spirit day 

By Christie Pashby Employees are the essence of the Whistler experience, according to ski resort marketer and visionary Jack Turner. Turner spoke on "How the Ski and Snowboard Industry Really Works" at Wednesday's Chamber of Commerce Employers' Luncheon. His message reminded local business people that it is the young people working in Whistler who provide the local culture and exemplify the mountain experience. It's that same attitude behind the Whistler Spirit Program and this Sunday's Spirit Day. The program's mission is to ensure that everyone working at the resort is a local ambassador, to keep all employees well acquainted with the resort and to boost morale. In order to qualify, employees new to Whistler have to first go to the chamber of commerce to sign up for a four-hour course on customer service and resort awareness. They need to bring a letter on their employer's letterhead confirming they're employed at least 20 hours a week. The WCC courses will be offered starting Nov. 30. Then they'll be eligible for an Ambassador's Pass, which is 21 per cent less than a regular pass. They'll also get a "Passport to Whistler" stocked with coupons and discounts for 80 local businesses. Employees that have taken the course in the past are encouraged to attend Sunday's event. They'll have to sit in on a 20 minute seminar about what's new in the resort before they can stroll through the showcase of local businesses and community services. There will also be samples from local restaurants at the Taste of Whistler. Thelma Johnstone, Executive Director of the WCC, points to industry surveys that show the level of service has continued to grow in Whistler and is a cornerstone of the resort's success. "We're trying to make sure the standard of customer service is resort-wide, not just on the mountains," she says. "Everyone that works here, whether at work or at play, can assist guests." Last year, 4,000 people turned up for Spirit Day. Johnstone expects the same high numbers this year. "It's really a fun event, the restaurants go all out," she says. Businesses can make thousands of people aware of who they are and what they do. It's a golden opportunity for networking and for impressing locals. Twelve years ago, Johnstone says, the chamber of commerce realized that customer service training is something it could do for the resort. Originally aimed solely at employees of Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains, the Spirit Program is now available to anyone who works in Whistler and it helps improve the general quality of the resort experience to both employees and visitors. "We want to make sure people working here are aware of where everything is in the resort," Johnstone says. That way anyone can recommend a good Italian restaurant or give directions to the nearest bank machine. As Jack Turner would say, Whistler's a place where all workers are tour guides and everyone who visits wishes they could live here. Everyone's invited to Spirit Day on Sunday afternoon from noon to 6 p.m. at the conference centre. General admission is $2.

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