Opening remarks Some of the most important findings for Whistler’s future have come not from the resort association’s research or the planning department’s monitoring system but from the mayor's ad hoc committee on youths. The options for youths have never been great in Whistler. If a kid isn’t into sports or outdoor recreation there’s the theatre, Whistler Wonderland and not a whole lot more. The committee on youths has helped define the problem and the findings should interest everyone. The guts of the issue lies in giving kids a say in what goes on in Whistler. The resort was built for the visitors, the community facilities and infrastructure for the residents, but the needs of youths — a growing percentage of the population — have been largely ignored. A consultant’s report makes the point that the "trouble makers" lack a sense of ownership in the community. There are many factors that have contributed to that sense, including cost and geography. It’s ironic that while people travel around the globe to ski here many of the kids in Whistler and Pemberton can’t afford to get up the mountains. The ski industry should note the consultant found 14-18 year olds generally can’t afford to ski. The report also states that less than 5 per cent of D’arcy, Pemberton and Mount Currie youth interviewed ski, although 83 per cent have had passes in the past. Cost was the reason they don’t have passes now. The consultant recommends a youth ambassador program, which would make skiing or snowboarding more affordable. The benefit for the lift companies is in maintaining future consumers’ interest in the sport and the mountains. But it is not a problem the lift companies can resolve themselves, nor should they be asked to. If kids aren’t interested in skiing or snowboarding there should be other things to do. Volunteer service programs are suggested to make the municipal facilities more affordable, but that still excludes kids who have no interest in athletics. The committee suggests an activity centre, designed and perhaps built by youths, combined with a new skate facility at Spruce Grove Park would be part of the answer. That may mean another campaign to raise funds for another community project, but consider the cost of doing nothing. Then consider how many more youths Whistler will attract in the next few years. As counsellor Hugh O'Reilly said at Monday's council meeting, communication with many youths is difficult. There is some momentum now as a result of the committee's study, it must be followed through on. – Bob Barnett


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