Let's support each other
Whistler offers a dazzling mountain experience in a remarkable way. It is so much more than skiing. It is (really) busy here, because it is the best. Mountain culture continues to explode in popularity, as people discover how special the mountain experience is.
The Sea to Sky's growing popularity is evidenced by the increasing number of visitors and locals, and by the extreme lengths people will go to just to stay here for a season.I came for the skiing (and the aprés) but stayed for so much more. Aside from living my version of the ski-bum dream, Whistler represented a lifestyle that symbolized freedom, peace and adventure.
I have had the honour of working as an outreach worker for Whistler Community Services Society (you might know us as WCSS) for the past 5.5 years. This work includes supporting people with programs such as the foodbank, discounted counselling services and family programs.
Less familiar is the outreach program, through which our team customizes support for people with emotional, psychological, financial, social, practical or physical challenges. This service is made possible by donations and revenue made at the Re-Use-It/Re-Build-It centres, and the strong support of local businesses, community partners and volunteers.During my time at WCSS, I have had the privilege of listening to thousands of stories. People seek support for concerns from mild to severe. Individuals request help with basic needs such as directions, resumé building, food or clothing, (but they also ask) for assistance with serious mental-health concerns, addiction, sexual assault, bankruptcy, violence, homelessness and suicide.
Our doors are open and we support each client to the best of our ability.
I learn something from every person I meet.As I get prepared to move on from my position, I wanted to recognize the amazing work of my colleagues at WCSS. Although the services we offer are not flawless, and the systems we work within are not perfect, I feel fortunate to work with a caring and dedicated team, whose sole purpose in turning up to work each day is to help people.
I am inspired by this dedicated, compassionate and hard-working group of individuals—they remain committed, even when exposed to a difficult work environment, which can include risks to their personal well-being and safety.Now to get to the point of this letter: mental wellness and emotional well-being are continually gaining recognition as crucial components of the successful functioning of individuals, families, communities and societies. Whistler is not immune to the challenges associated with an unbalanced social landscape.
After living here for 13 years, I have observed some scary trends. Although often under-reported, the fallout from unsupported mental health problems, and the impact of social inequities, are evident throughout our pristine community.
Beyond extreme sports and physical activity, appropriate housing, accessible mental-health supports, access to medical care, cultural inclusion and social connection are integral aspects of a comprehensive approach to healthy living.
Trends I am seeing include a significant number of suicides, suicide attempts, mental health-related hospitalizations, emergency transfers and people struggling with persistent serious mental health-related concerns, for a relatively small community. These issues affect people of all income levels and in every demographic in our community, and are often under-reported, under-recognized and quickly forgotten.
Clients and community members often have difficulty accessing adequate mental-health supports, especially in relation to chronic or severe mental-health needs. Further, I have noticed a movement in which Whistler is continually losing local healthcare/helping professionals, such as nurses, doctors, paramedics, social workers and counsellors, due to affordability issues and an increased sense of community disconnect.
I hope, as a community, we will prioritize taking care of each other and recognize the contributions each person makes to our community, whether they are here for a season or a lifetime.
Additionally, I hope we strive to retain and value the people in our community who work to take care of others in our unique mountain culture, which extends far beyond our organization.Whistler has always been an iconic destination, setting the gold standard for how resort living should be done—top-shelf everything. Whether broke or wealthy, a local, or here for the weekend, I hope Whistler is the kind of place where all can experience the tremendous joy that it is to be here.
Let our focus on profitability include a measurement of the well-being of our community members, and further, let our prosperity be calculated by the creation of an inclusive and progressive community, in which all members of our diverse population can thrive and succeed.Let's keep Whistler magical. If anyone can do it, we can.
Offsetting 'the Vail Effect'
My husband and I each have our own history and love of Whistler from long before we met—me as a local for two seasons about 20 years ago, and he as a resident of Vancouver about 15 years ago. Over the years we have been back to visit a few times, including our most recent visit last week. We always have fun enjoying the Whistler spring vibes, skiing our favourite places on the mountain and hanging out in the "Vill."
On this recent visit, we couldn't get over the changes in the atmosphere. (Ummmm ... bottles of Veuve on ice at the Longhorn patio??) We soon learned it wasn't our imagination, it's a real thing called the "Vail Effect." On our ski day off over lunch at El Furniture Warehouse, we were chatting with our server about the conditions and spring skiing. She said that she loves to ride but unfortunately she hadn't been able to get up the mountain yet. What? Why?We found out that she had worked hard all season waiting to purchase the spring pass and that without warning it had been cancelled this year. Over the next couple of days, this conversation kept coming up with locals we met on the chairlift, in the hot tub, and of course at the pool tables in the Cinnamon Bear.
My husband and I were quite irked by this and we decided that we wanted to do a random act of kindness in honour of the awesome Whistler Karma that we both have enjoyed over the years. So we went back and spoke to the manager and worked out a way that we could leave our waitress a tip that was equivalent to the value of a spring pass to be used on an Edge Card to get her up on the mountain and ride. The manager said he would give her mornings off to use it. She was over the moon and it made us feel so good. I just wanted to share this story to encourage other acts of kindness to offset the "Vail Effect."
No more Epic, please
Having read Pique Newsmagazine from April 19, 2018, and the article "'We acknowledge that we made some mistakes,'" and Clare Ogilvie's editorial, "Looking for answers," I offer the following thoughts:
•The Whistler Blackcomb (WB) pass was less expensive, however, by the time one purchased back the perks previously provided with the WB pass, the savings was a mere $70. Hardly epic!
•The ski school program in which I participate increased 20 per cent in cost.
•One- and three-day Edge Cards have not been re-instated to Vail Resorts' product offerings.
•The Parent Pass is being offered only to those who had this pass in (2016-17).
•WB Unlimited passes are blacked out on U.S. holidays, such as President's Week.
•Additional days cannot be uploaded to an existing Edge Card. Should an Edge Card holder chose to ski more than the five or 10 days purchased, they must purchase a day ticket at the demand pricing rate.
•While the Spring Pass was in the past unlimited, it is now for 10 days only, as the Spring Pack.
The April 19 news story spoke to the diversity of visitors coming to Whistler and downplayed the perceived increase in American visitors. I ask, what is the percentage increase in U.S. visitors since the inception of the Epic Pass?
Pete Sonntag is quoted as saying, "We won't achieve our business objectives if we have a community that's in complete opposition to Vail Resorts and Whistler Blackcomb." This is an indication that Vail Resorts is beginning to understand, yet they have a long, long way to go.
My suggestion to Vail Resorts is simple, return to us the perks we had prior to Vail Resorts' purchase of WB. The argument that these perks are either not offered at your other resorts, or that your system can't accommodate them is of little, or no, interest to the local Whistler and Vancouver market.
Quoting Pique editor Clare Ogilvie: "Actions speak louder than words."
Chairlifts are best
I am writing to ask (Whistler Blackcomb) to please reconsider putting in a 10-person gondola to replace the wonderful Wizard and Solar coaster chairlifts. At the very least, please consider putting in a mix of gondolas and chairlifts on the same lift lines—this would actually be ideal, and does exist at other Vail Resorts properties.
There are many reasons why real skiers hate gondolas:
•We love the outdoors, and we love the feel of being out in the sunshine and sometimes the snow. Breathing in that fresh mountain air rather than being in a stuffy gondola contributes to a happy ski day.
•We love being able to jump on the lift without having to take skis off every time. Doing laps on solar without taking off skis is a mountain highlight, and loading a gondola totally breaks up the flow.
•Gondolas seem to get bigger line-ups; even when they are reported to hold 10 people, how often do they fill to capacity? It is questionable if they really move more people faster. We almost always choose to ski Blackcomb over Whistler for one reason: We hate the morning upload in the gondola—it is a mood killer.
•There are more awkward group dynamics on a longer gondola ride with 10 people rather than a four-person chair. Not sure why this is, but I have had many delightful conversations with strangers on chairlifts, but not so on gondolas. Somehow the gondolas seem to attract those people recovering from their previous nights drinking binge, reeking alcohol from their pores, as well as giving a platform to those braggadocious, dominating personalities that boast the whole way up. Not fun!
•Even foot passengers can love riding the chairlift on Blackcomb and benefit from a more authentic, outdoors experience. We saw tourists yesterday downloading Solar, having a true mountain thrill.
•My sister gets motion sick on gondolas, not on chairlifts.
Please, please don't take away one more joy that locals will hate Vail Resorts for, and real skiers are bound to complain about.
Consider both sides
Thank you for your coverage of the April 11 Pemberton community meeting with over 200 people in attendance. The April 19 Pique article, "SLRD presents proposed bylaw updates," may have caused some confusion for readers.
To clarify, proposed bylaw 1549 affects all farmland in the Pemberton Valley, not only the Pemberton Fringe. There are 150 members of FACE (Future Area C Engagement) who share similar concerns over restrictions proposed on farmland in bylaw 1549. Approximately one-third of the members of FACE are farmers. The other two-thirds are residents—many living on farmland, other involved in entrepreneurial activities in conjunction with agriculture.
FACE recently developed a position paper outlining concerns with bylaw 1549. A copy of this may be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pique article reported that the major sticking point is "what will and will not be allowed in terms of home based businesses ... The new bylaw is being proposed in an effort to make SLRD bylaws better reflect Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) rules and regulations—which already technically apply to the area."
In fact, the concerns are broader than the rules and regulations proposed to restrict home-based businesses. The proposed rules and regulations contained in Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) bylaw 1549 are more restrictive than ALC Act laws presently in place.
One of the bylaw restrictions proposed is to do with the farm residential footprint. It is a concept, not an ALC law. The farmer's comment in the Pique: "We've been saying farmland is better protected if you don't put a house in the middle of the field" is an opinion. This opinion is not shared by the majority of farmers and farmland owners in the valley.
Every piece of farmland in the valley has a house and a driveway suited to its needs. Presently most farms do not conform to the proposed farm-residential footprint concept, and farms operate well. Seasoned farmers will confirm that farming can easily occur around farm buildings, and is not compromised.
A handful of about 10 farmers support the restrictive rules contained in bylaw 1549 and have stated they represent the views of the majority of farmers, when in fact they do not.
FACE is hopeful that the SLRD Board of Directors will listen to its concerns listed in the position paper.
Moving forward with bylaw 1549, it would be helpful for the SLRD to create a current land-use inventory of what is presently occurring in the Pemberton Valley. An up-to-date land-use inventory would assist the SRLD in identifying the various positive innovative initiatives presently in operation, many in combination with agriculture. This would support the SLRD in planning for the future of agriculture, agritourism, small business, and entrepreneurial ventures on farmland.
It would also be helpful for the SLRD to consider employing staff with seasoned agriculture knowledge and expertise to properly guide and advise the Agricultural Advisory Committee and SLRD board in planning decisions concerning farmland. A solid background in modern farmland management practices would dispel the current misconceptions surrounding practices that are perceived as harmful to farmland.
Members of FACE look forward to working with the SLRD to build a plan for farmland in Area C that will allow for the enhancement of the agricultural growth that is presently functioning well in our community, and open the gateway to new and innovative approaches to working and living on farmland.
Artificial turf field support
In the wake of some recent rumblings and misguided opposition to the new artificial turf-field project, I would like to remind council of the consistent and overwhelming support that has been shown over the years to get this project approved.
If a natural grass field could provide the enhanced performance, extended season, and the reduced maintenance and water consumption that artificial turf can, natural grass would likely have been selected, but I will not rehash the arguments and the evidence-based decision making undertaken to date in approving this project.
I, too, am concerned about needless one-time use plastics, but this field serves a magnificent community service for all ages and will be recycled at its life end. If we are to start banning facilities and sporting equipment based on their plastic content, then are we also willing to ban downhill and cross-country skis, ski boots, running shoes, hockey sticks and skates, mountain and road bikes, tents, sunglasses and goggles and, yes, kayaks too ... Need I go on?
Please do not let a few idealistic, globetrotting plastic kayakers undo years of community work. That would be the polypropylene calling the polyethylene "plastic." Play on.
GOODBYE YELLOW FLAG-IRIS
In Whistler, wetland and riparian habitats are rare, covering only 2.3 per cent of the total area within the municipality. In 2005, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) identified these areas as critical for protection and management. These sensitive ecosystems provide habitat to some of Whistler's iconic wildlife species, including beavers, bears, water birds and frogs.
One threat to these habitats is the establishment and spread of invasive species. One species in particular, yellow flag-iris, grows quickly into dense thickets, and has the potential to cause significant damage to Whistler's wetland and riparian habitats. It spreads primarily through floating seedpods, which can easily make their way to new locations along creeks, rivers, lakes and in wetlands.
Before people were aware of its negative impacts, yellow flag-iris was popular in landscaping plans in the '90s, and was planted in many garden ponds and marshes across B.C., likely due to its ability to thrive in our climate. We are now dealing with the problem, as the species has spread from landscaped areas to the banks of creeks, rivers and lakeshores.
In 2015, the Sea To Sky Invasive Species Council (SSISC) received multi-year funding from Environment Canada's EcoAction Program, the RMOW and BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to remove yellow flag-iris from Whistler's wetland and riparian areas and restore these sites. Generous funding from the Community Foundation of Whistler's Environmental Legacy Fund also supported this work.
As the project winds up, we (the SSISC) wanted to take the opportunity to thank our funders, and everyone involved in the three-year project—we couldn't do it without you!
In the three years of the project's lifespan, the SSISC surveyed and mapped yellow flag-iris at 59 sites in the Whistler area (far more sites than we thought were out there!); we manually removed yellow flag-iris from 55 sites on public land, with 35 per cent of sites showing signs of eradication (no plants regrew in 2017), and another 54 per cent of sites showing greatly reduced regrowth in 2017. In total, we have removed over 700 square metres of yellow flag-iris in three years at these 55 sites. We embarked on a letter campaign aimed at private landowners that have this species growing on their property; and we also planted over 500 native wetland plants at yellow flag-iris removal sites to help restore important wetland habitats.
Whilst these short-term achievements are cause to celebrate, we still have a ways to go to achieve complete eradication of this species from Whistler's lakes, rivers and wetlands. Invasive plant eradication requires a dedicated multi-year approach with monitoring and follow-up removals needed for many years.
Luckily, we have support and funding from the RMOW, the Province of BC and the Community Foundation of Whistler to continue carrying out surveys and follow-up removals in 2018 and beyond.
So, how can you help?
With spring upon us, it won't be long until the plants start to emerge. Learn how to identify yellow flag-iris and keep your eyes peeled when you are out on the water this spring and summer: www.ssisc.info/home/yellow_flag.
If you have spotted yellow flag-iris growing anywhere in the Sea to Sky region, please report it to us at email@example.com.
If you have yellow flag-iris growing on your property, email us and we can arrange for an SSISC staff member to meet with you and provide you with information on how to remove it.
Sea To Sky Invasive Species Council