Opinion » Alta States

Peering into WB's Future

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There's also an aesthetic to skiing... a fact that often escapes the more monetary-minded. You see, it's not just sliding down the hill that counts. It's the scenery, the ambiance, the unique perspectives that high-country travel provides — the fierce majesty of white-ringed peaks looming in the distance, the striking beauty of a suspended snowflake pierced by the rays of an early-morning sun, the sensual lines of a lone track weaving through a glade of storm-frosted firs. It's the feeling of being blessed for having the good fortune of finding yourself in the midst of all these wonders. And wanting to share that wonder with others. Skiing, in other words, is a lot more than "bums on chairlifts."

Still, it's the bums on chairlifts that pay the bills. For better or worse, the community's continued prosperity is still very much entwined in the financial viability of ol' Whistler Blackcomb. At least for the foreseeable future. Which is why I decided to download two massive PDF files from the BC Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resources Operation (now there's a governmental mouthful).

Produced by Whistler resort-design firm Ecosign, the two downloaded Master Plans are, in essence, the working blueprints for the future development of Whistler Mountain (on the one hand) and Blackcomb Mountain (on the other). At over 700 pages of text (combined) — replete with graphs and tables and numbers and stats and enough acronyms to make your head spin — it's seriously heavy sledding. But if you're curious about the future, it's worth the slog.

I know. I know. WB put on the full dog-and-pony show last week at the Chateau. An actual Open House with all the pictures and drawings and graphs and tables and numbers and stats you could ever want. They even had the "Big Wigs"out to answer questions. Fair enough — but I prefer trudging through the documents on my own and teasing out the plans' various narratives.

My conclusions? Frankly, I'm underwhelmed. Were these plans written in 1993, they might be considered lightly progressive. But this is 2013. A whole generation has come and gone since those heady days when people thought there'd be no limits to Whistler's growth. But now we know better. Most of us understand that bigger doesn't always mean more successful.

Most of us. Remember Eldon's ecotones? Well, if the B.C. government accepts WB's new Master Plans, they'll soon be pushing lifts out to the very edges (and possibly beyond!) their current boundaries with zero texture between their (inbounds) terrain and the (uncontrolled) terrain outside their borders.

Forget re-connecting with nature. Forget ecotones altogether. If these plans are approved, the WB ski experience is going to be hard-edged techno all the way.

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