Change is hard 

  • Mitch winton/

It was an epic opening weekend.

The powder was deep and there was enough terrain open that lift line-ups were tolerable from the entitled local's perspective.

And it came fully six days early.

The "will Whistler Blackcomb open early" annual wager was in full swing by the time everyone learned the mountains would open last Friday, Nov.17.

Whistler old-timers, used to the game, actually began to doubt that an early opening would be called — thanks to the public knowledge that new owner Vail Resorts was facing real deadline challenges when it came to getting its own versions of systems and procedures in place.

There was little sympathy in the resort about these challenges, I'm afraid — perhaps a bit unfair but understandable as many question the need to change systems that have operated pretty efficiently until now.

Few of us give much thought to what goes on behind the scenes to get an operation like Whistler Blackcomb (WB) up and running, but as you will read in this week's feature, it literally takes an army of people to open.

As Vail Resorts' mantle fully settles over mountain operations, all kinds of rumours are flying, and some real changes are in place, too. On the changes front, on-mountain users can only buy one alcoholic drink at a time to a limit of two drinks per hour. There are no sales of pitchers of drinks at on-mountain locations either.

You can still line up and buy a round of drinks for your friends provided the bartender/server can see your friends all sitting, waiting patiently to quench their thirst.

And yes, you can buy bottles of wine at Steeps Grill and Wine Bar and Christine's on Blackcomb.

Once you are in the village, go crazy at WB locations like Dusty's Bar and Merlin's Bar and Grill (but PLEASE don't drink and drive).

Maybe this is an unpopular position, but I feel restricting alcohol consumption on-mountain is a good idea. I mean, two drinks an hour is actually quite a bit. But it never the less feels heavy handed coming from a U.S. company used to operating in an overly litigious environment.

Frankly though, when I am skiing, I have enough to think about to get down safely without worrying about some drunken idiot crashing into me... and I have the same concern about someone hitting my kids.

Sure, people can download if over the limit, but to make that happen, you would need to have staff escort people to the gondolas.

Think of all the people who leave a party/bar/restaurant swearing they are walking or getting a cab only to convince themselves they are fine and get behind the wheel of their vehicle.

The exact same thing would happen on the mountains except it's skis or a board the inebriated would be strapping on.

No thank you!

And while we are on the topic of rumours, Dusty's and Merlin's are not being sold, according to WB. These two legendary watering holes remain firmly part of Vail Resorts' food and beverage operations.

There is no doubt that change always brings about stress and the bigger the change, the greater the stress.

For many years, WB has operated for the most part like a well-oiled machine — now the machine is in overhaul mode.

This is not a painless transition and many are feeling it and have felt it personally.

At one end of the scale, people have lost their jobs and at the other, many people faced confusion over skiing on opening day, or missed it all together, because their pass didn't come in the mail, or their Chamber Spirit Pass wasn't registered yet. On a powder day when everyone was trying to get up the mountain, that felt like the last straw — after all, the mountains have opened early for years, and we haven't faced these issues on such a wide scale.

Let's face it, change is hard.

And this change is going to continue to affect us. Whistler is more likely to see a greater influx of U.S. visitors who have never been here before, traffic is likely to get worse before it gets better, staffing continues to be a challenge and housing... well, everyone is counting down until the promised new units come on board through the Resort Municipality and the Whistler Housing Authority.

For now, as we head into the "most wonderful time of the year," let's focus on making sure the resort is everything our guests want and need it to be, and let's make sure we support our own community so that whatever changes we face in the coming months are faced together.


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