Opinion » Editorial

Preparing for the rain...rejoicing in the snow



"There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing."

~ Alfred Wainwright

After an amazingly snowy start to the season it's hard not to let the current valley rainstorms nag us into fretting about all the what-ifs around weather worries.

The last 10 days of rain in the valley have left most of us looking forward with an eager eye to the promised drop in temperature and fresh powder that is sure to come with it in the coming days.

But the future hopes aren't much help when houseguests are here now, and I've been left scratching my head about how to keep them entertained in a town built for outdoor adventure.

There are things to do for sure — the new Escape! Whistler is awesome, so is climbing at the Core, and we have a great rec centre at Meadow Park, Bounce indoor trampolines, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, indoor tennis and a movie theatre too. That's a pretty good list for a ski town.

(And let's not forget that old saying about there being no bad weather — only bad clothing!!)

Some ski towns have water parks too — there are at least 12 in North America.

Last year, and in 2014, Whistler was buzzing with speculation that it might get a waterpark.

Two years ago there was discussion at the Tourism Whistler board table about attracting a waterpark.

The Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI) report, which is a blueprint for growing the resort community economy, building confidence in it and encouraging reinvestment in Whistler has weatherproofing as one of its key strategies. There was even a weather-proofing committee formed, but it has since disbanded. And with all the snow this year, it's hard to see why we need one.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was on board in 2014 with the waterpark idea telling Pique at the time, "... it is time to look at other opportunities."

And Whistler Blackcomb liked the idea pointing out that it is working all the time to improve the Whistler product — the Peak 2 Peak, for example, the $18 million in improvements made on the mountain in the last few years, the upgrade to Rendezvous Lodge this past summer and an announcement this week that a further $8 million will be spent on enhancing the learning areas on Whistler, major upgrades to Roundhouse Lodge deck and Garibaldi Lift Company patio as well as improvements to summer hiking trails.

Discussions on the waterpark appeared to have stalled, though weatherproofing the resort is, of course, taking on more urgency as climate change looms in the future.

I would argue this might be something to act on quickly. Not some Disney version, but a waterpark that represents Whistler and our vision.

Last December we heard that Great Wolf Lodge, the largest waterpark operator in the world, is considering building in Squamish to the tune of $150 million (according to the operator, the waterpark uses 565,000 gallons, less than an Olympic-sized pool of water, to fill).

This is a destination in and of itself, but I can just imagine a family with restless kids checking out of their Whistler accommodation early to go stay there instead to avoid wet weather here in the resort.

Great Wolf does not have any in-and-out privileges at its current locations across North America of which there are 14, so it is unlikely they would introduce it here.

But would an operator of that size consider building a day-play waterpark close by, say in Whistler, if all its builders, experts and equipment are already in the area? Hmmm. After all, this might even capture all the corridor residents interested in a daily drop who are shut out of its destination resort.

Whistler has been packed so far this winter and that is something to celebrate. But the sheer number of visitors also means that thousands are looking around for activities to enjoy when not on the slopes.

The 2015-16 Whistler Experience entertained 12,339 guests — that's up from 12,125 people last year, while outdoor skating at the Plaza brought in $36,858 between Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 and Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. The previous year that number was $37,856 — the higher number likely a reflection of the poor skiing at the time.

Introducing a shuttle system to Whistler Olympic Park so families can enjoy all the offerings out there is an excellent idea as was building the snow play area at Olympic Plaza.

And sometimes it can be even simpler — have board games available at eateries and coffee shops around town, publicizing all the rainy-day activities there are in town.

But let's be honest — wouldn't it be great to have a "Whistler-style" waterpark?