Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of June 2nd


Closing day debacle

On May 30, 2016 myself and a good friend, (Jimmy), decided we should enjoy the gorgeous spring weather and head to Blackcomb for its last day of winter skiing operations.

The 2015-16 winter season had provided West Coast riders with ample snow, and with temperatures in the 20s in the valley that day, great spring skiing awaited us.

We arrived at the base of Blackcomb to ride up the Wizard Express chair. When we arrived instantly we noticed a strong '80s-clothing theme among the young riders. We sat for a time enjoying the endless neon tights, jackets, head bands, onesies and retro gear.

Some riders even pulled out what I could only say were old Halloween costumes — the energy was fantastic. We looked at each other with big smiles but we were also disappointed we didn't know about the "last day" dress code.  

At the Wizard Express gate we were greeted by a bag security check. This is something in my 33 years of skiing I have never seen, anywhere.

The security fellas were pleasant and polite and offered options to some riders that did have alcohol in their bags. I thought that was a good gesture, but was surprised by the security measure considering alcohol is served on the mountain, and on any ski day, any holiday, people are on the mountain skiing and often consuming alcoholic drinks.

I noticed two RCMP officers on the mountain — they were casual, back in the shadows observing, but seemed relaxed and not confrontational.

The day went without a hitch with people of all ages skiing hard, chillaxing and socializing in the great spring sun.  After a great season like 2015-16 this was a fabulous day to finish it off.  

At 3 p.m. we took a great break near the Jersey Cream chair watching the groups of costumed skiers, small mountain gatherings, and the endless parade of funseekers hooting, laughing, throwing snowballs and enjoying their way around the mountain's open runs.  

But this is where what should have been "the day to end all 2015-16 days" took a sad turn. When Jimmy and I rode to the bottom of the Jersey Cream chair for our last two runs of the day we found the lift staff closing the chair's access. We just scraped through. I blurted out to the lifty, "what's going on?" He replied, "we are closed at 3:15 p.m."

I said, "bulls**t, the signs and website clearly said last upload was at 4 p.m."

Another fellow behind me chimed in and also told me I am right — he saw the signs say 4 p.m. all day. As we rode the chair up I looked back and saw the lifty stopping riders coming down, but these people all thought the chair was open till 4 p.m. As we went up the chair a hundred or more riders passed down. Were all of these people going to hike out? "What's going on here?" I said to Jimmy.

When we reached the top of the Jersey Cream Chair I confronted a red-uniformed Blackcomb Mountain worker. I asked, "are you closing early?" He replied, "yes, there are too many drunk people so we are closing early."

I replied, "drunk people. Where? I have been skiing all day and I haven't seen any drunk people."  He replied, "we had five drunk people, one girl fell off the chair unloading." I replied, "fine, that's one, what's the second?" He stuttered and mumbled. I said, "so what is No. 2?" He was speechless. He replied, "it only takes one to ruin it for the rest."

I laughed and said, "you would close early last day because of one drunk gal! Ridiculous!"

On any day on a ski mountain people are having drinks and most likely some drunk people are present.  

I politely shamed the worker and said, "you can't change closing times at a moment's notice and strand hundreds of riders that think the mountain is open till 4 p.m."

I skied all day and not once did I see a rude or unacceptable gesture, a fight, someone too drunk to ski/board or walk — anything that I would say would cause a large world-class mountain to make such a sudden escalated decision.

What I did see was a lot of young people, most between 19 and 25 years old, having a lot of fun skiing and boarding in relative peace.

I am in my late 30s, and yes, the median age rider for the day was probably 25, but these "young people," many of whom have worked all season, were celebrating the last official open day for the mountains.

These young people are the backbone for Whistler and Blackcomb; they staff the bars, restaurants, lifts, ticket booths, retail shops, so they came out to show some happy, euphoric, youthful energy, and immediately the corporate reps or other officials shut the fun down.

I have travelled and skied in Europe expansively, and I can tell you what I saw on Blackcomb May 30 was nothing different than any good day in Europe, in countries where public alcohol consumption is permitted and is a part of their culture and history.

Did the officials get "control" of the situation? Of course not. Actually the whole plan backfired and caused thousands of riders, funseekers, to realize they had been duped and, of course, sentiment turned and people were frustrated or angry.

So what did they do? They lingered — the only lift down was overwhelmed because rather than riders knowing the closing time and downloading at a known time the lift was inundated by bewildered and frustrated customers.  

Of course many, like myself, decided to ski down under the Solar Coaster chair as far as one could go with a short dirt walk to the base of lift as the better way to finish the season. In fact, I heard many riders complaining and stating they were going to take their time and go under the signs and ropes to make their own point.

The next hour was something from a Warren Miller ski movie, with youngsters skiing down open grass fields and gravel beds between patchy snow as we lost elevation toward the top of the Wizard Express for download to the village.

When we reached the base of the Solar Coaster chair for our download, I looked up to where we had come from to see hundreds of riders walking and skiing down the open fields to the Wizard chair. Is this the kind of control the mountain expected to employ?

Still up to this point I never saw one unruly, puking or drunk rider.

In my opinion the people that made the decision to close the mountain early due to "too many drunk riders" were poorly informed, or overreacting, and as a result sent many young people into a far more dangerous situation.

What I experienced Whistler officials do on May 30 had to be the most thoughtless and pointless move to control what they perceived as skiers gone wild.

In fact their backward and sudden authoritarian move only upset the crowd and made many loiter, and ski down out of spite, putting them into dangerous off-snow situations, skiing on grass or gravel to download as the Wizard and Solar chairs were totally overwhelmed.

At 6 p.m., hours later, I could finally see the downloading was about complete.

Maybe with so few chairs open the downloading times were underestimated, maybe the turnout for last day was much higher than expected, maybe there was one really drunk gal — whatever the reason, deciding to confuse thousands of riders on the last day of the season, punish paying customers and force hundreds into sketchy skiing situations was futile and unnecessary.

Shaun Hellmich

How conventions change parties and countries

When my fellow West Vancouverite Garry Rasmussen stood at the microphone on May 28 to persuade over 2,000 Tories to vote for a resolution from our riding, it was a moment of victory for our riding and for all British Columbians.

A team of people had worked with me to craft the resolution, especially, the local volunteer Conservative Party riding association, led by Roger Garriock.

Our proposal is to move Coast Guard from the Fisheries to Transport Department, to deal directly with the problem of abandoned vessels, and that the Conservative Party should rely more heavily on science and technical expertise in the formulation of maritime decisions.

For British Columbians especially, this could mean a bolstering of resources on maritime safety, cleaner seas, and specific responses to the presence of abandoned and derelict vessels. In sum, the resolution promises to increase the emphasis on maritime issues for the Conservative Party — and may even impact what other parties do.

Look at this success in context. Our local Conservative Party association had actually contributed 19 proposals intended to improve the party and the country. Why did 18 of the 19 proposals not make it?

First, consider the competition. We are one of 338 Canadian ridings. Including our 19 proposals, 370 made it past the first two local levels of formal approval to become subject of consideration on the national level. To get implemented, proposals had to go through three more levels of approval: online debate and support by party members nationwide; preliminary vote by party members at the convention; then final vote at the convention Saturday.

You can imagine how hard many people worked to produce 19 resolutions. Only one made it all the way. But that tough, methodical, democratic process left participants unified and inspired that we'd worked together, listened to others' views, and strove to strengthen the party and make our country better. Party conventions, like the Conservative one just held in Vancouver, bring people together and build support for the democratic process.

John Weston
Former Conservative MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country

Saying goodbye and thanks to winter 2015-16

With winter skiing and snowboarding officially wrapped up for another year, I would like to say thank you, on behalf of everyone at Whistler Blackcomb for making our 50th anniversary season so incredible.

Thank you to the entire community of Whistler, for celebrating with us and for your continued support. Your passion for this special place keeps us inspired.

Thank you to the hard-working Whistler Blackcomb staff that delivered memorable experiences to our guests from all over the world during a very busy season. We could not have done it without you.

And thank you to Mother Nature, for delivering us 1,257 cm of snow this winter (almost a metre more than our 10-year annual average) and for enabling us to enjoy great skiing and snowboarding all winter long. 

This season was definitely one for the record books.

We spent some time this winter looking back on our history, but I know the past 50 years are only the beginning. Here's to another 50 years of making memories.

Dave Brownlie
President & CEO Whistler Blackcomb

Plan needed to protect investment

My jaw dropped in awe when I took my first glance at the newly renovated Whistler Skate Park over the weekend. The RMOW, Spectrum Skateparks Ltd., and the skate community have really pulled this off and should be very proud of all the hard work and the end result.

With this being said, as a local I do have my concerns related to a lack of a plan to maintain this new $807,000 investment when it comes to graffiti vandalism. If you ever took a walk by the old skate park you would have noticed that it was a complete mess, riddled with graffiti and truly an eyesore.

The people visiting our city would have had a hard time reading the wayfinding signs close by the park as they were covered in illegal graffiti.

My question to the mayor and the Resort Municipality of Whistler is what is the plan to ensure this large investment doesn't quickly become another graffiti-breeding area like the old park was? Is there a plan being implemented to ensure graffiti vandalism doesn't completely take over this investment?

Ben Frost

Trail run thanks

The Whistler Valley Trail Run would like to thank all of the amazing volunteers and sponsors who made the 25th annual 10km/5km and Teddybear Trot a huge success!

Thank you to Lole Whistler, Nesters Market, Helly Hansen, Whistler Source for Sports, Summit Sport, Scandinave Spa, Great Glass Elevator, Marketplace IGA, Escape Route Whistler, the RMOW, Mountainview Dental Hygiene, Whistler Golf Club, C2skyMultisport and Delta Hotels.

All proceeds from the run go towards the Community Youth Foundation of Whistler.

Christine Suter

B.C. fish farms threaten wild salmon runs 

The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) calls on the Government of British Columbia and Canada to recognize the extreme risk to which their promotion of the B.C. finfish aquaculture industry presents to not only the pristine coastal B.C. environment but to already critically low wild salmon runs on which many British Columbians rely.

The May 20, 2016 Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) news release, titled "Potential Diagnosis of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation in Atlantic Salmon at BC Fish Farm," announced that DFO's Dr. Kristi Miller has diagnosed a potential heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) in farmed Atlantic salmon samples collected from a B.C. aquaculture facility in 2013-14. 

Critically, the virus known to be associated with this disease, Piscine Reovirus (PRV), is widespread and often devastating to the salmon farming industry, and by proximity presents a significant threat to wild salmon populations.

Salmon infected with PRV are physically stunted, with muscles so weakened that they have trouble swimming or even pumping blood.

Fatal outbreaks of this disease have often followed the aquaculture industry around the world and have now been observed in wild fish, suggesting that farmed fish are interacting with wild salmon and are infecting already-dwindling wild stocks.

The potential threat of this virus to B.C. salmon can no longer be ignored.

In the 2015 Alexandra Morton v. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Marine Harvest Canada Inc., 2015 judgment, Mr. Justice Rennie concluded that the weight of evidence conducted by international and credible scientific bodies, suggested that PRV is causally linked to HSMI, and that it would be unreasonable to not expect HSMI to appear in PRV-infected B.C. farmed salmon.

As a result, infected fish pose a significant risk to both wild and farmed salmon in B.C. and thus should not be placed in ocean-net pens until we reach clearer scientific understanding of the risks infected farmed salmon pose to wild salmon stocks. 

These seemingly glaring warnings have been mirrored by the principles and recommendations of the 2009 Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, one of which concluded that a moratorium be placed on the expansion of aquaculture industry and the limitation of existing licences to a renewal period of one year pending a comprehensive scientific analysis of the impact salmon farms have on wild salmon stocks.

Thereafter, if salmon farms are determined to pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm to wild salmon stocks, those farms should cease operations.

 The FNLC is extremely disappointed in the previous Conservative government's decisions; despite numerous attempts to draw government's attention to the critical nature of these issues, DFO has made little progress in enacting the principles of Cohen, and continue to place our wild salmon stocks at extreme risk by allowing the granting of multi-year salmon farm licences in B.C., in direct conflict with the recommendations of Cohen. DFO must work with First Nations in B.C. to enact the principles of Cohen and to effectively protect our wild salmon.

Wild salmon are integral to many First Nations' cultures, well-being and livelihood, and the protection of our wild salmon stocks is equally integral to the economic and environmental sustainability of the province and country as a whole.

This year, only an estimated two million sockeye have returned to the Fraser River, far short of the more than six million predicted in preseason forecasts, with an even further dramatic collapse of the pink salmon fishery, with only an estimated five million fish returning when more than 14 million have been forecast. 

Immediate action must be taken to safeguard and protect our wild salmon for the benefit of all British Columbians and Canadians.

The principles of the Cohen Inquiry must be respected. A moratorium on the expansion of all finfish aquaculture ventures along the B.C. coast needs to be implemented until further evidence is gathered on the negative impacts these installations have on our wild salmon. 

The FNLC supports the work of DFO's Dr. Kristi Miller and urges the Government of Canada to expand her work coast-wide and further encourages the support of programs focused on ecosystem research and habitat restoration, such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation's (PSF) Salish Sea Project.

Critically First Nations need to be a part of the picture. In order to achieve certainty on the impacts salmon farms have on our communities we must develop First Nations capacity to pursue independent interval sampling to be analyzed through such genomic tests as Miller's.

The well-being of our wild salmon and the sincerity to which DFO pursues a meaningful and significant relationship with First Nations in B.C., will be a significant indicator of how well the Liberal government achieves its goals of a strengthened relationships with First Nations in B.C.

Grand Chief Edward John, Robert Phillips, Cheryl Casimer — First Nations Leadership Council

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chief Bob Chamberlin, Chief Judy Wilson — Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson — BC Assembly of First Nations

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