Long-term use of Nordic centre a concern 

Plans for Olympic facility vetted by public at open house

In a room covered with maps, statistics and helpful people with name tags the Whistler community was presented with the plans for the Olympic Nordic Centre last week and the reaction was a mixture of excitement and concern for a post-Olympic Callaghan Valley.

More than 60 people spent several hours mulling over satellite images and lines on maps that indicated where the new road would be built and when the facilities are scheduled to be available prior to opening of the Games on Feb. 12, 2010.

The plans for the Whistler Nordic Centre are now in the public consultation stage of the environmental assessment process.

Once the public consultation is completed and the feedback is collated, changes may be made. The application is also sent to all the relevant provincial and federal ministries for input before the environmental assessment office rules on the project.

Cheryl Morningstar, who has coached and skied with Whistler Nordics for 20 years, said the project was "good" but she was adamant a lot has to be done to ensure there is an adequate legacy.

"The Callaghan Valley, the whole area is useful and has lots of potential but I think it’s about providing an effective legacy so the general public can use the facilities after the Olympics go away," said Morningstar.

The Nordic Centre will host all the ski jumping, biathlon and cross-country events during the 2010 Games.

"To understand what I’m talking about you just have to look at Canmore, (site of the 1988 Olympic cross country events) Salt Lake and the Soldier Hollow venue," said Morningstar. "Neither of those venues have been used much and Soldier Hollow is pretty soon not going to be in existence, from what I’ve been told."

Morningstar said the Callaghan would need to be marketed as a destination in its own right if governments wanted to attract people after the Olympics.

"They have to have a comprehensive plan that taps into a lodging component – but not a backcountry lodge scenario," she said.

"They could look at something like Silver Star, which is very successful and has a great cross country venue; they have a lodging component so you can stay up there.

"You’re going to have to create a destination market to make that cross country facility run as it should.

"Plus you’re going to have to somehow tap into the Vancouver market who already has the environment, which is out their back door and I think it’s a stretch to think that those people might drive up to the Callaghan on a week night. They’re going to go to a closer mountain, just as Whistler residents are unlikely to get in their cars and drive down on a weekday or a weekend," she said. "They’re more likely to go to the Lost Lake trails, which are wonderful.

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