Whistler lights up for the holidays 

Hundreds of thousands of bulbs set the spirit in the village

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE/COURTESY OF THE RESORT MUNICIPALITY OF WHISTLER. - LIGHT EM UP Whistler's annual Christmas light display is a favourite of visitors and locals alike.
  • Photo by Mike Crane/Courtesy of the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
  • LIGHT EM UP Whistler's annual Christmas light display is a favourite of visitors and locals alike.

Some years back, there was mention of the formation of a "Festive Lights Strategy" at municipal hall — a set of guidelines to direct Whistler Village's beloved Christmas lighting.

"From what I understand, what happens is the colours and designs are selected by the village crew and resort experience has some input," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

"Now, whether that's pursuant to a formal policy or strategy, I don't know. There are some artistic people on that crew, that's for sure."

Wandering the village and taking in the various colour schemes, designs and general atmosphere the lights provide, it would seem artistic is an apt description.

"The village hosts, of course, receive tons of compliments, but I get emails on a regular basis — and they've started already — just about how spectacular it is," Wilhelm-Morden said. "It's really one of the highlights of our winter experience, I think."

But turning the resort into a festive wonderland doesn't happen overnight.

It takes crews about two months to get all the lights up, beginning in October, and another two months to get them all down, usually by mid-March.

"I wondered why we didn't just leave them up year round, but apparently it's detrimental to the health of the trees, so that's why they do come down," Wilhelm-Morden said.

The task requires the use of four different lifts, ranging in reach from 10 to 26 metres.

In total, there are 4,000 to 5,000 strings of lights used in the village.

"Each string is (over seven metres) long and holds 70 bulbs, so there's a total of 280,000 to 350,000 bulbs," Wilhelm-Morden said. "It's mind-boggling."

The trees in front of Araxi alone contain 100 strings and 7,000 lights each.

"As far as energy use, because that's always been the big question, it's 4.8 watts per hour," the mayor said. "So 5,000 strings of lights cost $2.40 per hour, or 10 cents per kilowatt."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler's Festivals, Events and Animation department contributes $50,000 to the festive lighting program from provincial Resort Municipality Initiative funds.

For more info on holiday season festivities, head to www.whistler.ca/culture-recreation/events-and-festivals/whistler-presents.

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