Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor for the week of April 4th

20 Bald Heads!

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20 Bald Heads!

Whistler Friends Society held the annual Whistler Balding for Dollars event on Easter Sunday at the GLC and there are now 20 people out there sporting flashy new shiny heads for a good cause.

Balding for Dollars is a province-wide fundraiser in support of kids with cancer at BC Children's Hospital.  Each year, dozens of Whistlerites make a commitment to enhance the lives of kids suffering from cancer by collecting pledges to have their heads shaved. 

This year that group of participants included five women, three kids aged seven years or younger, and many other brave folks.

The event raised $21,249 though online and in-person fundraising efforts, and our silent auction at the event.

This year, 2013, marked the 11th year of holding Balding for Dollars and we passed a big milestone on Sunday: we are proud to say that Balding for Dollars here in Whistler has now raised over $204,000 – WAY TO GO WHISTLER!!!

Of course this event would never happen without the ongoing support of our sponsors who donate a variety of things to make it a success. To each of them we say a huge thank-you: Garibaldi Lift Co. (GLC), Blackcomb Barber Shop, Mountain FM, Whistler Question, Crystal Lodge and Suites, The Adventure Group, and Walsh Restoration.

We look forward to shaving a bunch more heads and raising tons of cash for kids with cancer again in spring 2014!

Wendy and Dave Clark

Founders, Whistler Friends Society

More 'bobble heads' needed

On the mountain I have gone out of my way to pay attention and analyze how people ski after having many near "hits" and reading about the skier collisions this year.

It's not just about speed or being out of control. I have noted that it seems that when people put on their helmets and lock into their bindings, they lock their heads into forward position. A helmet and goggles already limit your peripheral vision, but there seems to be an unconscious rudeness on the hill this year.

People do not understand the basic concept of the Skier's Responsibility Code, which says, "People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them."

And this goes with: "Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others."

The first point does not give the person below you the right to forget the second code before making a big unpredictable right or left turn across the run without bothering to look over their right or left shoulder first before executing such a severe move.

I tend to ski on the sides of the runs like Ego Bowl or Whiskey Jack to avoid the middle of the runs where it seems most beginner skiers are, and when going down a run making concentric medium radius turns I am always swivelling my head over my right or left shoulder to make sure some boarder or skier is not coming out of the trees, or over taking before extending my turns into a larger radius.

A couple Fridays ago I had no less than nine near hits by people suddenly cutting across without so much as turning their heads in any direction, and that included several Level 1 instructors with eight kids, taking off without looking up the hill — setting a very poor example for their young students. Both skiers and boarders are coming off upper Olympic on the right side and then shooting across to the Garbanzo Express without looking.

(Recently I had the) whole of upper Dave Murray to myself, I was making nice controlled medium radius turns using less than a cat track width and some boarder comes, tucked and speeding, straight down the run passing so close he hit my pole and then he shoots across in front of me. I have been hearing similar stories riding on the chairs with other guests, so I know there are a few of us who still know how to use our necks for what they were intended.

Although I have only mentioned Whistler runs, the same thing is true on Blackcomb this year.

Thus we need to encourage more "bobble heads" on the ski runs that can swivel their head and look over their shoulders before making extreme turns or cutting clear across a run. Besides it's a healthy exercise for your neck that may save you from future injury. And what's the point of having the right of way if it gets you injured?

Abigail Cutter

Whistler

WB avvy bulletins unique

Lately there have been conversations comparing Whistler Blackcomb's (WB) avalanche advisory with Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) bulletins. There have also been conversations happening online and in social channels like Facebook where people are recounting close calls with avalanches despite local "moderate" ratings.

We felt it was time to clarify WB avalanche control objectives in the areas immediately outside of WB's ski area boundary. We would also like to explain the differences between the WB and CAA hazard advisories.

First, with respect to avalanche control — we are responsible for WB's guests within our boundaries. Avalanche "control" or testing is conducted with the goal of mitigating, as much as possible, any avalanche hazards within our ski area boundary. We only test for avalanches outside of our ski area boundary if we feel the avalanche hazard threatens in-bounds terrain. For example we test Phalanx, Husume and Corona if we think avalanches will hit the valley floor. Size two avalanches that do not affect our in-bounds terrain are not controlled. When you leave the boundary it is imperative you know you are in uncontrolled terrain and take every necessary precaution.

We make an effort to stick to this policy as closely as possible to avoid any confusion about what is, and what is not, "controlled."

Secondly, regarding the WB backcountry advisory — our three-day avalanche hazard forecasts are prepared for the area immediately surrounding the WB ski area. This can be simply translated as the terrain easily accessible as a day tour from the WB boundaries. In contrast, the CAA posts avalanche advisories for the Sea to Sky corridor; ranging from "the Duffey" to the Fraser Valley.

It has been suggested by some voices outside our operation that we should adjust our advisory to reflect the information disseminated by the CAA. This is unacceptable as the WB and CAA bulletins are written for significantly different areas. The CAA rating is based on industry avalanche reports from professional operations throughout the Sea to Sky area (including ours), from public forums, and using weather forecasts for a much larger area. The variability of the terrain, weather, available information and expected user groups covered by the CAA bulletin cannot be compared with the relatively limited scope of the WB bulletin. Additionally, the act of adjusting our advisory to match the CAA bulletin would result in an unacceptable feedback loop.

Finally, we have to address the issue of avalanche activity during periods of moderate hazard.

Moderate hazard includes the possibility of both skier-triggered avalanches and large avalanches. The North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale includes information under four headings. These headings include Danger Level, Travel Advice, Likelihood of Avalanches and Avalanche Size and Distribution. Both the CAA and WB bulletins include specific information regarding current conditions in the text following these items. When you are in avalanche terrain you must take appropriate measures to ensure your safety.

One of the best resources for information regarding most things avalanche related is the Canadian Avalanche Center at www.avalanche.ca.

Tony Sittlinger, Blackcomb Mountain Avalanche ForecasterWhistler Blackcomb

Carpe Diem

In last week's local newspapers, I read with interest former mayor Ken Melamed's comments regarding the implementation of environmental policy under his leadership and his current views on the university proposed on the Zen lands.

As a community builder, I do not recall this era as fondly as Ken does. Although there was some good progress made in social and environmental stewardship, I feel his leadership through this era did not appreciate the changing economic realities that Whistler was facing and failed to seize the opportunities to provide an atmosphere where Whistler could diversify its economy.

In 1999 my company, Vision Pacific, put forward the Whistler 3 proposal, offering to build 155,000 sq.ft. of affordable employee housing at the all-in cost of $155 per sq.ft., as well as a multi-million-dollar connecting road between Millars Pond and Spring Creek.

I put this deal forward because Whistler was in an affordable housing crisis, and I wanted to do everything in my power to help the community. In the end, the council of the day ultimately decided not to support the deal and the Whistler affordable housing crisis continued to grow for the next 10 years.

The opportunity cost to the community of this failed re-zoning was immense. Not having any available employee housing between 2000 and 2010 killed any ability we had as a community to attract other industries and grow in other economic areas. As a community, we lost an opportunity to diversify and lost economic momentum.

In 2010, the housing crisis was resolved through the construction of employee units at Rainbow and Cheakamus Crossing. I was proud that my company was finally able to construct fabulous family homes at Rainbow, keeping these vibrant community members living and working in Whistler.

Whistler's current council recognizes the need to diversify and is looking at education as a silo for future growth and for creating economic momentum.

At this time, a large proposal by Whistler International Campus (Whistler U) is in front of council. I encourage the community to get engaged and understand the facts. I think it is very important for the community to put the "open for business" sign back out. If there is a deal to be done that gives both parties the ability to move forward, then I think we should work really hard to make it so.

Tim Regan

Whistler

CARDA: worth supporting

I would like to thank the Pique, and reporter Alison Taylor, for writing the article on Radar the rescue dog in the March 28 edition.

The Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) is a personal story for me, but it's also a human-interest story for people who are interested in safety in the mountains.

Professional ski patrollers are the core of the members in CARDA and they are paid to ski patrol and do avalanche rescue dog training.

What isn't widely known is that to become a validated Avalanche Rescue Dog Handler Team the patrollers have to pay for the first two courses until they get their papers, so to speak. Then they must keep the dog trained to a high standard (that includes) helicopter rescue validation, (and training in using) specialized equipment. And (then there is the) vast amount of training time away from ski patrol work, which is also needed, as well as food, vet bills etc. It is estimated that for the life of one dog the cost is approximately $60,000 all in.

The mountains that employ these dedicated teams do contribute but not to the full extent.

Part of the job of our teams is to do public relations, safety talks and demonstrations — all with the intent of making safety in the mountains top of mind.

I would personally like to thank each and every one who has trained an avalanche rescue dog in the last three decades for their commitment and determination. They have to validate each and every year, and it's not an easy task for either the dog or the master.

The next time you see CARDA teams don't forget to ask if you can thank (pet) the dog and congratulate the handler on attaining one of the highest validation standards in the world of avalanche rescue.

I would also like to thank the Pique for running, free of charge, the CARDA/Whistler Blackcomb sponsored backcountry avalanche advisory forecast in each edition all winter for the past two decades. It shows a commitment to safety and avalanche awareness.

Thanks again for the coverage and don't forget to attend the book launch in November and buy a copy from CARDA for a child that you know.

Bruce Watt

Past director, founding member CARDA

Whistler

Pedestrian safety in Function Junction

It's great news for everyone who works (800+), lives (100+) and shops in Function Junction that the RMOW is finally looking into pedestrian safety in the hood.

This pressing issue has been brought to its attention recently by a few local businessmen who have spent a lot of their time and resources coming up with a Function Junction (FJ) pedestrian trail strategy (thank-you messrs Bayly, Harley and Williamson).

The bad news is that upon reviewing the strategy, the RMOW will not be implementing a small, but crucial, piece of the plan until 2014.

This part would see a sidewalk/Valley Trail extension starting at the entrance to FJ on Highway 99 and extending through to the Olives/ Lordco/ Garibaldi Graphics building. This has become essential since the completion of the Spring Creek and Cheakamus Crossing sections of the Valley Trail.

These sections both feed directly into FJ and have created a welcome increase in pedestrian traffic, but it has also created a situation that the RMOW needs to address immediately due to safety concerns. Amongst this increased flow of pedestrian traffic, are the stroller-pushing parents from the nearby subdivisions, who can often be seen ducking into the Whistler Brewery for a swift pint to settle their nerves after negotiating the rough narrow shoulders with cement trucks, buses etc!

While we all understand and appreciate that the RMOW has a busy workload this year, we are asking that pedestrian safety in Function Junction be a priority (maybe one less concert this summer?), especially as this is a fundamental requirement of a local municipal government.

Harvey Lim

Whistler

Nuisance bylaw update

In less than three weeks 444 signatures were obtained from the owners and occupiers of Cheakamus Crossing and Bear Ridge communities. The disclosure statement, signed by the Cheakamus Crossing owners, stated: "The Development is adjacent to an operational asphalt and gravel facilities which may create associated noise, dust, odours and activity. The Municipality is currently discussing the possibility of relocating the asphalt operation with the owner of the asphalt and gravel facility." (This) misrepresented the nature of the operations, which produce toxins and hazardous pollutants, not "odours" as stated. We were lied to.

Our petition with supporting documents describes the situation since 2004, (which) includes copies of documents with 1,617 "voices" opposing this unhealthy and unsafe cohabitation (industrial complex and residential communities), was sent to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources; the ministry signed the Agreement with (asphalt plant owner) Mr. Frank Silveri on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, the minister of this ministry, Christy Clark, premier of B.C. and the Lieutenant Governor of B.C., representing the Queen, after all the industrial complex is located on crown land.

 The No Asphalt Plant 2 (NAP 2) team believes that this petroleum and resource extraction based industrial complex will become not (just) a health and safety problem for the owners and occupiers of Cheakamus Crossing, but it will also be a significant nuisance and annoyance to all users of the new Bayly Park (set) to be opened this spring/summer. This will include youth and adult sports teams, gardening groups, and visiting children and families. We believe that they also deserve to experience the quality of Whistler life without the health and safety problems presented by the adjacent industrial operations. The NAP2 team also had it's wellbeing in mind when the petition, with a request to revoke the Licence of Operation, was submitted.  

 To this date no official response received. We understand that an anonymous spokesperson stated her/his opinion in last week's article in the Pique, "Province won't shut asphalt plant," but we were told that the Sea to Sky district manager, Mr. Dave Southam, to whom this petition was addressed, is currently on vacation, and is back after Easter. The anonymous spokesperson made a judgement regarding our request before the petition was properly received by the ministry. Perhaps the question is, is the ministry responsible to present our petition to the judge? There are hundreds of documented statements describing the nuisance and annoyance and suffering by the owners and occupiers in the vicinity of the industrial complex.

The NAP2 team is very disappointed by the mayor and her council's position towards this significant Whistler problem. The follow-up notes from March 8 meeting (between NAP 2 and the mayor), when the request for a support letter was denied by the mayor, were not released to the newspaper until a few days after these notes were emailed to the mayor and all of her councillors. 

There was no response from anybody.

Judy Bonn

Whistler

Bye-bye HST

April 1, 2013 is a victory for democracy and the people of British Columbia. We came together to petition against a tax and won against the sneaky Liberal government.

It feels good to have done my part in Whistler collecting signatures in May of 2010. And thanks to Larry Falcon for leading the petition.

Now I will end my protest and perhaps buy a golf pass, bike or a massage. Power to the people for a positive change.

Now if only the asphalt petition works in our favour.

Doug Ryan

Whistler