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“Abomination,” I cry.
“Fifty million new reasons to design an integrated alpine recreational strategy,” he counters. And then he goes on to explain.
Even after our discussion, I’m not convinced. But I’ll let Arthur present his argument:
“The grandeur of Whistler’s alpine has always played a large role in our global success,” he says. “More than anything, it’s what distinguishes us from most other North American resorts. It’s one of our greatest assets, for sure. And if the global weather forecast recently issued by the UN’s Integrated Panel On Climate Change is anything to go by — they’re predicting a temperature rise of 1.8-4.0 degrees centigrade over the next century — then the alpine will have an even bigger role to play for us in the future…”
He understands my concern about the gondola, he says. And as a stand-alone project it’s tough to justify. “In order to succeed, it needs a ‘destination’,” he says. “And that’s our goal: to make the gondola the gateway to an alpine destination that properly highlights our high-mountain experience,” he explains. Another smile. “And if that happens, then we all win.”
He pauses. Looks to make sure I’m still following. “It’s not just about skiing and wintertime anymore,” he says. “Until recently, we were really underachieving in making Whistler’s alpine a summer destination. But that’s all changed. With the construction of the gondola our team now has a clear mandate to develop an alpine plan for all seasons.”
So what’s he talking about exactly? What kind of alpine plan? And how intrusive a development is he talking about?
Imagine, he says, a series of concentric rings extending out from the new gondola towards the mountains. “Nearest to the gondola, the inner rings would feature easily-accessed trails, a people-friendly design style and an education-based interface with the environment,” explains Arthur. “These would be targeted at first-time visitors and the more urban set.” The beginner runs, in other words… OK. I’m with you so far, I tell him.
As the distance increases from the lifts, he explains, the outer rings would require an ever-increasing degree of commitment from the hiker/adventurer. “Think about it this way,” he says. “While the inner ring might feature a 10- or 15-minute walk with lots of benches and interpretive panels, the next ring might offer a one- or two-hour walk with fewer signs of development. And the one beyond that a full day’s hike with even less infrastructure. Ultimately, I would love to see multi-day tours in the far outer rings with a hut-to-hut hiking network from peak-to-peak. I’ve dreamed of that for years…”