While G.D. Maxwell is away, the mice will play! I have been reading and pondering my position on the topics all near and dear to us in Whistler and with Max's absence, now is my chance to share.
He has done an excellent job (in his Maxed Out column) over the past two weeks of framing the issues which possess, no, obsess all conversations in this town and which have done so for the past two years. I speak of housing, affordability and visitor numbers.
Columnists, residents, politicians and now would-be politicians have looked at these issues from every angle, argued exhaustively, hypothesized on solutions and ultimately come up with nothing executable that can save us all. In fact, it's all becoming rather divisive on class, origin and role in the community.
This is starting to feel like the climate debate: though the problem is very clear, the solution is well out of reach. I would like to say I have the solution and it has been right under our noses for the past five years. It is Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS). Now before you write this idea off, allow me to explain it's impact on each hot-button topic and then feel free to cast your judgement:1) Land values in Whistler are too high and out of reach of the citizenry. A December 2016 letter from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) to the provincial government of the time stated the SLRD disagreed with GAS and wanted to "direct development to existing communities" in the valley.
The word from the three existing communities in the valley is the price of housing is already way out of reach of the locals! Our municipal governments, of which the SLRD is one, are speaking out of both sides of their mouths by now stating housing is not affordable for those people who live and work here — while also saying they want more development. The answer is GAS. A development with 22,000 bed units, 10 per cent of which are ear-marked for employees, would provide ample relief to the supply problem in the corridor. 2) There is too much day traffic coming from Vancouver. Just as the Sea to Sky Gondola has drawn a number of visitors away from Whistler, the magnetism of a new mega-resort would reduce the number of day-visits to Whistler tremendously. No longer would it take 20 minutes to get from Function Junction to Creekside on busy weekends.
Pollution would go way down. Parking issues in the village — gone. Rowdy Lower Mainland kids on long weekends would be off to somewhere new.
The people who would be drawn to Whistler would be destination-seekers. Those are the ones that make this town magical!3) Lift lines are getting crazy as a result of Vail Resorts' marketing machine. Like all hard-working Canadians, we should all be looking forward to the weekend, but I've grown to dislike Saturdays.
From late December to March, Saturdays on Whistler Blackcomb (WB) now belong to the masses and ski-school classes. Very few of us can change the work week, so something needs to give.
Again, GAS to the rescue. Brohm Ridge, Mount Garibaldi and Atwell Peak will attract good skiers. The terrain is challenging and lift access will do what the Peak Chair did to Whistler — open up an alpine playground. That playground is probably going to draw 40 per cent of the day skiers off Whistler Blackcomb's lifts, which will again make Saturdays fun again. 4) Everything is too expensive in Whistler. The price of food is going up on the mountain. It is hard to get a table in the village. Commercial rents are too high and businesses are closing.
Four thousand full-time workers at GAS would provide a tremendous volume of goods and services to the market. This competition would be beneficial for Whistler where prices would have to moderate and service would have to remain the same or even improve.
Though we have no power over demand, supply can be the solution to high prices. 5) Workers have difficulty finding housing and what do we do when we reach the bedcap? When GAS goes through, the answer is "nothing"... because the question goes away.
Demand for housing would fall sufficiently then maybe we would reach equilibrium and not have to legislate our destiny. GAS needs 4,000 workers. Housing would be available to half of those people. Many of the workers would come from Whistler so demand for housing would drop here.
6) Employers are not paying a living wage. With GAS this becomes a little easier by reducing living costs for employees. It also provides more competition, which would draw income away from landlords and business owners and redirect it to the workers. 7) There are too many non-residents/speculators/foreign buyers in Whistler. By opening up a resort within an hour's drive of YVR, the same land rush we saw in Whistler during the glory days would happen at GAS.
Many of the investors in Whistler would cash out and move their resources from a house here into four or five bare lots down there. This would be good for transaction taxation and free up many empty homes in Whistler while keeping the investors happy and the money flowing. 8) The Whistler of old is dead — it has lost its magic. With age, we all lose our edge and good looks, however, we gain insight and wisdom.
Whistler, too, needs to go through this transition, as resorts in Europe did half a century ago, but this cannot happen when things are busting at the seams. No one ages gracefully when they are going flat out and are exhausted.
Letting a youngster down the road pull the weight for a little while would give us time to rethink, regroup and reinvent. Competition is healthy. 9) The RWOW is spending money on unnecessary ventures. The current mayor and council have cleaned up the problems they inherited almost two terms ago.
A number of new problems have arisen but elected officials are not miracle workers — they cannot fix everything.
Politicians need an adversary to preoccupy them because idle hands do the devil's work! I'm certainly not classifying the new soccer pitch as the devil's work, but you get my point. A 22,000-bed Goliath 30 minutes down the road would keep those folks at municipal hall preoccupied on an outside issue. 10) The glaciers are melting due to global warming. Despite WB's efforts to idle less and use a few electric snowmobiles, the truth is the pollution caused by the thousands of daily commuter trips up and down the Sea to Sky dwarfs any of their environmental efforts.
The only way to reduce our footprint is to actually reduce our footprint! Let's keep the day-trippers closer to their residences and focus on mass transit for our foreign guests.
That will do way more for the planet than the cursory measures being kicked around now. So there it is. I was once a detractor and naysayer of GAS, but after careful reflection, I see it as our saviour.
After seeing my logic, hopefully you too view GAS as the answer to our problems — and not just another one.
SAR to the rescue
I have lived in Whistler for 40 years and have always managed to get myself home after a minor accident on the mountain or in the backcountry.
Last week, an unforeseeable and unfortunate incident happened. It started out as a beautiful, cool, crisp fall day when a friend and I decided to ride our bikes to Cheakamus Lake. We made it to Singing Creek, the end of the trail, without incident. I got off my bike to explore the other side of the creek. While attempting to cross the stream, I slipped and fractured my knee cap.
I was seven kilometres from the parking lot, unable to stand and soaking wet. This could have been a very serious situation.
Two nice couples, one from Coquitlam and one from Australia, called 911 and lent me clothing to keep me warm. Within 40 minutes, Whistler Search and Rescue had dispatched a helicopter to my rescue.
When I saw Wayne Flann and two other dedicated volunteers emerge from the chopper, I knew I was in good hands. They quickly stabilized my leg and got me safely to the Whistler Health Care Centre, where the staff took great care of relieving my pain and preparing everything for the inevitable surgery that was to come.
I want to thank the nice couples that kept me comfortable while waiting to be rescued, my friend Wayne Flann and all the dedicated volunteers at Search and Rescue, the great pilot from Blackcomb Helicopters, the staff at the healthcare centre, Boyd and Lorraine Volmer for rescuing my bike and caring for me as I recuperate and finally Dale who is the most reliable friend one could have in a crisis.
(P.S. Always go prepared as to not tax unnecessarily search-and-rescue resources, so that when you really need them they can be there for you.)
The snowball effect
I found a reference to Pique's editorials in Allen Best's Mountain Town News. "The challenge now is working to find a balance...," it stated. (Pique Newsmagazine, Sept. 21).
Unfortunately, the "balance" is always in favour of increasing business. I've see 40 years of affordable housing built in the Roaring Fork Valley. Gee, we still don't have enough.
The reason? Affordable housing creates a need for more of the same. There are many factors, but new housing always "greenlights" more development. Developers never deal with their externalities such as public services.
As other segments grow a snowball effect occurs.
Not only are the local conditions thrown "out of balance," but in the bigger picture our human race's lack of restraint (greed?) has created global warming.
Whistler apparently has a cap on the number of visitor beds. That is a good thought; just not enough.
British Columbia has been a leader in things like carbon taxes and water conservation. Maybe that ethos could be extended to controlling development and, of course, population.
Tax fairness important
Tax fairness could also be created by lowering taxes. Crazy thought for some, but maybe some people are unfairly over-taxed and these rates should be lowered to create fairness.
Hopefully no one in the current government choked on their lunch with the thought. This has not even been mentioned due to the spending frenzy with the feds punch-drunk on 20 or 30 (who knows?) billion dollars in annual overspending for years to come.
Skate jam thanks
There were big tricks and cool flips at last weekend's skate jam.
Skateboarders from age seven to their mid 30s (competed). There were free hot dogs, big crowds, and lots of cool prizes.
Truth Smith and Simon Dunand took the overall spots each winning more than $100.
Thanks to Showcase for putting on such a great event.
Many thanks from Whistler BMX
As the BMX season winds down on our second year of action, Whistler BMX (WBMX) has many thanks to share.
Firstly, thank you to: the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation; American Friends of Whistler; Gibbons Hospitality; RONA; and many more private donors plus countless volunteers who helped build the BMX track. Thank you to the Resort Municipality of Whistler for providing the space to build and operate the track.
Thank you to the volunteers who made the 2017 season a success. This includes the track worker bees, as well as the front-of-house event and club registration folk and our Cheakamus Crossing neighbours.
Thanks too to our partner clubs in the Sea to Sky corridor, in particular Pemberton BMX and Squamish BMX. As a new club, WBMX is thin on volunteers to host events and leaning on our neighbours has been essential. I hope it is not long before we can grow our membership and return the favour.
Thanks is also offered to Vail Resorts-Whistler Blackcomb and their Epic Promise Day volunteers for their work on the track earlier this month. Their efforts helped buff the track, providing truly fabulous conditions for the Sea 2 Sky BMX Series Final this past weekend. And speaking of the Sea to Sky Series... thanks to event sponsors Skytech Yarding and Dream Wizards for making the inaugural year of the Sea 2 Sky BMX Series a huge success.
BMX participants and their families also deserve a round of thanks. Those smiling faces and shouts of joy make it all so worthwhile.
The track, Club and racing cannot exist without your help, so please consider attending to help build the Club. Many thanks to all.
Whistler BMX Board of Directors
Hear and Now thanks
Thank you to everyone who came out to Arts Whistler's Hear and Now Music Festival Sept. 23 and 24.
Now in its second year, Hear and Now: Whistler's Local Music Festival celebrates Whistler's thriving local music scene with two days packed with rising stars, local favourites, and awesome Sea-to-Sky talent.
The level of local support and enthusiasm inspired us. Residents and visitors alike came out to discover new music, engage in local flavour, and local fun. The Hear and Now Festival affords the opportunity for bands who often play covers on the bar circuit to share their original music with an enthusiastic and engaged audience.
Eighteen awesome acts showcased a fantastic diversity of musical styles, from alt-folk to a contemporary take on traditional First Nations songs to good old-fashioned rock and roll performed by impressive 12 year-olds.
We are thrilled that so many Whistler residents stopped by to tell us how much fun they were having and how lucky we all are to have so much talent here in the Sea to Sky.
We appreciate the support from everyone who came out — especially those locals who seriously got their dance on — you know who you are!
We encourage you to keep on supporting our local musicians. They are all rising stars so you might just be able to say "I knew them when..."
Executive Director, Arts Whistler