Opinion » Editorial


After all the pre-season hype about El Niño — "the weather event of the century" — it’s been another record winter for Whistler, both in skier visits and in room nights. And yet, as soon as the winter season is over, some nightclubs have announced they are voluntarily closing a night or two a week because they know there’s not enough business for all of them. There are a number of reasons why there may not be enough business for them: the village may be over licensed at the moment; the clubs may all be after the same crowd, a crowd which may be more transient or have less money at this time of year; or perhaps there isn’t enough business at this time of year for everyone and the nightclubs are just the first to admit it. The fact that some restaurants are closed, or will be closing soon, supports the third contention, that despite convention business and generally pleasant weather, there isn’t enough tourist business to keep everyone going at this time of year. That’s the way it has always been for Whistler, and other mountain resorts. And even though the shoulder season is considerably shorter than it used to be, this is still a slow time of season for just about every business in town. But does it have to be? What about businesses that aren’t dependent on tourism or the winter/summer cycles? Where are they? Diversifying the local economy is a phrase that has been kicked around in Whistler for years. It is slowly becoming more diverse, but there is still no real plan in place to develop a high-tech park or build a post-secondary institution. I raise this point while acknowledging that municipal council and staff made significant strides in this year’s budget process to secure long-term financial stability for the municipality. Not an easy task when the Official Community Plan is to cap growth. The new budget process, along with the Vision 2002 strategic planning initiative, the long term financial plan that is coming forward and even the transportation master plan which, with some luck, should be completed this year all take a long-term approach to issues facing Whistler. But there is very little on economic diversification. The Vision 2002 workbook mentions economic diversification, and there may be more direction and details as the workbooks are analyzed and the process moves forward, but for the most part the exercise to date focuses on establishing what values the community holds dearest and how they can be balanced with the resort’s needs. There is more that can and should be done to map out long-term directions for Whistler: a high-tech park? arts?, education?, light manufacturing? These ideas have been discussed many times — we need to put a plan in place to start developing them. No matter how many records we set for visitors, snow doesn’t last much past April and golf often doesn’t get very good until June.