Concern over MLK Weekend in Whistler 

Condo owner speaks out over 'uncomfortable' atmosphere on U.S. holiday

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/WWW.MEDIA-CENTRE.CA - MLK CONCERNS  Police patrol the Village Stroll on Saturday, Jan. 16.
  • Photo by david buzzard/
  • MLK CONCERNS Police patrol the Village Stroll on Saturday, Jan. 16.

A long-time village condo owner is calling on local officials to address a raucous Martin Luther King (MLK) holiday in Whistler that he believes didn't jive with the resort's family-friendly focus.

Sydney, Australia resident John Paterson has owned a condo on the Village Stroll for nearly two decades and typically spends a month of every year with his family in the resort. He said he was surprised at the atmosphere he found.

"It didn't feel threatening, but I was uncomfortable walking through the village with my kids," he said.

While Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden didn't receive any complaints about the U.S. holiday, which fell on Jan. 18, she acknowledged the weekend brought "a very, very raucous crowd."

"We seem to have had this huge influx of American visitors, which is good, but also some university-aged kids, which isn't necessarily the best," she added. "Certainly there will be some additional monitoring next year."

Whistler RCMP was called out 82 times for service over the holiday, compared to 71 in 2015. Those included two reported assaults, six noise bylaw infractions, 16 reports of causing disturbance and five public intoxication offences. (Police indicated there might have been some overlap between the disturbance files, noise complaints and public intoxication reports.)

Over the same period last year, police dealt with five reported assaults, four noise bylaw infractions, eight reports of causing disturbance and four public intoxication files.

With a condo near the Village Stroll Gazebo, one of Paterson's primary concerns centres around noise levels, which he believes was compounded by the heavy drinking spurred on by the early-morning timing of a Seattle Seahawks playoff game on Sunday, Jan. 17.

"Until very late there was a big queue outside Garfinkels, and you get a whole bunch of American college kids ... bantering about the sport going on," he said. "It's 11 or 12 o'clock at night, and there are a whole bunch of rules about noise and people are trying to sleep."

Paterson feels the municipality, which did not receive any formal noise complaints, should have done more to ensure noise bylaws were followed. He also wondered if the MLK weekend could "get out of control" if a more proactive approach isn't taken, similar to another troubling holiday on Whistler's calendar: the May long weekend.

Tragedy struck in 2015 when Burnaby teen Luka Gordic was stabbed to death near the Marketplace parking lot.

Gordic's family joined the chorus of residents who called for solutions to a weekend that typically draws droves of youth from the Lower Mainland. John Grills, council's appointee to the municipal May Long Weekend Committee, said work is well underway to address the upcoming holiday.

"In some ways, we want to take the (approach) that we used for New Year's Eve," he said, referring to the RMOW's shift to more family-friendly programming that has largely curbed issues on New Year's Eve.

The Great Outdoors Festival will return for a third year as a way to promote Whistler's outdoors and, ideally, attract a different demographic to the resort. But Grills acknowledged some consideration is still needed on curbing unruly behaviour in the late-night hours.

"Perhaps there's an event we can hold in the evening," he added.

The committee is preparing to speak with local businesses about possible strategies as well, Grills said. Hoteliers have also discussed preparing holiday packages to send out well in advance of May long weekend to encourage pre-bookings and hopefully prevent minors from securing hotel rooms at the last minute.


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