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Lost in Whistler? Welcome Week helps newcomers find their way



He was 19 years old when he first arrived in Aspen – the ultimate town for any ski bum at that time.

He was in search of all those things that ski bums everywhere search out – good snow, good friends, good times and a job that let him ski as much as possible.

Now that former ski bum still loves to ski but he has other things to worry about as the mayor of the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

But Mayor Hugh O’Reilly still remembers what it was like to arrive fresh-faced in a new town full of expectations about the coming season, and just counting down the days for the snow to fall.

"I was them," he said simply of the hordes of seasonal workers who have descended on Whistler this year, just as they do every other year at this time.

That’s why Mayor O’Reilly will be just one of the hundreds of locals welcoming Whistler’s 2003-04 seasonal employees to the resort during the brand-new Whistler Welcome Week which runs from Nov. 10 to 15.

It was an idea spearheaded by Whistler Community Services Society.

"The key is to show the new people that there is a community in Whistler," said Tessa McLoughlin, a community outreach worker with WCSS.

"We want them to think beyond the ‘party town.’"

Whistler Welcome Week is designed to make newcomers feel like they’re a part of the resort community and let them know that Whistler would not be the world-class resort it is today without its seasonal workers.

In return, the hope is that if young people feel connected to the resort and an integral part of this community, they will be less likely to get into trouble during their time in Whistler.

"(Welcome Week) is designed mainly to make that community fabric," said McLoughlin.

There are many ways this will be done throughout the week.

One way to make connections and answer some of the questions is at the Livingroom Live event at Millennium Place on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

There newcomers can check out the volunteer fair which will have information about the Food Bank, the SAFE clinic, drug and alcohol counselling, among a host of community social services.

"The sad fact is that a lot of these people do require help at some point during their stay in Whistler," said Rob Schwartz, general manager of Maurice Young Millennium Place.

Eventually Schwartz would like to expand on the living room live concept at Millennium Place to make it a place where people can go to chill out as they kill time in the village. It could be a place to read the newspaper and check out the latest art exhibit.

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