Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of February 12th

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Quit being rude

In the past two weeks Pique has published two strongly worded condemnations of a visiting Norwegian tourist that were unfortunate on a number of points, and added little to the ongoing education for persons using British Columbia's backcountry.

Ms. (Julie) Abrahamsen was lured here no doubt in part, by the province's, and our own resort's, marketing campaigns. With taglines like "Super Natural BC" and "No Boundaries," we actively endorse tourists to visit our less-travelled places. It is an integral part of our business model.

The continued demonization of the term "skiing out of bounds" is not productive to the discussion, or promotion, of safe outdoor experiences.

Backcountry skiing is one of the largest expanding recreational pursuits in North America. It is highly unlikely that branding it with a negative connotation will promote positive change. Remember when snowboarding first came to mountain resorts?

Ms. Abrahamsen definitely made some errors in judgment that led her to the situation that she found herself in. This is not uncommon. Emergency Management BC fields some 1,500 requests for assistance annually, mostly from B.C. residents but on occasion from foreign visitors.

Without a doubt, Ms. Abrahamsen has learned from her mistakes, and hopefully the media attention this incident has drawn will give others cause to think before leaving the organized ski area.

To single out a particular foreign visitor (a guest of the resort), and publicly ask for her to leave town, or have a lifetime ban from the mountain is simply rude and just confuses the message that search and rescue teams in the province of B.C. are continually emphasizing.

That message is: B.C. is an incredibly beautiful place, rich with experiences but... in order to avail yourself of them you need to be prepared with; adequate knowledge, skills, equipment and a detailed plan registered with someone who cares about you. Learn more. www.AdventureSmart.ca.

Brad Sills
Whistler Search and Rescue Society

Lost Lake needs to stay Nordic

This week the Question and the Pique raised the issue of controlled access to Lost Lake Park during the winter season.

I have been a volunteer host at the Cross-Country Connection for three seasons. Each week I see how the cross-country and snowshoe trails at Lost Lake enhance the experience of being in Whistler for both visitors and locals.

People of all ages and skill levels from all parts of the world are excited to be in this beautiful park a short walk from the village. When they return to the Passivhaus at the end of their ski or snowshoe trip, they are full of smiles and stories of the great time they had exploring Lost Lake Park, even this winter in low-snow conditions.

When I tell walkers arriving at the gate that they need to be on skis or snowshoes, many decide to rent equipment, buy a trail pass and head out for their first experience with a Nordic sport.

Others thank me for the information and walk off in another direction on the road or multi-use trails.  Only a few are disappointed, but even most of these understand the need for the restriction.

Opening the park to walkers, with or without dogs, and fat tire bikes, would make it impossible to maintain the trails for cross-country skiing. The groomed runs are easily chewed up by bike and foot traffic.

Fat tire bikes would have difficulty sharing the ski trails with the classes of beginners or the independent newbies on narrow skis.

The Emerald Forest and sections of the valley trail outside of Lost Lake Park are easily accessed on bike, so these could be developed for the growing interest in fat tire biking.

Thus, I support controlled access to Lost Lake Park in winter and well maintained cross-country and snowshoe trails.

Shep Alexander
Whistler

Embrace skinny skiing at Lost Lake

I am writing in response to the different articles regarding turning the Lost Lake cross-country trails into multi-use trails. Folks let's not give up on winters yet!! Although we have had two bad snow seasons let's be positive in bringing the snow back!

I also have to comment that the articles must have been written by non cross-country skiers, as they then would be aware that skate skiing requires a wide groomed area that becomes dangerous and useless if people are walking/biking on these trails.

Our population is aging. More and more people are taking up cross-country skiing as the body gets too tired (never say too old!) for the poundings of downhill. Cross country is gentler providing a cardiovascular benefit that is unsurpassed.

The Lost Lake trails also provide another "winter" option for our guests. The trails are beautifully maintained by municipal staff, and are patrolled and monitored by a mix of paid employees and volunteers.

At least 30 are employed by the trail system. This all costs money, which results in our user fees. There are many who prefer to pay to feel the safety of marked trails and patrol nearby.

For those looking for free skiing/snowshoeing the municipality also grooms the Valley Trail making it an excellent multi use trail system.

All you bikers out there — embrace the seasons. Get off that bike for a couple of months and get into skinny skiing.

I would be happy to give you a lesson!

Carolyn Rodger
Whistler 

Spearhead was not always an easy day trek

With interest I read the report about the Spearhead Hut Project in the Pique, Jan. 27.

Finally one can see the light at the end of the tunnel of a project that was envisioned almost 50 years ago shortly after Garibaldi Lift Co. started operation.

Mr. (Vince) Shuley's personal experience on his recent ski tour of the Spearhead was interesting, (though) not so much his remarks toward the end of his account.

Let me quote: "A few hundred metres north of Cowboy Ridge the dilapidated Himmelsbach Hut stands empty. I've always questioned the need for a shelter here, why I should spend the night in that frozen shack when I can descend Singing Pass and be in my house in little more than an hour."

Well, Mr. Shuley, it wasn't always that easy in the early days after construction. There was no trail, or village, to ski out to, and Blackcomb Mountain didn't get on stream until the early 1980s and with it the now famous Ricker Spearhead Traverse.

Granted the hut is in disrepair after decades of use and misuse, (but) your description of a dilapidated cold shack wasn't called for — at the least you could have left my name out of it.

I found it hurtful and insulting and (it) most certainly (showed a) lack of respect for the elders who helped make Whistler's alpine experience enjoyable.

Soon you will have a chance, Mr. Shuley, to make it even better when the fundraising for the new huts gets started.

And don't forget to thank the Spearhead Hut Committee members, and its chairman Jayson Faulkner, for their tireless effort.

Werner Himmelsbach
Whistler

Let your leaders know

I was visiting my son and family in Pemberton when I read GD Maxwell's excellent article titled, "Form a Superparty to beat Harper,"(Pique, Jan. 27).

There are many Canadians who agree wholeheartedly that the Liberals, NDP and Greens need to form one party in order to beat Harper in the next election — and many of us have written to the leaders of these parties urging them to do so.

To no avail because, as Maxwell points out, they refuse to set aside their egos. That said, Maxwell paints a very clear picture with his pie analogy — a clearer picture in a much more graphic way than most of us have done in our letters to the party leaders.

I'm really hoping that the Pique was not a dead end for this article, and that Maxwell sent a copy to Justin Trudeau, Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May.

That is precisely what my husband, Denis, and I are going to do. We're hoping that Maxwell's article has given other Pique readers a push to do the same.

June and Denis Wood
Vanderhoof, BC

Fall housing crunch shines light on affordability

I think the answer to this is simple. You take an employee that makes $12 an hour that works roughly 80 hours a week = $960, then you minus 20 per cent for the government = $768 X two pay cheques a month = $1,536.

Then you minus rent for some of the most expensive real estate not only in Canada, but North America, and you are left with probably somewhere around $768 — then you have to take away phone bills, car insurance, food, the mountain, après, etc.

This is not rocket science. This is not a new problem. This has been an existing issue for the whole time I have lived here — almost 20 years. Why is there not a study done on the cost of living compared to the average employee income?

Creating studies to get to the deep-rooted issues, are you serious? Rather then going and spending money on data, spreadsheets, so on and so forth, why don't you just go and grab a clipboard and ask the people walking up and down the Village Stroll, getting off the gondola, sitting in a coffee shop?

You are turning something that is very easy to get an answer to into something that you have to have a Masters degree in finance to figure out. Is this done so people can get lost in the five-syllable words, the run-on sentences that lead back to the beginning without answer to the question in the first place?

There is a one-sided market; you have plenty of employers and not enough beds for the employees. When there is a high volume of demand and a small amount of supply, the people that hold the keys to the demand are going to charge accordingly.

There is your housing study done; Whistler Housing Authority, you can save your money. I just did it for free and it took me the length of time it took to type this paragraph.

An employer's argument will also be the same as an employee's — you have some employers that do not own their space paying a huge amount of money per square foot. The landlords of residential and commercial space in Whistler determine the price point of the bed you sleep in and the snowboard you ride. There is a reason why the mom-and-pop businesses that used to be here in Whistler do not exist anymore.

Why not open one of the council meetings up to the people that live here to come in and tell you how easy it is to live in Whistler when you are making minimum wage, trying to raise a family, trying to live that dream?  

Unfortunately, this is an example of what is going on all over the world — this is not isolated to just Whistler. The middle class is disappearing and you are left with the highs and the lows.

Having Whistler being excluded from the foreign worker policy is not going to help the people that are already struggling here to begin with. All you are doing is injecting people into Whistler that have it better here than where they came from, so they will take whatever they can, they will not complain a bit and smile doing it.

I complain because I care — I care about the employee that is making $12 an hour, that is paying $800 a month for a shared room, that is having to go to the food bank to put food in his/hers mouth. And so should you.

People are so distracted these days, and this is done on purpose to take you away from the liberties that are being taken away from you and you can't even see it. By not having the foreign worker policy being changed to exclude Whistler, and the work visa policy being considered, what is happening is that you are forcing Whistler to deal with what they have, Canadians that deserve a better wage, an affordable place to live, so they are not having to live paycheque to paycheque.  

At the beginning of this season the Whistler Chamber of Commerce was complaining that if the foreign worker policy was not amended for Whistler this upcoming season, business would not be able to operate 100 per cent and guests coming to Whistler would suffer.

I have not read one article that has stated this to be true. Where are these businesses that are suffering because of the foreign worker policy being changed?

People say you have to roll with the punches to live this wonderful dream we have here in Whistler. The reality is this is not a dream; this is real life with real people.  

Someone should not have to depend on the food bank to eat to live a dream — there should never be a homeless individual in this town. That is not my interpretation of a dream — it sounds more like a nightmare.

You might be thinking, "If Whistler bothers you so much, why stay?" I love my surroundings and I feel it's necessary to take a stand for what is right. People come here for short amounts of time, they do not get caught up in the other side of Whistler and rightfully so, it's a working holiday.

But there are people here that have made Whistler their home. I think these people are over looked a lot of the time because there is this influx of people that come here every year, and the business of Whistler know this. The views and opinions get lost because there is that person that will do it cheaper and faster and not ask any questions.

Yes, I know I went on about two separate issues, but if you think about it they affect each other equally.

Paul Rowe
Pemberton

easy to get lost in the alps, too 

My extended family lived in several towns and villages in Southwestern France, close to the Landes forest, the biggest man-made forest in Western Europe (until the 18th century it was a insalubrious marsh area). There aren't many roads there, besides logging roads and unmarked trails only known to locals. It isn't a huge area, only 4,000 square miles (10,400 square kilometres); still it is easy enough to get lost there.

People get lost in that forest while hunting or looking for wild mushrooms. My mom once had to identify the scattered human remains a hunter found. She recognized the clothes of a neighbour that disappeared three years before!

When I was about 10 years old, an older relative and I were in that forest, about 1.5 kilometres from the nearest vineyards, when we heard the loud grunting of a family of boars. Luckily there was one tree not far away, with branches low enough for us to climb. Unfortunately it was an oak tree! We stayed there several hours, while the boars feasted on acorns under the tree.

An 80-kilogram boar got lost recently and ended up in downtown Bordeaux, and had to be shot after he rammed police cars. 

I lived for a while in the Auvergne, an old, volcanic mountainous range in Central France. Winters there are harsh, and in the days before cell phones it wasn't unusual for people living away from the few main roads to have their car stuck in the snow. After they ran out of gas to run their engine to keep warm, some people left their cars hoping to find a farm and froze to death.

Rivers run at the bottom of deep gorges and if there is no road nearby climbing down is very dangerous. There are also many sinkholes on the plateaus that aren't always obvious.

One Auvergne mountain, Mont Aigoual (1,567m/5,141 ft) is well known for its fickle weather.

One would go for a walk on the slopes of the mountain on a warm summer day, wearing light clothes, only to be caught a few hours later in a strong icy rain, with no shelter of any kind around — every so often someone dies of exposure. On an average year the mountain gets seven metres of rain with no shelter of any kind around... every so often someone dies of exposure. On an average year the mountain get seven metres of rain.

Then there are the Alps, much higher than Whistler's mountains. Although there are many resorts in the Alps, it is easy enough to get lost. It isn't unusual to have 10 to 20 people dying in the French Alps each year, for one reason or another.

J-L Brussac
Coquitlam

Pemberton Secondary School fundraiser a great success

Pemberton Secondary School would like to send out a big thank you to everyone that supported our Coffee House fundraiser for the school library.

Thank you to Mount Curie Coffee Co. and Namasthe Tea Co. for their donations of coffee and tea for refreshments for the evening as well as for bulk sale orders.

We would also like to thank the following businesses for donations of items for our silent auction at the event: Whistler Blackcomb, Scandinave Spa, Pemberton Esso, Pemberton Rona, Small Potatoes Bazaar, Frontier Pharmacy, and Pemberton Valley Nursery.

Thank you to the Pemberton Secondary Parent Advisory Council for all its help with the event, and to all the parents that brought treats. To all the students and former students that performed, the students who displayed their artist work in metal craft, woodworking, painting and photography, and the students who helped organize the event, you all did an excellent job.

And a final thank you to everyone who came out to the event and supported our school and our efforts to make our library a better place for our students.

Karen Tomlinson
(on behalf of Pemberton Secondary School)

Cell tower needed

Has anyone thought about the fact the big, bad, evil cell phone companies might be wanting to increase the height of the existing tower because, I don't know, they have to? Or do we all think their shareholders support them just throwing money away because it's fun?

I am no expert in cell tower placement, subscriber loads, coverage or any other of the 100 factors that affects their service infrastructure, but since the plans were put forward for the upgrades to the Lorimer tower, everyone else in town seems to be!

I would argue, they have done a careful analysis of every factor and deemed it necessary for the money to be invested in the tower because it is required to sustain the service we are used.

Rather than building more towers, it makes sense to upgrade/rebuild existing ones. If it needs to be taller, so be it — we all use cell phones all the time — they are not doing this to just waste money. It's a necessity! 

Rob Melvin
Whistler

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