New RFID pass system could be an environmental saviour
Initially I was not a supporter of the new RFID pass-scanning system that Whistler Blackcomb (WB) introduced last season.
There were several reasons for my opposition. The RFID system increases the carbon footprint of WB as it takes energy to run it; producing the scanners and new passes has a carbon footprint; it adds another point of congestion while loading the on-mountain lifts; and it doesn't improve the skier experience.
There are many rumoured, less obvious purposes for the RFID system as it will allow WB to track its customers' movements in new ways. This doesn't concern me as I assume they already track where you have lunch, what you eat for lunch, which stores you shop in, and what you buy.
It may be that the increased carbon footprint from the RFID is small. However, as we have a gluttonous carbon footprint, any increase is bad if we truly hope to save the planet as we know it, and if we really want to be able to ski in Whistler, or anywhere, in the future.
What is challenging is getting people to acknowledge their carbon footprint and connecting their footprint to climate change. Reducing our carbon footprint is where I now realize the new RFID system has fabulous potential.
As everyone, except the shrinking cult of climate change deniers realizes, the planet is suffocating from greenhouse gas emissions. While recognizing this fact, very few people are actually willing to do anything about it. Sure many people recycle and have switched to LED or compact fluorescent lights. But in reality very few people have reduced their carbon footprints in any meaningful way. Clearly there is a lack of incentive for most people to change their ways as the effect of their actions is not immediately felt.
This is where the RFID system will be invaluable. Before activating your season's pass, edge card, or day ticket, you will be required to go online to Planetair, or a similar online website, to calculate your carbon footprint. You will then link it to your RFID pass. From there the system is simple; people with a higher than average carbon footprint can only access lifts on the lower half of the mountain.
Hopefully this will make them aware of the consequences of a high carbon footprint. People with a lower-than-average carbon footprint will be able to access the upper half of the mountain where there is actually snow. If your carbon footprint is low enough you can access the alpine lifts. This will be a reward for those with a small carbon footprint as there will be half as many people on the most desirable lifts.
The system will be totally unbiased as GHG emissions from any source will be counted equally. If you produced five tonnes of carbon, it doesn't matter how you did it as it forms part of your total. This will allow people to decide what to spend their GHG emission allowance on. Most likely a cap and trade system will evolve where people with a morbidly obese carbon footprint could sell some of their pollution to people with a small carbon footprint.
Given last year's dismal ski season and this year's gigantic El Niño forming in the Pacific Ocean, which is predicted to bring temperatures three to four degrees above normal, I expect there will be strong support for this system as people will finally be held accountable for their carbon footprint's negative impact on the planet.
If you care about the future, call WB and express your support for this system. As many people in Whistler realize the dramatic effects climate change is already having, you can expect delays due to heavy call volume. So be patient and persistent.
You can either sacrifice the environment in order to preserve your lifestyle or you can sacrifice your lifestyle in order to preserve the environment. The choice is yours. For the sake of our grandchildren and all the other species on the planet, hopefully you make a wise decision.
Time for backcountry hikers' needs to be considered
It has been 12 years since we lost access to the Singing Pass trail parking lot to a washout. Engineering science says that the road to the parking lot is unfixable as it will continue to slump. The road to the IPP on the Blackcomb side of Fitzsimmons Creek is an alternative, but is currently gated and the creek remains un-bridged.
Several branches of government are theoretically in favour of an improvement in the situation, but it has become "no-one's priority" since 2012.
Tenure holders on the land include Whistler Blackcomb (WB), Innergex (IPP), and Whistler Sport Legacies (sliding centre).
These are also theoretically in favour of using this road to a bridge (to come) to access the trail, but WB fears vandalism to its "bone yard" of discarded ski equipment, and won't un-gate the road, although all other users (zip-line, bikers, ATV and snowmobile companies) get car access.
These parties have all suggested a trail access down the gated road to Fitzsimmons Creek, but the hiking community, which used to be able to hike to Singing Pass and back in one day, even from Vancouver, can no longer do this. The five kilometres on the Whistler side add an extra hour through the dangerous road slump (requiring a rope) as does the long walk in proposed on the Blackcomb side.
Surely the public finally deserves some consideration for a trail that predates all of these developments, and is one of the major accesses to Garibaldi Park. The responsible governing bodies should find a way through the regulatory morass to reinstate a road to a parking lot and foot bridge.
The land in question is public but has been tenured to groups that are blocking access to our park. The Singing Pass trail is important because of the loss of other accesses: Black Tusk microwave road (gated); Swift Creek logging road (decommissioned, then washed out); and Brohm Ridge (taken over by Black Tusk Snowmobiles). This leaves Diamond Head Road (treacherous in winter) and the Black Tusk Trail (treacherous to ski on ice). Increased population pressure and the construction of new huts on the Spearhead demand a safe, convenient, 24-hour access.
The newest Garibaldi Park master plan states that there should be a vehicle-accessible trailhead and all-weather access routes through the Controlled Recreation Area (CRA) for both summer and winter use.
So, what is the holdup? Just do it!
The province has the power to change tenures at renewal, which I understand is this year for Whistler Blackcomb.
Is the government in WB's back pocket? This government has always made plain its desire to facilitate ski businesses, which (in turn) have a history of denying public access to public forest and park lands (Seymour, Cypress, Callaghan, Whistler Blackcomb) and taking over parkland (Depencier on Seymour, Strachan Mtn. at Cypress, Whistler and Blackcomb peaks, and Flute Mountain).
The Federation of Mountain Clubs was excluded from the latest meeting where the fait accompli was announced — no opening of the required road.
And Whistler Blackcomb expects support from the public against Garibaldi at Squamish, which would put a drivable road to the alpine usable by backcountry skiers?
Possible solutions: (1) bulldozing a temporary walking track up the six-metre mud cliff in the Whistler-side slump and (2) fencing the "bone yard" and opening the gate.
Time for some positive news
I was very worried about some work that was being done on the forestry road to Mosquito Lake. After the fire on Reid Road a couple of summers ago I wanted to make sure this work was being done in a safe and responsible way.
After at least four different phone calls to various ministries, I am happy to say that something very positive happened. All phone calls were returned (Forestry, Environment, Conservation and Highways). The phone call that surprised me the most, was from the gentleman that was hired to do the work. He asked if he could meet me to go over my concerns.
It was 4:30 p.m. and the light was fading and I did not know this person, so I suggested the next morning. Sure enough the next morning the phone rang and the contractor was up on the road above my house.
The other phone call that surprised me was from BC Hydro. This one was from the man who hires the people to do the work, he also wanted to set up a meeting. I met up with both men and went over my concerns. The road was in bad shape and the water run off was causing erosion.
With the recent mudslides, and my house being directly below the road and Mosquito Lake, I was more than a bit concerned. The two men both took my concerns very seriously.
The results of these meetings, were that the forestry road was completely rebuilt and drainage lines were put in. The road is now wider, pothole free and has tons of new fresh gravel and dirt, there are also drainage lines on the upper part of the path that leads us to the road!
There are now ditches for the water to run down, instead of the middle of the road. The two men and Dan White's machine operator went above and beyond! The road is in amazing shape and all the cleared forest has been removed.
I have been up numerous times since on my daily walks and the ditches are working wonderfully. Water is running in them instead of down the middle of the road. The erosion on the trail has stopped, as the water has been diverted
A big thank you to Dan White, the contractor and Chris Nunn from BC Hydro. So nice when people work together and something so positive is accomplished.
After Remembrance Day
This community continues to amaze. Last Wednesday at the Whistler Cenotaph (Nov. 11), the display of emotion, love and remembrance was overwhelming. Our visiting Armed Forces members were staggered by the community turnout and display of its collective appreciation for the forces service and for our veterans' sufferings.
The three poetry readings were beautifully read, wonderfully emotive and appreciatively received.
Thank you Whistler. Thank you for taking part in ever increasing numbers. Thank you for your support of our serving troops and the fallen. Thank you for showing that Whistler, as all Canadians do, recognize the loss, the suffering and the selflessness of our veterans; yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Without the help and guidance of so many this event would not run as well and as smoothly as it has done for many, many years.
Alison Hunter led the chorus in several beautiful songs. Thanks Alison and Dean for upgrading our sound system so all could hear and partake.
The RMOW roads crew, village crew, firefighters, mayor and council and Whistler transit efforts ensure all of the pieces come together seamlessly giving us a perfect environment and venue for us to remember.
Our great appreciation also to the Rotary Club of Whistler. As they always do, they did their usual exceptional duties in providing a hot cup and snack after the service.
We will remember them...
Whistler Service of Remembrance
Location, location, location
The mantra of the "realty world" can be applied to the Remembrance Day ceremony that has been held each Nov. 11 in Whistler in the south corner of the fire/police parking lot. Why is the ceremony held in a parking lot? Simply because the cenotaph was erected there years ago.
Brian Buchholz and his accompanying team of volunteers annually provide a moving, poignant and educational reminder of the need to remember, and again, this year's presentation exceeded those of the past. Thank you.
The community service clubs turn the confines of the fire hall into a convivial canteen to provide hot drink and cookies and a chance to say hello to seldom seen old friends, thank the Veterans, Brian, the piper, the bugler, those who made up the honour guard, fire fighters, police members, emergency services personnel, and Blackcomb Helicopters. Thank you all.
Watching that evening's news I observed coverage of record turnouts to observe Remembrance Day across the province and country.
I submit that the turnout in Whistler, irrespective of the ideal weather conditions on Wednesday, has not changed over the past number of years. I enjoy seeing the old guard but I seldom see returning young families or new ones. I ascribe this stagnant condition to the location of the cenotaph.
Two weeks prior to Remembrance Day I rode my bike over to see the cenotaph. The parking in the fire/police lot portioned by road barriers was full to overflowing and offered no easy access to this most meaningful of monuments. Backtracking out of the lot I rode around to the backside of the cenotaph adjacent to Village Gate Blvd. I was met by trees and shrubs and no indication that behind the greenery resides Whistler's cenotaph. You can see this by Googling. It seems that the location is to defy visitors and residents alike to find it.
Again this year's remembrance was hindered by lack of sight lines, and adequate sound in the parking lot setting. Those who were not in the front rows or those who are vertically challenged seemed to lose the focus of the moment.
Back to location. Whistler has an ideal location constructed to celebrate events of note. Especially, meaningful local events. I believe Remembrance Day trumps all.
Our cenotaph reminds me of a pair of old, but special shoes that I take out of the closet, buff them, wear them for that one special occasion and then return them to the closet, out of sight, out of mind for another year.
There is plentiful precedence for moving cenotaphs to more accommodating locations. A location that affords the opportunity to be most hospitable, accessible, visual and inviting to all without encumbrance.
I am asking Whistler's CAO and the mayor and council to take some of the funds allocated to events staged in Celebration Plaza and facilitate the moving of our cenotaph to the Plaza.
Locating the cenotaph in the Plaza certainly would increase the opportunity here in Whistler to remember.