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The 2005 Alpie Awards

Whistler Naturalists

In celebration of national Parks Day on July 16 th , the Whistler Naturalists present the first annual Alpies (named for our alpine parks, not the dog food).

Best Extreme Make-Over : Western anemone confuses alpine hikers each year with its almost instant transformation from a demure white flower at the edge of receding snowbanks to a shock-haired seedhead. You be the judge of whether the makeover is an improvement.

Best Impersonation of a Couch Potato : We’ve all had roommates or even spouses who melt into their couches, seemingly for weeks at a time. They’ve got nothing on marmots who hibernate each winter for seven or more months straight. After working so hard to pack on the fat during the brief alpine summer, who could blame them? (The marmots, that is.)

Best Corporate Merger . If you think the Whistler-Blackcomb merger of 1997 was big, you should have been here for the first one. According to Jack Souther, Blackcomb was once a mass of hot rock deep in the earth’s crust, while Whistler formed somewhere in what’s now the Pacific Ocean. Some 60 million years ago, tectonic movement brought the two together.

Evidence of the first merger includes the different rocks found on Blackcomb (granitic) and Whistler (marine sedimentary and volcanic), and the fault along Fitzsimmons Creek Valley. Rumour has it some crotchety mountain staff on both sides regret plate tectonics couldn’t work in reverse.

Best Impersonation of a Green Vegetable : Tree ID not your strength? Here’s a quick way to identify one species. Next time you’re riding a chairlift near treeline, look for a tree whose outline looks remarkably similar to a giant broccoli. It will be a whitebark pine, one of 17 different tree species in Whistler. (Not that you’d know from the real-estate ads that recycle the phrase "Nestled among majestic pines…" The trees surrounding most Whistler real estate may be majestic, but they’re seldom pines.)

Best Neighbour : Garibaldi Park. With all the ATVs and Hummers and dirt bikes and four-star hotels and unreality of living in our tiny perfect mountain town, it sure is nice to know we have almost 200,000 hectares of Garibaldi Park wilderness bounding us all along our eastern border. How many neighbours are so unassumingly spectacular?

Best Use of a Shoestring: Over 12 per cent of B.C.’s area is protected in parks. Total budget to maintain and operate them? $30 million, or approximately one-tenth of one per cent of the total B.C. Government spending for 2005. No wonder it’s hard to find a park ranger, or why interpretive programs don’t exist except where volunteer naturalists have stepped forward.

Best Thing to do on Parks Day : On July 16 th , get outside and join Canadians as they celebrate parks from coast to coast to coast (see www.parksday.ca ). Whistler is incredibly blessed with lots of provincial parks to choose from. Favourite accesses to Garibaldi Park include Cheakamus Lake, Singing Pass, and Wedgemount. Plus, there’s Callaghan Lake Park high on the other side of the valley and, lower down, Brandywine Falls and Nairn Falls. See you out there.

Upcoming Events:

Parks Day on Blackcomb and Decker Mountains, Saturday, July 16 th , 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Celebrate Canada’s Parks Day with the Whistler Naturalists. This moderately strenuous hike will go from the Rendezvous on Blackcomb out to Decker Mountain. Meet at the base of the Wizard chairlift at 9:45 a.m. sharp. There are a very limited number of lift tickets (courtesy of Whistler-Blackcomb) available to members of the Whistler Naturalists. Please note winter staff passes do not work on Blackcomb. For information, contact Bob Brett (604-932-8900; Bob@SnowlineResearch.ca).

Mt Kobau Star Party, near Osoyoos, July 30th to Aug. 7th.

Join several hundred astronomy enthusiasts, including some from the Whistler Astronomy Club, at this spectacular site overlooking the Okanagan Valley, just outside of Osoyoos. At an elevation of 1,860 metres, Mt. Kobau is ideal for dusk to dawn astronomy. For more information go to http://www.mksp.ca/

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