Spirit of Affordable Winter Recreation 

By Shannon Gordon

Whistler2020 Team

With Whistler Mountain already open, Blackcomb opening today and with over two metres of snow having already fallen this season, many Whistlerites have their Spirit Pass in hand and are itching to point their plank(s) downhill. But before we start carving our way through the winter, let’s consider for a moment the spirit of the Spirit Pass and the other affordable winter recreation and leisure offerings available to us — each aimed at making our long, snowy winters the most enjoyable anywhere — both indoors and out.

Residents are able to afford the time, products and services (including recreation) that enable them to enjoy the lifestyle that Whistler has to offer. Reality? This ‘Description of Success’ (vision) statement from the Whistler2020 Resident Affordability Strategy is the reality for some. But for the 59% of single seasonal residents and the 30% of two-parent/two-child families whose incomes fall below the basic cost of living in Whistler, it’s a stretch (for more on this and other affordability indicators visit whistler2020.ca). That residents are able to afford the Whistler lifestyle through recreation opportunities (heli-skiing aside) is important for individual physical and mental wellbeing; the creation of a strong social fabric throughout the community; as well as ensuring the overall resort’s economic success (since happy, healthy residents make great hosts for resort visitors). Resident affordability, one of the 16 Whistler2020 strategies, is clearly a critical factor to the success and long-term sustainability of our resort community.

Since skiing and snowboarding are the main reasons most of us braved the counter-flow of Canadian geese and flew north for the winter rather than south (and then decided to stay here every season thereafter), the focus here is on recreation (housing and food, which are two of the other largest costs for Whistler residents, will be the focus of subsequent columns). We’ll begin by exploring recreation affordability through the Spirit Pass offered by Whistler-Blackcomb through the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

Embedded in the Spirit Pass are more perks and benefits to resort community employees — and to the town as a whole — than you might imagine. (The many cardholder perks range from on-mountain food discounts to 50% off tubing and night skiing to retail savings.) Beginning with the basics, the mountains offer incredible value for the amount of skiable terrain regardless of your pass type. The $1,029 Spirit Pass price that is offered to employees of Chamber of Commerce member businesses means that each square kilometre of terrain is just $30, making it the cheapest (and steepest!) real estate around. (A 2006-07 season pass in Vail runs $2,050 CAD; Jackson Hole $2,200 CAD, and Aspen $2,255 CAD.)

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