomers to the services in Whistler, a Business Welcome and the welcome dinner.

There will be spots for 700 people at the $2 dinner on Saturday, Nov. 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. The dinner will give newcomers and Whistler old-timers the chance to sit down and break bread together but also give the new people a special insight into the resort community.

On the flip side, the dinner also gives locals a chance to appreciate the seasonal workers, who help the resort function throughout the winter season.

"The whole idea of the dinner is that because these people are new to Whistler, they may only be here for six months, they’re often seen as transients and that’s got such a terrible connotation to it," said Youth Outreach Worker Claire Mozes, who is helping organize the week.

"And so we really want to break that down a bit and try to make the longer term locals remember when they got here and the things they went through and to be appreciative of these people, even though they’re only here for a short time."

Mozes is looking for volunteers such as Tika to help host a table at the community dinner.

"Really what we’re asking locals to do is come and sit down, have dinner and talk," said Mozes. "It’s just a social event."

Two local hosts will sit at a table of six newcomers where they can share some advice or stories about Whistler.

"I’ve heard so many times people saying ‘I don’t want to live in Whistler too long because it has no community, it has no heart and soul,’" said Mozes. "Well this is it. This is your chance to get involved."

Volunteers are also needed to help set up the dinner and clean up afterwards, as well as transport food during the dinner. Mozes is still looking for a few chefs to help with the meal too.

To date there are 90 hosts signed up and Mozes needs to double that number in order to accommodate more than 500 seasonal guests.

In addition to officially welcoming workers, the idea behind Welcome Week is to make newcomers feel connected to Whistler and proud to live here, and therefore less likely do things which could damage the resort.

"As new people come to the community, if we welcome them and include them and connect them to the community quickly, they’ll feel a part of the community and perhaps that will have a direct result on less damage and vandalism etcetera," said Sandra Smith with bylaw services.

Though she doesn’t have statistics linking a decrease in vandalism and other crimes to the Welcome Week last year, Smith said the feedback from people who attended was very positive from both the locals who hosted and the newcomers who attended.

To volunteer call Claire Mozes at 604-902-0670.

Stay tuned to Pique in coming weeks for more details about the Welcome Week events.

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