Opinion » Editorial

A lot to be thankful for



We are thankful for the early snow.

Yes, of course, we are thankful for family and friends, food on our table, health, and a roof over our heads. But let's also just admit that we are very, very grateful for the snow in the alpine that allowed resort partners to send out pictures to the world of people already skiing here.

There has also been much hype about the new Harmony 6-Express and the new Crystal Ridge Express — expansions that come with an $18 million price tag.

Most hope for a repetition of last ski season when, according to Tourism Whistler (TW), room rental nights were 10 per cent above the 10-year average and only about one per cent behind the 2011-2012 winter — the busiest season ever for room nights, and the second biggest winter on record for total snow fall with 1,389 cm falling from November through May.

We already know what a successful season the resort had over the summer and many hope to keep the momentum going. TW is launching a marketing campaign, which builds on the successful #whistlerunfiltered campaign last year. That promotion was aimed at creating a collection of unofficial, uncensored, candid shots of Whistler in all its snowy glory through the lives of real people. They were then uploaded to a micro-website and made available to all.

This year, the promotion is being layered with TW choosing representative shots of the resort and its activities by professional photographers and then telling the stories behind them. Another layer of the promotion will involve telling the stories behind the photos of ordinary visitors or residents who send them in.

Getting the message out there early for destination and regional visitors is all part of the tourism economy.

And what an economy it is. The most recent stats available for B.C. from 2011 show that the gross domestic product in B.C.'s tourism sector was $6.5 billion, accounting for four per cent of provincial GDP. Tourism employs about 127,000 people in B.C., or about one out of every 15 employed in the province.

But here is the thing we all know. You can't sit still in the tourism business. This week on the international front, the news wire agency AP toured a brand new ski resort set to open this winter in... North Korea. Yes, that is correct North Korea.

"This is the Masik Pass ski resort, North Korea's latest megaproject, the product of 10 months of furious labor intended to show that this country, so often derided for its poverty and isolation, is as civilized and culturally advanced as any other," states the AP story.

"The complex of ski runs, resort chalets and sleigh rides will formally open Thursday, though late last month the main hotels appeared to be little more than shells, potholes filled the access roads and foundations were still being dug for secondary buildings.

"Who will ski here? Perhaps Kim Jong Un, who reportedly enjoyed the sport as a teenager studying in Switzerland. By the estimate of the ski official, Kim Tae Yong, there are only about 5,500 North Korean skiers in this country of 24 million — a skiing population of 0.02 percent."

The story suggests the nation built it not only to boost the economy, but also to not be outdone by its neighbour to the south, who will be hosting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

While the story may have us shaking out heads here in Whistler, the message shouldn't be missed that those in the ski industry here, and around the world, are always looking to future.

This week, quiet conversations are no doubt being held about what, if any, the impact of the U.S. government's shutdown might have on American ski resorts. Roughly 90 per cent of Colorado's ski-able acres are located on federal land.

Most agree the impact is likely, to be minimal, since much of the states more than 40,000 acres dedicated to downhill winter sports are not actively managed by the government. Permits necessary for winter uses have already been granted, and the properties can continue operating even if forest service rangers do not come out to inspect them.

But where the impact might be felt is in the hiring of foreign workers, or anyone who needs a temporary work visa, as those will be held up in the shutdown — and if it continues for an extended length of time it could affect the permits for summer activities. Some resorts are planning new attractions but without permits in place they won't get under way.

Could this uncertainty work in Whistler's favour — its really too early to say. But travellers dislike any chance of disruption if they are putting their hard- earned dollars on the line.

So, as we enjoy our Thanksgiving weekend let us indeed give thanks for snow, peace and so much more.


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