Whistler defending national title in Commuter Challenge 

Alternative transportation initiative part of Enviro Wee

In 2005 Whistler participated in the national Clean Air Day Commuter Challenge, with 621 residents from 42 businesses and Spring Creek Community School taking part.

After all the data was tabulated, Whistler ranked highest out of 105 communities in Canada with a population between 1,000 and 9,999 in terms of participation. In the process Whistler participants, who opted for sustainable transportation for one day, saved about 2.9 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, while eliminating 15,994 km in single passenger vehicle trips.

This year Whistler will be defending its Commuter Challenge title, but with a slightly different format. This year’s challenge will last one week, June 4-10, replacing the other local Commuter Challenge held every September-October over two work weeks.

For the duration of the challenge individuals can earn points by taking alternative forms of transportation to work, walking, cycling, jogging, inline skating, busing, and carpooling, or by working from home. All individuals who earn at least 20 points will be entered into a grand prize draw. Past prizes include season passes to Meadow Park and Whistler-Blackcomb, as well as a new bike.

Businesses are also encouraged to participate, and will be awarded based on participation as well as for earning the most possible points for the number of participating employees.

According to Commuter Challenge coordinator Marc Zurbuchen, moving the event to June allows Whistler to compete against communities across Canada while also guaranteeing commuters better weather conditions.

"I think it’s pretty amazing how well Whistler has done in the past, compared to other communities, which I think is a testament to how committed the community is to getting around by its own power," he said.

"We also like competition, it seems. I know I’m hoping we’re a repeat champion and can continue on with the great results we’ve been getting."

Last fall a total of 828 participants took the two-week challenge, including employees from most large hotels and businesses in town and the municipality. Schools also participated.

The challenge is open to all residents, employees and businesses. Employees can volunteer as workplace coordinators to track participants, and will receive a special appreciation package as well as an opportunity to win draw prizes.

Other Enviro Fest events taking place during the Commuter Challenge include a Whistler Question/Mountain FM contest from May 29-June 2, and the Pique Newsmagazine/WAVE Bus Buffet on Monday, June 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with free food for all.

On Clean Air Day, June 7, Commuter Challenge will be providing free vehicle emission inspections.

The week wraps up on Saturday, June 10 with Enviro Fest, which will features displays from local environmental groups as well as live entertainment.

The first 500 participants to enroll themselves or their businesses in the Commuter Challenge will be eligible to win a one-week WAVE transit pass.

For more details or to volunteer as a workplace coordinator, e-mail keepwhistlercool@whistler.ca or call Marc Zurbuchen at 604-935-8322.

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