Gondolamania! A skier's perspective
Recently, Vail Resorts' Whistler Blackcomb announced plans to upgrade Emerald Express chairlift to a six-pack and Catskinner chair to a high-speed quad, which I think are good ideas that will help to improve the lift capacity of the areas they serve.
The third upgrade is a plan to replace Wizard Express and Solar Coaster Express chairs on Blackcomb with a high-speed 10-person gondola. This decision is misguided and seems to ignore the realities of the lift route.
The implementation of this gondola will effectively ruin skiing in the Solar area, and will act as the symbol of a new trend, which prioritizes summer guests to the point that winter guests must suffer.
It takes even the most novice of skiers less than 10 minutes to ski down Springboard. For someone who skis quickly, it's more like three to get to the bottom and the Solar chair.
Putting in a gondola will mean constantly taking your skis off after a three-minute run, turning a minor inconvenience into a major irritation and deterrent.
For example, according to WB Plus, I rode Solar Coaster 350 times last season, which means that someone like me will be getting in and out of their bindings an extra 350 times a year.
Unlike on Whistler Mountain, where the gondola serves almost exclusively as a way to bring people up to the Roundhouse, Solar Coaster is a lift that people lap down to, or sometimes spend a large chunk of their day at.
I'm not condoning laziness, but the mere fact that people will have to take their equipment off repeatedly for a six- to seven-minute lift ride will act as a major deterrent from the new gondola, in addition to the fact that people will be uploading at a mid-station, which can easily take much longer than normal.
Where are these people going to go? Onto the already-much-more-crowded lifts on Blackcomb: 7th Heaven, Crystal, Jersey Cream and Excelerator (at certain times).
I understand the idea is that an upgraded Catskinner will fill the void, but unfortunately Catskinner is an awful replacement for Solar Coaster. Catskinner only goes down about half the length of Solar, and only a fraction of the runs in the zone actually funnel into it. I highly doubt that an upgraded Catskinner will see much more traffic than the current one does.
Wizard and Solar Coaster are undoubtedly operating over capacity at certain times as four-person chairlifts, and definitely need to see an increase in person-moving capacity, but I don't think that a continuous gondola is a good fix for any of these problems.
A continuous lift sounds great in principle, but the realities of it mean that at busy times from the valley, it will be nearly impossible to load people at mid-station, which is fine at a lift where the vast majority of people load in the valley, but this is not one of those places. With two separate lifts, people doing another lap have an even chance with those coming from the valley, which will not be the case with a continuous lift.
So, what can be done to satisfy demand instead then?
I think keeping the two lifts separate is still a good idea. Climate change dictates that a weather-protected gondola is better at lower elevations, so I see no reason why Wizard couldn't be replaced with an eight-person gondola, and then Solar replaced with a six- or eight-person chairlift.
Comfort does not have to be sacrificed on a chairlift anymore either, many resorts (including Sunshine in Banff) have invested in chairs with soft heated seats. If for some reason, people want an enclosed lift, then maybe a hybrid chondola is an option for those who don't want to brave the outdoors. As for people heading up to the glacier, the current method will still work just fine with an upgraded chairlift, or even a chondola.
I find it funny that the announcement was made under the guise of "winter upgrades" when the marquee project is obviously designed for summer use over winter use.
No skier wants to take off their skis every time they lap a lift, but a small number of people struggle using a chairlift in the summer, and for some reason they are deemed more important than a much larger number of skiers.
I think that an open-air lift creates a more authentic and interesting experience than a gondola for sightseers, as downloading on a chair gives everyone the best seat in the house for looking directly down at our beautiful valley below, especially from the angle that Solar has. If people are more comfortable taking a gondola, Whistler still has a fantastic one.
It takes a village!
Thank you Whistler for once again supporting the Whistler Film Festival — 2017 marked our 17th edition, and we made great progress towards our goal of being among the top film festivals in North America for film fans and filmmakers alike.
From opening with Focus Features awards contender Darkest Hour to closing with The Moment, a story with local mountain-bike legends at its heart, as well as the 85 films in between, Whistler was a cinematic hotbed the first week of December. Highlights included: our Signature Series which honoured 16 artists of our time including Kyra Sedgwick and Bill Pullman; our BC Music Showcase featuring eight export-ready musicians; our Women on Top event, which addressed gender parity in screen-based entertainment from atop Whistler Mountain in addition to our 27 industry-focused sessions that connected filmmakers and dealmakers; and our 11 talent programs that supported 81 Canadian artists including screenwriters, directors, producers, actors and musicians, to develop their projects, craft and connections, and everything else in between.
Over 14,000 attendees, including 948 industry insiders, experienced WFF. How do we relay the experience our attendees had? Perhaps it was the buzz in our village or being able to confirm with our hands on our hearts that Whistler has indeed become renowned as home to Canada's coolest film fest. Considering there are over 2,000 film festivals worldwide and 200 in Canada alone, this is an accolade to be very proud of for a little-festival-that-could, and one that essentially started without such an intention. It has taken 17 years and over $20 million of investment to make this happen, all of which generate over $5.2 million of annual economic impact for Whistler and B.C. in addition to significant media and marketing exposure.
Thank you to: the RMOW; Tourism Whistler; Arts Whistler; the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre; Village 8 Cinemas; our 20 accommodation partners including our host hotel, the Westin Resort and Spa, and VIP host hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler; Whistler Blackcomb; Gibbons Whistler; and all our hospitality partners who helped us host our guests, including all of our suppliers from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to Open Country for making sure we dressed the part. Thank you as well to our incredibly dedicated Board of Directors, staff and 148 volunteers, all of whom are the true stars of the fest.
It truly takes a village. It takes you to make this happen. Please consider helping us meet our IndieGoGo campaign goal to raise $150,000 to enrich and expand our script-to-screen development programs for Canadian filmmakers by Dec. 22! With your help, more Canadians will launch their film ideas, projects and careers in 2018 from Whistler. Go to whistlerfilmfestival.com/gogo. Every dollar counts! Thank you again Whistler for your support!
Shauna Hardy Mishaw
Executive Director & FounderWhistler Film Festival Society
Since the Pique article on Aug. 10 titled "Small Business Owners Buckling Under 'perfect storm' of economic conditions – High Operating Costs forcing some independent business operators out of Whistler," and (specifically the part about) Peaked Pies' rent increase, we have had numerous calls and concerns along with rumours spreading that Peaked Pies has closed.
We would like to take this opportunity to let our fellow pie lovers and loyal customers know that we are not closed, nor will we be closing.
The company is alive and well, currently scouting a third location, along with building office headquarters in Function Junction.
Whistler really is the most amazing place to do business and we are so happy to have a supporting community.
Thank you Whistler, and see you for a pie soon!
Alex and Kerri
Founders/owners, Peaked Pies
Step back to achieve sustainability
Prior to reading (reporter's) Braden Dupuis's article (Pique, Dec.7) pin-pointing Whistler's failure to meet emission targets: greenhouse-gas levels that have increased by 4.9 per cent in the last three years, passenger vehicles representing the largest of Whistler's emission footprint and most disturbingly, the apathy of people everywhere to do something about climate change, and David Suzuki's column referencing our insatiable demand for constant growth consumption, I had listened appalled to Vail Resorts' CEO announcing investment that will attract yet more and more vehicles to the Sea to Sky corridor.
All development anywhere, whether in West Vancouver or Mount Currie, should be curtailed until we make what we have sustainable.
If the price we have to pay is lowering our expectations, then we should embrace the strength of character that will evolve pulling communities together in order to achieve sustainability.
Artifical turf not the way to go
In concordance with several other locals and taxpayers in Whistler, I was dismayed to learn that council had decided to proceed with the artificial turf field for soccer.
The majority of the opposition to the new artificial field has been because of the cost and the drain it will place on Resort Municipality of Whistler finances both for construction and for ongoing maintenance.
I would like to put forward a few other reasons to reconsider and alter this project.
To my understanding, the prime reason for this field was that our growing community appears to need more sports fields and to provide kids with a field on which to play soccer in the winter, late fall and early spring when the weather inhibits use of the grass fields.
Well, I believe that the artificial field will also be unusable at those times.
Artificial turf fields need to be watered, i.e. water sprayed on them via a sprinkler system prior to each use.
Surely, the proponents of this field know that temperatures in Whistler are often at or below freezing just when they deem the field will be most needed.
Will parents really want their kids to play soccer on an ice-skating rink?
Or is there a plan to spray hot water on the field or to have the artificial turf field heated to prevent freezing?
If and when the field is playable, players will need to have special boots, ones with different studs, for the artificial turf.
This will mean that all local soccer players will also need to have at least two pairs of soccer boots, one for grass and the other for the artificial turf.
This will be true for visiting teams as well.
Does the RMOW intend to fund these boots too?
Some soccer boots, designed for use on grass, can wreck artificial turf fields.
Does the RMOW intend to police this field and prohibit either a local player or a member of a visiting team from playing if they do not have the approved boots?
Who will do this and how effectively will this be administered?
What will happen if the star player from either team has brought the wrong boots to the field?
An artificial turf field is likely to attract geese that are prone to leave their excrement on the field.
The constituent layers of artificial turf fields inhibit the absorption of this fecal matter even when watered down.
Do the parents in Whistler really want to have their kids play in a cesspool, which may even expose them to the Avian flu virus?
If artificial turf fields were safe to play on, then why did world-class soccer players mount an extended campaign to have international soccer matches played on natural grass fields and not on artificial turf fields?
Are the parents in Whistler really willing to consign their offspring to damaged knees, sore hips and arms and legs with "carpet" burns?
Yes, almost every time one slides on an artificial turf, one is likely to suffer an abrasion — carpet burn.
With each abrasion, minute particles from the turf get embedded in the body.
Is this healthy? Is this likely to lead to health issues down the road?
As to the damaged knees, I speak from experience.
My knees were fine all the many years I played team sports on grass fields but were damaged from relatively few matches on artificial turf fields.
If the parents in Whistler really want their kids to suffer pain walking down stairs, have their knees hurt when the vehicle they are in goes over a bump, grimace in pain skiing even on groomed runs or hobble when they walk, then sure go ahead install the artificial turf field, but remember your kids will be aware that your poor judgment consigned them to a life of pain.
After having written the above, a thought struck me, why is a new field even being considered?
Whistler is a multi-season playground with such a wide variety of sport and recreation options.
The people in Whistler surely do not need to be constrained by the sports that are played in other communities, communities that lack the vast number of recreation opportunities available to the people in Whistler.
So to my fellow Whistlerites, whatever your age, find or develop your own sports pursuit. Do not feel bound by what is the norm in other communities.
Whistler and Vancouver
Craft Fair thanks
On behalf of the Whistler Waldorf School, I would like to thank all who participated in our annual Children's Christmas Fair.
The weather was beautiful, the mood was festive, and children once again delighted in holiday crafting and making gifts to give.
Thank you to all our student and parent volunteers for your enthusiasm and energy and a very special thank you to our community sponsors: Mountain FM; Gone Village Eatery; The Pony, Pemberton; Mount Currie Coffee Co; Nesters Market; Namasthé Tea; Olives Market; Creekside Market; Whistler Roasting Company, and Whistler Lifestyle Design. Your support is greatly appreciated!
With sincere gratitude and appreciation.
Waldorf event organizer