Letters to the Editor for the week of January 25th 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY FARHA GUERRERO
  • Photo by Farha Guerrero

Our winter highway commuters

When there is heavy snowfall on the highway, we all become vulnerable.

We are vulnerable travellers, some of us heading to Whistler for the weekend. We are vulnerable delivery persons, those who bring much needed supplies to our communities. We are vulnerable professionals: teachers, librarians, chefs, ski instructors and patrollers, hotel and resort staff — individuals who drive the Sea to Sky Highway every day.

This latter group, our vulnerable commuters, do not have a choice to be on the roads — our ski town depends on them. They feed our resort with talent and skill every day of the week. They brave winter storms to be in their work spaces each morning.

Earlier this week, I met one such commuter, a young man who was driving to Whistler from Squamish for his morning shift as a chef. Our meeting was on the side of a slippery highway, where snow science articulates the delicate balance of chemistry and physics using temperature, elevation, and precipitation to create unpredictable conditions on asphalt.

My husband had just helped pull him out of his car when we first met. He had blood on his glasses, was slightly shaken, but fully conscious. I put a hand on his shoulder; it was all I could do. He had just survived a major accident that we witnessed seconds earlier. It only takes seconds for a car to flip over into a ditch. It only takes seconds for us to lose control on wheels when snow makes us vulnerable.

The young man, like our first responders, was also an unsung hero.

He was unscathed as he stood next to his car, which was upside down and completely destroyed.

He did what many of us wouldn't do in a moment of crisis. He called his workmates, informing them that he was going to be late. He wasn't thinking about injuries or what had just happened. His concern was about fulfilling what he had set out to do that morning: to go to work.

I was touched by his selflessness and dedication. I couldn't but admire his incredible strength. The kind of strength not only to a survive a car crash, but to also search for his tools amongst the car debris spilled over a highway. He wasn't going into the ambulance without his knives. He is a chef, a commuter, a dedicated employee of Whistler and I would add, an inspirational human being.

We must do more to protect our winter highway users.

We shouldn't have to wait for public transit between Squamish and Whistler. We shouldn't have to mourn hard-working members of our community when lives could have been saved with concrete barriers.

Our highway commuters are all heroes. Their sacrifice on the road benefits everyone of us.

Let's thank and honour them each time they brave dangerous road conditions travelling to and from the workplaces they love.

Farha Guerrero

Three near misses on one night drive

I often wonder how many people that I transport from around the world from Vancouver's airport up and down to Whistler realize just how little I get paid for the responsibility of safely taking them through the most dangerous part of their holiday. I can tell you it surely is not enough!

Most probably feel the flight is the most "at-risk" part of their adventure but in fact, the aircrafts are all well maintained, they come with a pilot, a co-pilot and an autopilot to control the aircraft as well as modern-day navigation systems and air traffic controllers to ensure the proper space to safely fly within. Those who sit in the cock pit on the controls are all very well compensated.

Travelling through Vancouver in a commercial motor coach is always a minefield of potential accidents with motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians all on the move. Highway 99 on the other hand is potentially a deadly run for all of us. Good drivers can make by it safely by monitoring visual, road and weather conditions. Far too many drivers, however, approach it in a manner that turns a safe drive into a high-risk adventure. The difference between a drive up or down in the quiet morning hours of summer on a clear day versus a drive at night into a winter storm through possibly three different climate conditions is beyond description.

The behaviour of some that travel on this highway is inexcusable! If you cannot keep your smaller vehicles in the clearly marked lanes when driving a car of any kind then stay off Highway 99.

If you are the kind of person that needs to be at the front of the line all the time and you are going to push vehicles off the road in order to do so then try a helicopter instead. This behaviour includes some commercial truck drivers who should know and behave much better as professionals.

For those that think a left-turning signal given well in advance of two lanes merging into one is a signal to pass a motor coach, you need to take your driving test over again, or better yet just stop driving, period.

There must be a lot of good angels at work moving between vehicles on the Sea to Sky Highway because for all the stupid things I see people doing it is a wonder that we do not have more serious and fatal accidents daily during the winter months.

When the posted speed limit says 100 km/h and it is pouring down rain and you're travelling in the darkness of night, do you not feel that 80 to 90 km/h is a more appropriate speed to travel? When it says 90 km/h, try 80 km/h. Is getting to Vancouver, or to Whistler, 10 to 15 minutes sooner worth not getting there at all, or worth altering your life and the lives of others in a negative way forever justifiable?

Whistler can be such a wonderful experience! For those that need the high-speed rush in their go-fast cars, there is now a new race track and a club in the south interior of British Columbia called Area 27. It is designed by Canadian race champion Jacques Villeneuve and that is where you go-too-fast drivers all belong!

The Sea to Sky Highway is not that playground.

Can we all please drive it in a more responsible manner for the benefit of everyone?

Brian W. Becker
North Vancouver

Line-up etiquette

A lift line, politics, and the birth of Trumpism — and a warning from an American.

No, really, I am not kidding, it's all related. The lift line I am referring to is Blackcomb's Wizard chair. It is a lineup tradition that both conservatives and liberals agree upon.

The liberal began, "Let's have a system of first-come-first-served that allows us to meet our neighbours and friends for a round of coffee before slamming the slopes. No more pitting one against the other. You may even pick up some business options during the time."

The conservative says, "Hey, I like this idea. Individual responsibility is important. You get up early, then you deserve the early worm, no free ride. Plus I like the business aspect."

The system becomes a success. Organized lines of skis and boards sit quietly in the falling snow. Inside, out of the cold, dumping snow, or rain, skiers and boarders share coffee. Tall tales of past great runs, magical days, and general camaraderie settles over the noisy room. Outside, order and tradition reigns supreme. Four across, side by side. But something was changing and I noticed it again yesterday on a powder-day lineup.

For the second time in two years, I have had an unpleasant run in with a self-entitled, narcissistic, sociopath, who feels rules, tradition, or order, are for the lesser person. His belief is that there should be no rules. He doesn't believe anyone should even bother voting on rules. And the lineup to him is no more than an inconvenience.

"Skis are not people," he rants.

If he were House, The Good Doctor, or even Doctor Evil, I could see it. But the guy this morning was just a Joe Blow idiot. Remind you of anyone yet? Wait for it.

At 10 to 8, he begins his clumsy journey over everybody's skis and boards. After leaving the chaos of Creekside for a better life. I was damned if I was going to let this guy stomp through my space unopposed. I showed up in the dark for Christ's sake.

I couldn't help myself; I began yelling at him. I decided this was as good as any to have my Howard Beale moment. Everyone's heads turned. When the idiot realized he could no longer make progress undetected he came back and got all up in my face. The gas lighting began immediately.

"Watch your language. What do you think you are doing talking like that to me?"

"Just shut up and mind your own business," he said in a threatening manner. As if I were the problem.

Next, a like-minded member of his cohort shows up from further up the line where this guy feels his rightful place is, and, as all good bullies do, the threats began against me. I was wearing a helmet, 10 layers of clothes, ski boots, and had gloves. Really? But these kind of people are not smart, just emboldened.

I wish there would have been a better way than making a scene but the bubble is so thick nowadays that conventional reasoning and decorum are useless. However, this is the most troubling part — outside of one or two people, most in the lineup remained silent in the face of someone trashing tradition, order and civility, and their equipment.

No one was willing to get involved.

It could have been settled in seconds if 10 people had walked up to him. Then it dawned on me, his philosophy was the basis for the rise of Trumpism. Tradition, order, and respect went flying out the window. The bold, uncaring, selfish, ignorant few, like this guy, had crashed the party and chaos has since reigned.

Society falls apart in small pieces.

Looking around, I could see the debate going on inside the heads of those standing in line next to me, "Do I want to get involved, what has this got to do with me, oh look — so and so is texting me, time for a selfie, what is that guy yelling about, I'm too tired, I wish I could do it that way, let someone else sort it out, that girl or guy is back on Facebook."

Apathy is the total abdication of civic responsibility. We cannot always let someone else do the lifting.

Sadly, this will probably be the last year that this great social experiment will be allowed, and I am still talking about the lineup, and not a country, but both could be applicable.

Progress is all great and wonderful, but only if what it replaces is made better. I guess what I am saying is that there is an extreme element out there and we have let our guard down. Liberal or conservative, we both have a common interest in being vigilant against hard-line libertarian ideals, because chaos is not a way of life. Because if you do, people like Trump and the a**h*** tromping through your lineup will be the norm, not the extreme.

George Philp

Barriers needed

Highway 99 needs cement barriers between Whistler and Squamish to help prevent some of these dreadful accidents that occur regularly.

My sister died in a car crash in the '70s and the horror is something you never forget.

Will it have to be one of your family members to make you act on this issue?

Time to stop procrastinating.

Bren Hilton

Milestone celebrated

This week marks a historic milestone in B.C. politics and maybe, just maybe, we're on the cusp of another historic milestone. 

Jan. 24, exactly 100 years ago, Mary Ellen Smith became the first woman elected to the B.C. legislature. She went on to have a long career in politics, affecting positive change for women and children.

This year, in New Zealand, the newly elected young Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has just announced she is pregnant. The phrase, "You've come a long way, baby" takes on a whole new meaning, that is, to be born to a sitting female prime minister.

In 1917, after a decades long and enduring campaign, the suffragette movement finally triumphed to get women the vote at the provincial level. In B.C., in 1917, 70 per cent of men voted to grant women the right to vote.

As we celebrate feminism in its many aspects, and as millions of us around the world participated in the Women's March, it should not be lost on anyone that women are again leading in the current campaign to get a proportional voting system in B.C. and Canada. It is the next milestone to improve our democracy.

If you like numbers, you may enjoy these ones. New Zealand was one of the first countries to grant the voting franchise to women in 1893. A century later, New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system. B.C. voters granted women the right to vote in 1918. This year, B.C. is holding a referendum on proportional representation.

Perhaps it's a good omen.

Ann Remnant

Not in our neighbourhood

We are the owners of 2212 Aspen Dr. in Whistler, and are writing to voice our objection to the proposed rezoning of 2077 Garibaldi Way.

An application was made to rezone the property at (this site). (It) is currently zoned RSE1 — single-family residential with the ability to build a single home of approximately 465 square metres (approx. 5,000 sq. ft.) with six bed units.

The owner of the site, 1116130 BC Ltd, is seeking a re-zoning that would allow the proposed development of three four-storey apartment buildings, 74 employee restricted units, 6,490 sq. metres (69,852 sq.ft) gross floor area, with 101 underground parking stalls, 21 surface parking stalls with a total of 222 bed units.

We wanted to share with you our top eight concerns with the rezoning:

1. Density is not consistent with the neighbourhood: Four-storey rental housing will radically change what is currently a quiet, family-oriented neighbourhood. The homes in the area are predominantly one-, two- or three-family dwellings. The proposed development is of a much higher density than the surrounding community and will not fit in.

2. Lack of environmental sensitivity: The developer of the site has shown a total disregard for environmental stewardship. The site was covered with trees and vegetation before it was acquired by the current owner. After purchasing the site, the current owner proceeded to denude the site. The irony of the situation is that one of the justifications made to the planning department for the re-zoning has been that the site is a "disturbed site."

3. Density is not appropriate for the site: The site is reasonably small and the density is not appropriate for the site. It seems incomprehensible how a change in density from six bed units to 222 can be considered reasonable and justifiable for the site. Surely, we can find a better location for employee housing that will be more attractive for the employees who will actually reside in the housing? Is this not what the Legacy lands were intended for?

4. Increased traffic to the neighbourhood: The addition of 222 bed units will significantly increase pedestrian and vehicle traffic to the neighbourhood.

5. Highway safety: The proposed development will generate significant traffic to the area, which has never been contemplated. It is already extremely challenging to merge on to Highway 99 and head south from either end of the Nordic neighbourhood due to the lack of traffic signals at either Whistler Road or Nordic Drive. Currently, traffic backs up on Whistler Road and Nordic Drive as drivers await the intermittent opportunities when there is no oncoming northbound and southbound traffic. High-traffic volumes in both directions on Highway 99 make this very challenging.

6. Not consistent with land-use planning: Residents of the Nordic neighbourhood had no reason to anticipate this massive increase in density when making their decisions to live in the neighbourhood. There was no indication that the planning would be altered from six bed units to 222 units. We fully support higher densities and affordable housing in Whistler, but residents should have a reasonable expectation of consistent and appropriate land-use planning.

7. Loss of views: The proposed development would materially alter the view corridor down Aspen Drive and will block and inhibit views for existing residents.

8. Unfair re-zoning: Rewarding the private-sector developer for denuding the site and stripping it of vegetation, and then awarding an unprecedented density bonus is simply unfair. This would in effect be an unwarranted and windfall gift to the private-sector developer, which would result in huge financial gain. Simultaneously, the addition of all this unplanned density would result in a decreased appeal of the neighbouring homes and would result in these homeowners seeing their property values decrease.

We realize the importance of employee housing within our community and understand affordable and accessible housing is necessary to make Whistler the great community that we all know and love. We support additional development within the community but believe this is simply not the right site for such a large development.

We firmly believe the proposed rezoning is without merit and have embarked on a letter-writing campaign to make sure our concerns are shared with the elected officials in the community who represent us.

Duncan, Cindy, Taylor, Sarah and Georgia Ball

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