Letters to the Editor for the week of January 18 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE/TOURISM WHISTLER
  • Photo by Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

Variable speed signs not working

I am using the recent fatal tragedy on Highway 99 on the evening of Jan. 2 to bring awareness to the complete failure of the variable speed corridor.

This is just my opinion, but it comes after over 35 years of driving the Sea to Sky Highway. I have experienced firsthand these failures and why major changes need to be made.

On the night of the accident I drove south to Squamish at approximately 5:30 p.m., and was trapped there for the evening as a result of said accident. Lucky for me, I have friends down there and had a place to spend the night.

The speed signs all read 100 km/h in both directions from what I could see. There were weather warnings of a temperature drop that evening. As I was driving south, I experienced mild traction loss so I slowed down. I have fully studded winter tires on my car.

Cars were passing me still going the posted 100 km/h limit. I came into the canyon section of the highway where the southbound passing lane starts. The few cars that had passed earlier were backed up behind a (Miller) Capilano maintenance salt and sanding truck. Well, impatience ruled and one car almost rear-ended the plow truck because it did not move to the outside lane. The reason for this he was doing his job. He needed to be in the centre lane so as to disperse the salt/sand as effectively as possible across all lanes in that area.

Here is the glaring failure in my eyes in this whole scenario. Why is the speed sign still reading 100 km/h?

Clearly, there is a need for slower speeds if the road-maintenance crews are working to keep black ice from forming. If there is a need for traction aids such as sand and salt, then there is a need to slow down traffic!

A hundred kilometres per hour is fine on a clear summer day when visibility and traction is at its best. Dark winter nights with glaring oncoming headlights, snow/ice covered roads and almost non-existent road lines is not a time for speed.

There are sections of the highway that have no road lines visible because the painting maintenance was attempted to late in the fall season and could not be done. That reason alone should keep the speed limit lower.

Having different speed limits at different sections of the highway is also a failure. There are not enough of the signs to adequately cover Highway 99. Having traffic careening at 100 km/h into a 70 km/h slow zone is another disaster waiting to happen... if the sign is even lit up.

Earlier in the year, during a November snowfall, the last two speed signs leading into Whistler were blank. Snow was falling and slush was building up as you approached town. The last posted speed was somewhere near half way between Squamish and Whistler — 100 km/h, so everyone was flying towards Function and starting to hydroplane on the slush. I saw a few cars panic breaking before the merge.

Now I know everyone is going to say these drivers are just going too fast for the conditions. Yes, that is the case. But the B.C. Ministry of Transportation (and Infrastructure) must bear some responsibility. People will put their faith into the idea that someone is constantly monitoring the situation and the posted limit is safe, otherwise why would it be variable if this was not the case? If all the signs were out of order northbound towards Whistler, the last posted sign would be 100 km/h.

I talked to a gentleman from (Miller) Capilano to find out who controls the speed limit signs. I was told it is the RCMP. (Miller) Capilano has no control over speed signs. The very people who are on the highway the most and trying to keep things safe and moving have no input!

The very idea of a plow/salt and sand truck being needed on the highway tells me that safety may be compromised because of weather and the speed along the whole corridor should be lowered. Especially at night!

A new rule should be put on the roadside: "If a sign is blank the speed limit is 80 km/h or lower as conditions dictate."

We are in the darkest time of the year. I would even propose that a nighttime limit of 80 to 90 km/h be established — 90 km/h at night if clear and dry, 80 km/h if raining or snowing.

No one's life is worth the few extra minutes you might gain at higher speeds. The volume of traffic is only going to increase as the Sea to Sky corridor tries to stuff more tourist dollars through the region.

There are calls to put a concrete median along the highway. For certain potential problem areas, I would say yes.

There are down sides to this as well. If a crash occurs and blocks one side of the highway, then the other side must be used to access the crash site by emergency vehicles so it will be closed as well. No one is going anywhere. Any median installed must have, at regular intervals, the ability to be opened to allow traffic to turn around and return back from where it came.

Being trapped on the highway for an indeterminate amount of time is a huge problem in its own right — I know this from experience after being trapped on Highway 99 for over eight hours in a terrible snowstorm. Watching the gas gauge fall as I tried to keep warm, wondering if I was going to have the fuel to get home once the road opened. Lucky for me, I did. Many others did not and had to abandon their cars.

I am sending my heartfelt sympathies to those involved in that horrific crash.

To everyone driving the highway... drive safe, be courteous and think!

Read the signs! Not the speed signs, but the ones Mother Nature gives you. Everyone, yourself included, will be happier you did.

Keith Auchinachie
Whistler

Wishing you success but don't grind us down

I have been a guest of Whistler Blackcomb (WB) since 1990.

Vail Resorts is here to stay — I accept this fact and the level playing field that is being introduced to bring us in line with all the other Vail resorts.

But how do we contact management to voice a few opinions or give feedback? Feedback forms have been removed from the mountains and there are no obvious links on the WB site to voice an opinion; and we all have opinions on the new broom sweeping through WB — be it the downgraded IT system, the proposed new lifts, season passes and perks, the purported low staff morale, staff housing etc.So to add my two pennies worth: The No Smoking Policy on WB property is great and I see WB (mainly instructors) politely informing smokers of this policy all the time. Unfortunately, there are two things that drive myself and others crazy:

1. Eating food in the enclosed gondolas (and the proposed new ones). Why, may we ask, is it seen as OK to consume a meal in the gondola during a trip up the hill while seven other customers are held captive within the gondola?

The smell alone is off-putting let alone the, at times, poor eating habits. I have seen a full breakfast eaten using plates, spoons and napkins, including both hot and cold dishes. Give us all a break and enforce a no-food policy on the gondolas. Hot coffee would be an exception and acceptable by most, but food in various forms — eat it at home or at the top, but not in a confined space. Have a look at the policy for travel on the bus transit system — food consumption is a no-no.

2. When did WB allow the proliferation of backpacks with boom boxes pounding out music that seriously destroys the unique quiet atmosphere of the hill? There appears to be no control over these portable boom boxes. I, and no doubt others, do not want to stand in a lift line or ride a lift with a person who has one of these backpack speakers pounding out his/her style of music. One young man even brought his music boom box into the gents at Glacier Creek. Go figure!Bottom line: Give us all a break and ban backpack boom boxes — by all means let them wear earphones — but please don't subject myself, and others, and the rest of the mountain to their choice of music streaming from the uncontrolled use of backpack boom boxes. I sincerely wish Vail Resorts great success with their WB venture, but I have a real problem accepting the fact that we are, in my opinion, being ground down to accept all the changes that will bring us in line with the other Vail properties without bringing on board the loyal WB crowd that has helped promote and support WB over the many years, and are now possibly seeing, through their eyes, various aspects of "their hill" being eroded by Big Brother.

David Sadler
Australia

Volunteering creates memories

The most professional art display in Whistler is the Audain Art Museum. Hats off to Mr. Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa for their contribution of B.C arts to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

It gives me a great sense of pride to know there is an international art museum in our own backyard.

Just looking at the architectural structure of the building itself, and the story behind it, is an adventure. Also, the ideology of having some of B.C's finest art gathered and stored in one museum to be shared with the world is mind-blowing.

As a volunteer in Whistler for over 38 years, mainly as an event coordinator and a fundraiser with charities, my aim was to build a "sense of community," so you know I did my time and have experienced a varied selection of community events. I was never paid. Always loved Whistler and always will.

Recently, I was on vacation in Whistler for two months so I wrote to the Audain Arts Museum to ask if I could volunteer, to feel the experience of the new art venture in the community.

The museum said "yes" without hesitation and I was swept into the arms of the organization. First, I was educated with the docents (teachers) to learn about the art in the building. If the were any questions the education co-ordinator took the time to study the questions and took the time to send the answers by email. There is also a library available to the personnel to enhance learning.

The professional staff, which are lifetime learners, were so willing to share and enhance each other's abilities.

It was a great feeling to always be included in the experience the museum had to offer. 

Mr. Audain — I have great gratitude for having your private collection of B.C's finest art in Whistler for our community and the communities of the world to see. It was such an opportunity to volunteer at the Audain Art Museum. It is and always will be a positive lifetime memory.

Thank you.

Sonya McCarthy
Nova Scotia

Funds help students

The Whistler Waldorf School wishes to thank and acknowledge the generous and continued support of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.

The Whistler Waldorf School was the recent recipient of a $10,476 grant to be used to enhance the school's Outdoor Education Program.  

Each year, students at Whistler Waldorf have the opportunity to participate in outdoor education trips. From caving in Grade 6, to canoe and kayak expeditions in Grades 7 and 8, to backcountry hiking in the upper grades, our curriculum includes a myriad of outdoor experiences in all seasons. These activitiesenhance learning, create a reverence for nature, a sense of stewardship for our environment, and build self-confidence in our students. 

These funds will help ensure that all students have the equipment they need to safely and successfully participate in the range of trips offered.

Thank you, Mei Madden and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, for once again supporting local children and youth. 

Arnold Grimm
 Waldorf Director of Education 

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