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Feature - Paying the price

Why does it cost so much to live in a resort town?



Paradise isn’t cheap

But when you wake-up on your day off up to a foot of fresh powder, an azure blue sky, and the promise of untouched terrain, the fact that bread, beer, and beef, are more expensive in resort towns doesn’t seem to matter.

And that’s just as well since residents of Whistler can pay almost 30 per cent more for just about everything than if they were living outside Whistler.

Three friends sharing a home here will pay up to $2,500 a month in rent, gas is eight to 10 cents a litre more than in Squamish, just 45 minutes drive south of North America’s No. 1 rated ski-resort, and a pre-packaged sandwich grabbed for lunch on the go will be at least a dollar more.

"I don’t think it costs 35 per cent more just to bring (the sandwich) up the highway," said long-time corridor resident and president of the Whistler Real Estate Co. Pat Kelly.

"It’s the cost of a bottle of beer out at a restaurant. It’s going out for a meal, it’s everything. It’s the cost of going skiing, everything here costs more."

Whistler IGA Foods owner Jim Chan said the higher prices reflect the cost of doing business in the resort.

"We probably have the highest rents and taxes anywhere in Canada," said Chan.

Then there is the cost of delivery. Everything must be trucked in, and unlike Vancouver where local farmers may deliver for free to get business, no-one gives away free trucking to Whistler, said Chan.

As for Whistler’s gas prices Petro Canada owner Bonnie Cerka said the high cost of fuel is just as upsetting to her.

"I’m frustrated too," she said, adding that the price she charges is set by head office in Alberta and offers no extra profit to her.

"Our price is higher because the oil companies sell it to us at a higher price, because they know the market can bear it."

Petro Canada spokeswoman Anne Makin said the price is affected by a number of factors including the price of crude, wholesale gas pricing and supply and demand.

And each station owner negotiates their own contract with Petro Canada.

"I can’t tell you what their specific contracts are and they can vary depending on a number of factors," said Makin.

Although Whistler’s population continues to grow – it’s expected to be over 10,000 when the results of the next census are announced – there is still not enough people to support major chain stores such as Canadian Tire or Wal Mart.

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