Letters to the Editor for the week of April 12 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SCOTT BRAMMER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Photo by Scott Brammer Photography

An illuminating evening

A spectacular evening was orchestrated by The Westin Resort and Spa, Whistler to celebrate the successful second year of the Audain Art Museum on April 7.

The Board of Trustees and staff at the museum are indebted to the generosity and continued support provided by Tony Cary-Barnard and Regine Varley of the Westin.

Four hundred guests feasted and fêted through the evening led by CBC's Gloria Macarenko and Fred Lee. Presenting Sponsor Max Mara delighted all with an outstanding fashion preview direct from Milan. The youth dance troupe from Arts Umbrella presented a series of captivating danced performances. Willa, a.k.a. Whistler's own Ali Milner, entertained guests during the signature scotch and chocolate bar.

The 2018 Illuminate Gala would not have been possible without the generosity of sponsors, auction donors and Whistler's amazing volunteers. We raise a toast to our guests and supporters, as we join together to enhance and encourage the cultural life of our beautiful town.

On behalf of the 2018 Gala Committee, we thank you all.

Jacquie Prokopanko and Sue Adams
2018 Illuminate Gala Co-Chairs

BRING BACK THE SPRING PASS

You may have heard that this year Whistler Blackcomb has decided not to offer any sort of spring pass for the rest of this year's season.

Since I moved to Whistler in 2009, the spring pass has been available every year. This has been an affordable and amazing way for locals, Sea to Sky residents and other people from all over the world to come to Whistler and experience the renowned spring riding that Whistler has to offer.

Unfortunately, this year Whistler Blackcomb has been announcing to its customers that it may not be offering the spring pass this year and it may discontinue it permanently. This has been a huge letdown to everybody who counts on the spring pass year to year.

Thousands of people come to Whistler every year strictly to ride the ski resort during the spring, and many of those people will not be returning this year on the basis that it is just not a feasible option to come to the resort and pay full price for day tickets when there are plenty other great resorts offering affordable spring deals and passes for the rest of the season.

I have tried to express my concerns to Vail Resorts and Whistler Blackcomb, but obviously one person speaking to such a massive corporation does not seem to make much of a difference. So I thought of ways I could get others to express their opinions and thoughts on the discontinuation of the famous Whistler Blackcomb (WB) spring pass, while actually grabbing Vail Resorts' attention. To do this I thought maybe if it was hurting its reputation, and it heard how customers really feel about the situation, publicly, it could have a change in heart and realize how much the spring pass means to many of the long-term customers.

So on Facebook, I asked friends of mine to go to WB's page and, if they felt the same way I did, to leave a low review on the basis there is no spring pass this year, and maybe the people would be heard!

It started off with WB having about 650 one-star reviews. A couple of friends posted their thoughts of no spring pass this year, and I was feeling pretty good that finally WB would be looking at how people feel about them taking away the pass.

After a couple more reviews and a few shares, WB now has over 1,000 one-star reviews with hundreds of them based on people's opinions of the spring pass!

Obviously, my intention is not to hurt Whistler or Vail Resorts' reputation. I have lived in Whistler for years, and I love this town and resort. I even appreciate some of the things Vail Resorts has been implementing. But locals and long-term customers' concerns need to be heard, and without making it public it has proved very difficult.

Vail Resorts—the entire ski community could be behind you, and you can still thrive and profit, just don't shut us out—hear our concerns and bring back the spring pass!

Anthony Gots
Whistler

(Editor's note: WB does offer the Spring Pack, which offers 10 days of skiing between April 23 and May 21 for $229 per adult. Whistler closes April 22 and Blackcomb shuts operations for the summer on May 21.)

GETTING OUR ART ON

Thank you Whistler for making Arts Whistler's inaugural Anonymous Art Show an unqualified success!

There were sparks coming off the roof at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Friday night (April 6), ignited by the passion, energy and excitement of guests as they vied to bring home their chosen piece of art.

The Gallery was electric with art buyers buzzing about, comparing pieces, and hoping their favourites were available by the time their number was called. Everyone's taste in art is so varied, and with so many to choose from, the amount of times we heard "I can't believe my first choice was there!" made for a lot of happy art buyers. Buying fever escalated and guests left with multiple pieces, escorted off the walls by our very own "Vanna Whites." The huge grins in the event photos capture how much fun everyone was having.

Heartfelt thanks to the dozens of art buyers who snapped up 180 originals, amidst shrieks of surprise and glee upon learning who painted each selection (Dave Brownlie—you earned a big shriek!). Your purchases will help fund Arts Whistler's student awards and bursaries program and support our member group grants, helping the community create more art.

Many thanks to our sponsors and supporters, especially our premier sponsors, Race and Co. and Scotiabank. Our organizing committee and volunteers did an outstanding job, helping the Arts Whistler team deliver an unforgettable night, celebrating the community's talent and generosity.

We are so grateful to the 140 artists who contributed 256 pieces of impressive art to the show. The talent in Whistler is astonishing—as evidenced by the beautiful work of established artists and the heart and soul contributions of "closet" artists, many who submitted their first-ever paintings. Your generous submissions lit up the walls of The Gallery and inspired other community members to submit art for next year. And yes, thanks to everyone's support, we believe there will be a next year for the Anonymous Art Show.

Come check out the remaining work— there are still many gems on the wall in The Gallery at the Maury Young Arts Centre. You can take them home for the bargain price of $50 each until April 17.

Mo Douglas
Executive Director, Arts Whistler

LISTEN TO THE LOCALS VAIL RESORTS

The acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb ski facilities by Vail Resorts has, to say the least, had an inauspicious beginning.It soon became clear that Vail Resorts is oblivious to the great mountain culture that allowed the communities of Whistler and Vancouver to create the world-class resort Whistler Blackcomb is today.

You might think that they would want to build on this legacy. Instead it appears that Whistler is just the 13th acquisition, rather than what it is: a resort frequently cited as the best skiing destination in North America.

From the beginning, Vail Resorts made it clear that they wanted to merge operations to synchronize with their model. That meant managing much of the operation from Colorado. The on-mountain pass RFID system was changed to the Vail Resorts' system and immediately failed to give the quality of mountain-skiing information previously experienced by customers.

The new customer service and pass system, and the store systems, are significantly inferior to the previous systems, causing inconvenience and irritation to customers and embarrassment and frustration to frontline staff.

The management of online ticket sales was transferred to Colorado again resulting in a confusing and difficult-to-navigate system. In a final affirmation of indifference to Whistler, the passes arrived in a folder with a picture of Vail on the front.

Then the price of day tickets and Edge Cards was raised substantially and the one-day and three-day Edge Cards were eliminated. In a remarkable act of meanness and lack of concern for the people who work in Whistler, the parent pass was eliminated. A version of it was subsequently reinstated after protest, but only for those who previously had a pass.

A key part of the Vail Resorts business model is the Epic Pass. The idea is to get as many people as possible to buy this product. Sales of both the Epic Pass and Edge Cards are stopped in mid-November resulting in an early inflow of cash, and very high prices later in the year.

This policy is already having significant effects. It is making it prohibitively expensive to ski for people of modest means in the Sea to Sky-Vancouver community. Moreover, one increasingly hears that people from across the country who used to visit Whistler regularly, particularly those with families, are finding it so expensive that they are instead choosing to ski in the B.C. Interior (for half the price and no lines).

More recently, the weather and snow report website has been changed to the Vail Resorts' template. You might think that after all the previous errors, Vail Resorts might have implemented this change in such a way that it was actually an improvement, but not so. It is inferior in every way—difficult to navigate and less-clear information. In a remarkable lack of appreciation of the local ski culture, initially, only 24-hour snow accumulation was reported and the 12-hour amount left out.

So ... all in all, this is very concerning. There is no reason to suppose that Vail Resorts senior management does not mean well, at least from the perspective of their Colorado business model. They are certainly committed to the ski business, as they see it.

However, all indications are that they will continue to behave in the manner of a foreign takeover, largely indifferent to the communities of Whistler, the Sea to Sky corridor, Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and the wider communities of Canada and the Northwest of the United States.

Whistler is a world-class ski resort because of its community. The people of this community make this resort what it is and people from around the world come here because of the wonderful location, the facilities, service and atmosphere provided by those who live and work here.

There is no doubt that the community at large wishes Vail Resorts well. Their success is vital to the continuing success of Whistler. However, it appears that concern about the Vail Resorts management model is widespread. The actions cited above have already damaged Vail Resorts' reputation. Continuing with the same pattern will create further damage. 

In view of this, here are some suggestions for Vail Resorts:

• Do not treat Whistler as just another acquisition, but rather as the unique world-class destination that it is.

• Engage more meaningfully with the community and learn from the experience of the previous leadership. 

• Remember that Whistler is located in Canada.

• Restore a substantial local senior leadership to Whistler and implement a more independent and community appropriate operational philosophy.

• Put in place policies to ensure that Whistler remains a good place to live and work.It would be nice to think that these suggestions might be worthy of consideration. However, on the basis of performance to date, that seems both naive and unlikely. Accordingly, the community cannot be passive in the face of this threat to Whistler's highly successful model. If other individuals and groups are concerned they might consider writing to the Pique, and to members of the municipal council. Perhaps, subsequently, more specific actions can be taken.

Peter Cordy
Whistler

FARMERS SUPPORT AMENDMENT

Nothing in Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) bylaw 1549-2017 restricts farming, and a large number of bona fide farmers in the Pemberton Valley are in support of it, contrary to what was suggested in the March 28 Pique article "Pemberton farmers say proposed bylaws overly restrictive."

The bylaw supports agriculture as the priority use for ALR land. Farmland is a precious resource—only five per cent of the land in B.C. is in the ALR and less than one per cent is of the exceptional quality found in the Pemberton Valley.

The bylaw does allow home-based businesses and B&Bs on ALR land. Are there some restrictions? Yes, but all of them are intended to make sure that non-farm uses do not affect the agricultural capabilities of farmland or cause conflict with farmers. Most of the restrictions are not new and some are even more permissive than the current bylaw.

Two changes to the existing bylaw are to increase the minimum lot size for new subdivisions and incorporate a farm residential footprint. The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), which oversees the ALR, has encouraged and provided support for local governments to develop such bylaws. Small lot subdivisions and inappropriate siting/sizing of residential uses limit the range of farming opportunities and fuel land speculation.

We submit that Kevin Damaskie (in the Pique news article) and Don Coggins (in his April 5th "Letter to the Editor" in Pique) are incorrect about how the ALC works in conjunction with the SLRD. Both the ALC and SLRD have legitimate regulatory authority over ALR land and "while the ALC is ultimately responsible for the administration of the ALR; local government bylaws, land-use plans and farm-use policies are essential, complementary components, helping to achieve the objectives of the ALR" (from the ALC website).

We wonder what is motivating the people who are stirring the Pemberton community against this bylaw. It is certainly not to support farmers. Could it be that their properties might decrease in value? We would gladly sacrifice a drop in our land values to make farmland more accessible for agriculture. We are invested for the long-term in providing food for our local community.

We welcome the current and proposed regulations and restrictions on ALR land because we know the importance, value and scarcity of that land. It is our livelihood.

Houses can be built and businesses can be operated on many different types of land but farming requires farmland.

Bylaw 1549-2017 implements actions that will ensure this essential and irreplaceable resource can be farmed productively for the short and long-term future of our community, province and country.

Camel's Back Harvest (Carrie & Remi Charron), Four Beat Farm (Naomi Martz), Helmer's Organic Farm (Anna, Jennie, Doug & Jeanette Helmer), Kuurne Farms (Peter, Roxanne & Mark Kuurne), Pemberton Valley Farms (Andrea & Marty Van Loon), Plenty Wild Farms (Alyssa Belter & David Tanner), Rootdown Organic Farm (Sarah Stewart & Simone McIsaac), Shaw Creek Farm (John & Michelle Beks), Wachamacarcus Farm (Nicole Ronayne) 

HIPPITY HOP THANKS

Thanks for another successful Community Easter Egg Hunt!

The ninth annual Whistler Community Easter Egg Hunt event was another huge success—but only thanks to the contributions from many businesses and individuals.

It was such a fun morning on Saturday, March 31—we had a gym overflowing with residents and tourists alike, and the joy on the childrens' faces was priceless.

We are very grateful to our amazing volunteers who helped on the day, as well as with the planning in the lead up to the event. There were so many individuals who came together and contributed greatly in delivering this wonderful event for our community, and supporting the Myrtle Philip Community School (MPCS) Parent Advisory Council's (PAC) fundraising efforts. Too many to individually mention, but to everyone who volunteered, please know your contribution made our event! A special shout out must also go to all the students who stepped up to contribute their time.

Much gratitude is also owed to those who gave generous donations-in-kind to enable our event and silent auction to fundraise over $6,000 for the MPCS PAC!

So many businesses and individuals gave so generously to our Facebook silent auction and event day activities. There were numerous donors and we are thankful to each and every one of you. A special mention must be made for Whistler Connection Travel who provided a very efficient shuttle service for the event; it was the first time we've been able to encourage so many to leave the car at home—nearly 100 family members rode with our Easter Bunny onboard from various neighbourhoods across Whistler.

And finally, our sincere appreciation to the amazing Whistler families and friends for coming out to make it such a successful day!

We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

Toni Metcalf and Tanya McLatchie
Event Organizers, on behalf of the MPCS PAC

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