Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of April 21st


A good starting point

What a powerful case Whistler Blackcomb (WB) makes for its Renaissance program. But is it enough to deliver true diversification and sustainability for Whistler for the next decades?

There is no doubt it is good news for shareholders with a 40-per-cent increase in mountain traffic and increased spend per day on the mountain. It appears to be funded by strong earnings and topped up by attractive real estate deals. But it does not do enough for diversification or enhancing the quality of the Whistler outdoor experiences.

Existing outdoor and other businesses like Ziptrek, Meadow Park Sports Centre and Scandinave Spa may feel their businesses will be out-competed by WB on the mountain.

Anticipated growth in day skiers, foreseen in WB's (long-term) master plan will put 2,450 parking spaces into Cheakamus Crossing with direct access to the mountain – this won't help the village or overnight businesses and will bring super-congestion to the already-busy highway and to some lifts (Forbes magazine reported Whistler's lift lines can grow cantankerous on weekends when much of Vancouver and half of Europe seem to be here.) And standing in a morning lineup in the rain is not too much fun.   

Don't get me wrong, we want the visitors but we want their trips to be memorable for the best of reasons and we want all Whistler businesses to share in the benefits. Not just those on the mountain.

We also want a better visitor experience and to make the most of Whistler's outdoor opportunities. Where is the plan to improve upon the industry standard 2.5-hour upload time, and why is employee accommodation not a long-term consideration? Where is the lift access infrastructure improvement coming from?

Did anyone at WB contribute to the Paris COP21 climate change discussions — better access to the fast disappearing glacier, a 77-per-cent increase in water usage before adding a themed waterpark, a huge demand for power and additional cars and mountainside waste management. Where is the commitment to an overall smaller carbon footprint whilst increasing visitor numbers?  

This Renaissance appears too much of a traditional shareholder enhancement plan, and whilst that is great for the company, we would like to see wider participation and diversification in collaboration with the whole community.

We want Whistler to be the No. 1 outdoor destination in the world, whatever the season.

Thanks WB for the vision, it's a great starting point but we want more diversification and a better deal for visitor experience, employees and the village.

Carl Ryder
London, U.K.

Renaissance not in Whistler's best interests

Overall, (Whistler Blackcomb's Renaissance Plan) does not align with our reasons for moving to Whistler.

I came here with my wife in 2013 and live full time in Creekside, on Whistler Mountain. We are property owners.

Moreover the plan has serious flaws, which have been duly noted by other stakeholders here who have written letters to Pique.

It's hard to believe that there has been no mention of these challenges in your grand plan for commercializing Whistler. No staff, no staff accommodation or affordable housing. No transportation mechanism to move another 600,000 guests to and from the resort. Highway 99 is at full capacity now — we have traffic jams here every weekend along with the associated pollution from all the cars and buses. No new terrain to ski on, hard to believe! Heating a massive waterpark in winter simply contributes to local mountain warming and climate change.

This is not a green plan! Whistler is not Disneyland! There are other ways to mitigate climate change.

This plan is a sell out of Whistler's identity with a clear motive of increasing profit for shareholders at the expense of Whistler's core values. You display corporate greed and after we have delivered the most profitable year in WB's history.

It's extremely disappointing. Our friends here are not pleased and some feel so strongly that they have voiced intentions to leave Whistler if all this development goes forward.

Robert and Patricia Dingle

Operation expansion concerns

A friend recently advised me that Canadian Wilderness Adventures was applying to extend and expand their operations on Sproatt Mountain.

When I pulled up the application (www.arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=51065) I was shocked by what I read. Under the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP), the Mount Sproatt alpine is zoned non-motorized for commercial recreation. CWA is proposing to build new snowmobile trails all over the non-motorized zone, expand its tenure into parts of the non-motorized zone where they aren't already grandfathered in, and construct a new snowmobile trail right over top of the popular Hanging Lake backcountry ski access trail.

This last one is the real kicker for me, as I've volunteered a lot of my time developing this trail. Overall, volunteers from the BC Mountaineering Club, Varsity Outdoor Club and the Whistler Alpine Club of Canada have contributed more than 500 hours of time to improve this trail for backcountry skiers and snowshoers.

This application makes a mockery of the commercial recreation licensing process.

Certainly CWA must be aware of the Sea to Sky LRMP zoning. The Hanging Lake trail is very popular with backcountry skiers (a report from December 2015 had 38 people using the trail in one day to go skiing around Hanging and Rainbow Lakes), so there's no way they could be ignorant of its existence. I think the real reason behind this trumped-up application is to set an unrealistically high starting point as a distributive negotiation tactic.

CWA needs to come up with a long-term plan to transition their business to comply with the LRMP zoning. Their current tenure is grandfathered in, having been issued just prior to the LRMP coming into effect in 2009. This plan is the opposite: more snowmobiles, more noise and more pollution in an area, which the LRMP calls out as "for the quiet enjoyment by the public."

Scott Nelson

(EDITOR'S NOTE: CWA, while it has long had the right to snowmobile in this area, has no plans to do so as part of this proposal according to its documentation and information in last week's Pique. The trails would be used for hiking and some horseback riding in summer and ski touring in the winter.)

Play safe out there

For the 25th year running, just out my back door, the River of Golden Dreams flotilla is under way.

A friendly reminder to all mariners out there — the river is very full and very fast – near flood. The river is extremely cold. Today's temp: 6C. The river is very difficult to egress when dumped.

Hypothermia, in snow runoff, fast-flowing water, usually occurs in minutes making self rescue difficult.

Today's unscientific count: Various unriver, worthy floaties — 14; unscheduled, shocked, screaming swimmers — three; observed wearing life jackets — zero; alcohol on board — yup. Canoes and rafts observed — seven, with life jackets on board. People observed wearing lifejackets — zero; unscheduled, shocked, screaming swimmers — six; alcohol on board — always.

You gotta have and wear your jackets kids.

Finally, a special shout out to the crew I assisted for dumping your plastic bags and beer cans on the shore...

Brina Buchholz
Tapley's Farm (River of Golden Dreams adjacent)

Leashing your dogs is the law

The trails are open and we locals, and the resort's guests, are out enjoying them. Along with the humans are dogs, and over the past two weeks I have seen more off-leash dogs on the trails than I have seen properly leashed.

My backyard, like many people's, is Lost Lake Park, and it is my understanding that dogs must be leashed within that park.

I have personally had four incidents with off-leash dogs in the past week. The first incident was an off-leash dog that nipped a little girl. Not only was the dog off-leash but also the owner was nowhere in sight. A bystander picked up a large rock and bounced it off the skull of the dog and it took off. The child was very shaken but uninjured.

The same day, I was running down from the lake when I sensed an animal running up behind me. We live in cougar country, and I am overly conscious that I might become a link in the food chain when I am running on their turf.

On this occasion, I stopped and turned, adjusting my stance in readiness to repel an attack with a powerful kick. At the last second, I realized that it was an off-leash dog that had run up behind me, and I contained the kick.

But what would have happened if I had kicked this dog and broken its jaw, or caused it a head injury? Whose fault would it have been? Certainly not the dog's because it was just doing what unleashed dogs do. Certainly not mine because I was just doing what freaked-out runners do. FYI, cougars eat a lot of dogs.

A day later, I was out on my bike and had just committed to the first ramp on Pinocchio's Furniture. Just out of sight, right on the ramp, stood a black dog with its back to me.

I've had to deal with this problem before, and the way it goes is that you pop your front wheel into the air to hopefully displace the dog. If that doesn't work then you hope that it knocks the dog over on its side. At this point, the jagged crank ring under the bike will do something nasty to the dog, be it simply tearing its way along through flesh, soft tissue, and bone, or worse... injuring or severing the dog's spine. Then comes the full weight of my body and my bike as the back tire rides over the body of the dog, possibly breaking bones and injuring internal organs.

I would probably survive the ordeal. The dog? Not so much. And whose fault is it this time?

Hopefully I have detailed some of the gazillion things that can happen to unleashed dogs as they are permitted to stray away from their owners. Not only will you have the injury or death of your dog to bear, but you will have some nasty vet bills... and if I'm hurt, you will have a civil suit to finance as well.

Both of these dog owners looked young. Maybe they are new to Whistler, but judging from their actions, they are definitely new to dog ownership.

My next beef is about the tall, grey-ponytailed, Prius-driving, local taxi driver running his dogs on the main beach at Lost Lake. Clearly, this is a person who knows better but is flaunting the rules anyway. Last summer, I spoke to a young couple doing this. Their response was "there's nobody here!" to which I responded, "I'm here, and there is a bylaw that protects my right not to be disturbed by dogs." They then politely left.

To these dog owners I simply ask that you learn and obey the rules. The rules and bylaws were established as a result of the misconduct of those who came before you and whose negligent, selfish actions created the need for the rules in the first place.

Responsible dog owners have a powerful role to play too. Those who break the rules are threatening your rights and freedoms as dog owners. Act as positive role models, and speak up when you see the offending dog owners creating problems. Your rights and freedoms depend upon your actions.

If conflicts escalate with the sheer rise in the number of dogs out there, so too will the need for more and tighter restrictions on the freedom of dog owners. I know that common sense is not very common, but please exercise what sensibility you have to help keep Whistler safe and comfortable for everyone.

Jay D Smith

Thank you for supporting our sports and venues

On behalf of our team at Whistler Sport Legacies, I would like to thank the community for its ongoing support and engagement this winter. Both Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Sliding Centre are looking back on an exciting and successful season.

We celebrated the return of the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup to Whistler in January; 1,500 spectators came out to cheer on the international athletes and witnessed the victories of Canadian bobsleigh pilots Kaillie Humphries and Chris Spring.

We would like to thank the volunteers and sponsors who helped us organize the World Cup, which was broadcasted worldwide. Whistler Olympic Park was also back on the international competition calendar with the ski jumping FIS Cup in February. These were only two of around 30 events held at our venues, made possible through the support of volunteers and sponsors.

We are especially thankful for how the community embraced our sport development initiatives. Close to 250 children and adults tried our new beginner ski jumping program. At the Sliding Centre, over 300 participants learned the basics of luge, skeleton or piloting bobsleighs in our "Discover" programs.

For the second winter in a row, we ran the "Olympic Mondays" camp in which a group of talented local kids got to try multiple Olympic sports. In our Whistler Olympic Park school program, around 2,000 Sea to Sky children were introduced to cross-country skiing.

Whistler Sport Legacies' mission is to grow sport, and our new partnership within the province-wide viaSport Regional Alliance will enable us to continuously develop exciting sport programming for our community to increase awareness, opportunity, participation and excellence in sport.

Thank you to those who used our recreational facilities at Whistler Olympic Park and participated in our public bobsleigh and skeleton programs.

We are a not-for-profit organization, and revenue generated through these activities goes directly towards sport, subsidized training opportunities and the maintenance of the facilities for our athletes.

Our youngsters, or "legacy babies," made us especially proud this year, when one third of Team Canada's participants at the Youth Olympic Winter Games consisted of athletes who regularly use Whistler's venues for training, either as their home base or for training camps. Truly a testament to the strength of sport in our community!

The Athletes' Centre has become a year-round accommodation and training hub for athletes and groups from around the globe who stay and train in Whistler. Last fall we added our new multi-purpose community gym, the "HUB," to the facility in Cheakamus, and many residents have been attending our fitness classes regularly.

Thank you very much to the Sea to Sky community, our day-to-day club and event volunteers, our resort partners and sponsors for keeping our legacy venues alive and engaged with our sports and community.

Roger Soane,
President and CEO, Whistler Sport Legacies

Roller derby thanks

The Apex Pistols, a superstar mashup from the Black Diamond Betties and Sea to Sky Sirens' roller derby teams are happy to report their win over the Brick House Betties at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival's Splatterday Night Fever.

We're so thankful for the support of the Sea to Sky community and beyond for helping put on this action-packed event.

We couldn't have done it without the following: our fabulous fans, our dedicated non-skating officials and referees, our tireless volunteers, our marvelous MCs — Mack the Mouth and Kristy Mitchell, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, our awesome event partner — Watermark, the super staff at the Whistler Conference Centre, and the Brick House Betties for coming all the way over from Comox and putting up a great fight.

Thanks also to the following sponsors: RONA; Whistler Superior; Peak Performance; RollerGirl; Gibbons; Nesters; Whistler Premier; Whistler Eco Tours; Listel; Mountain Fitness; Neil Foster Art & Design; Creekside Dental; Regional recycling; Be Clean Naturally; Xoco Westcoast Chocolates; and Black-Katz Catering.

We'd also like to thank our local newspapers, Pique, the Question and the Squamish Chief, as well as our local radio stations, Whistler FM and Mountain FM, for helping us get the word out for this event!

Hope to see you again next year!

Jessie Cameron (purrfectlee legal) for the Apex Pistols, Black Diamond Betties, and Sea to Sky Sirens