I have been a regular visitor to Whistler for more than three decades. During that time, I have seen Whistler become the world's premier outdoor recreation destination. Sadly, however, one aspect of the region's recreational life has steadily deteriorated rather than improved - the hiking and backpacking trails.
During that time, despite the extraordinary growth in population and other recreational opportunities in the region, I can only think of a single new major alpine hiking trail constructed - the Stoltmann route from Elaho to Meager Creek which, while an amazing route, is difficult to access at both ends.
Garibaldi Park, which has long drawn the vast majority of hikers, has not had one new trail built in all those years. Even worse, some of the trails that used to exist are no longer accessible. Singing Pass was long one of the park's best hikes, but the closure of the 5 km access road has turned a pleasant day hike into an arduous slog (serving the interests of Intrawest, which charges hikers to ride the Whistler gondola to the alternative "Musical Bumps" trail).
The Brew Lake trail was cut off some years ago because it requires a short walk along the B.C. Rail line from Brandywine, which is now prohibited. And this summer we noticed that the access road to the beautiful Brandywine Meadows trail has been blocked, an enormous loss for hikers.
Perhaps the provincial government would argue there is no demand for new hiking trails and therefore it's not worth the expense to build new ones or maintain the existing ones. But tell that to the nearly 200 people my family and I greeted on a Sunday last month who were hiking up Paul Ridge as we hiked down from two nights at Elfin Lakes!
Along with downhill skiing, hiking and backpacking were the original activities that made Whistler one of the world's truly special places. It is a tragedy to reflect how, even as one has flourished, the other has been allowed to wither. The people of Whistler, and its many faithful visitors, deserve better.
This past weekend I had the privilege of attending both productions in Whistler's first Blank Slate festival at the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre. Firstly, I want to commend the cast and crew for their excellent work; I thoroughly enjoyed both plays. Each of them made me just slightly uncomfortable, which only enhanced their ability to provoke thought long after the play was finished.
The only real disappointment for me was that I was among such a very small group of people in attendance. I know there is a significant and vocal segment of our community who often lament the limited cultural events in Whistler, citing live theatre in particular. Where, I wondered, were all of these people last weekend. Interesting and edgy theatre in a beautiful venue at a reasonable price, and still such limited attendance.