editorial 

At first glance, the new year doesn’t appear to be too much different from 1996 in Whistler. There may be a concentrated effort to create some sort of cultural facility, Whistler Creek will finally begin to be redeveloped now that Intrawest money is behind Whistler Mountain and the municipality may find it has to do more with less because of provincial cutbacks, but generally it appears 1997 will be more of the same as Whistler continues toward buildout. But that’s a myopic view of Whistler. What is changing even faster than Whistler is the world outside this resort town. The emphasis is on resort town. The word is included in the official name of this community but it’s been taken for granted by many for too long. In the 1990 municipal election the common theme among most candidates was the focus on the community, since so much time, effort and money had been spent making the resort successful. That theme was still prevalent during this past fall’s election, in part because after several successive years of record breaking construction (and only a few private efforts to build more affordable resident housing) it still appeared the resort side of Whistler was taking precedence over the community side. And it was. While the community side of Whistler — housing, cultural facilities, community centres, youth programs, day care etc. — certainly deserves more attention, the resort side needs more attention than ever before. And the resort is what fuels the local economy. WRA President David Thomson noted this in a story last summer. Whistler will have 1,200 additional hotel rooms to fill next winter. The consequences of not filling those rooms may be bankrupt retailers and restaurateurs. But in addition to having more rooms to fill, there is increasing competition for the limited number of destination skiers and snowboarders, in North America and around the world. The stakes in the mountain resort business have been increasing each month for the past year as resorts are consolidated into fewer and larger corporations with greater marketing resources. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly commented after the Intrawest-Whistler Mountain merger last week that it was going to take a "huge effort" to fill the 1,200 new rooms that will be available next winter, "and that’s if we have a good snow year." Of course, it wasn’t the people of Whistler who built those 1,200 new hotel rooms, but it’s the people of Whistler who have to live with them, and live with the consequences of not having them occupied most of the time. Those consequences may not be apparent immediately, but a couple of winters of vacant rooms, retail and restaurant space with paper on the windows and Whistler could be in a substantially different position.

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