Biggest news story in 2013:
WB's Crystal/Harmony Chair expansion
There's no doubt that Whistlerites are a bunch of news junkies (thanks for keeping us in business!). You want to know what's going on at all times and the reasons for it. We strive to keep the rumour mill accurate here at Pique. Top votes for best news story of the year by a long shot goes to WB's $18 million Crystal/Harmony Chair expansion. A great news story to be sure and one welcomed and embraced by the community. It's been a whirlwind year getting that work done and Pique has kept you up to date over the course of the project. And now it's time to enjoy the fruits of our labours, and WB's labours. See you at the Crystal Hut!
Well, he's done it again. For the second year running, Mike Douglas tops the list as our favourite local. "I guess I didn't cause too much trouble this year," he says. He puts it down to the fact that he was the face of the Whistler Chamber's spirit courses this year so he had direct contact with more than 1,000 potential Pique voters. But that's just Mike being modest, really. He is, perhaps more than any guy, the quintessential Whistler guy. That's what makes him our Favourite Whistlerite. That, and the fact that he's a nice, down-to-earth freeskiing legend turned regular dad. Douglas was just a kid from small-town Campbell River, B.C., who wanted something more, didn't want to conform to the norm, dreamed a little bigger than most, searched for an unconventional life. He found it in Whistler. Became a pro skier. Then "the godfather of freeskiing." Then found love. Had two kids. Started a film company — Switchback Entertainment. This past year he has spent working on a project close to his heart, his first feature length film. It's a documentary about his best friend who lived through a helicopter crash that should have killed him. Stay tuned to Pique for more on this soon. It promises to deliver.
Best decision by Whistler council in 2013:
Zero tax increases
This sums it all up. Of all the things council did or didn't do this year, there's no doubt what made people in Whistler happiest of all. Holding the line on taxes takes the cake as best council decision. This is perhaps good timing as council begins budget deliberations for 2014. It's the second year in a row there have been zero tax increases in Whistler. Will it be a three-peat for the last year of council's term? Only time will tell. In the meantime, there were other things pleasing constituents this year: lobbying the province for liquor reform and forming the May long weekend task force took second and third spots, but there were lots of kudos for a lot of different things. Shout outs went to: allowing the beer festival, opening Florence Petersen Park, free summer concerts and extending the library hours. There was a lot to applaud this year.
Poor decision making by Whistler council in 2013:
Staff wage increases
Council may have held the line at taxes but municipal staff wages went up this year in a four-year contract that spans from 2012-2015 with a 6.75 per cent salary increase. That comes on the heels of a four per cent increase in 2011, marking the end of a four-year deal that resulted in a 17.5 per cent cumulative raise from 2007. Pique readers call the last series of gradual raises over four years the worst decision of 2013. A close second was upping the fees of Meadow Park programs for non-residents, followed by approving the Official Community Plan, which then triggered a lawsuit from neighbouring First Nations. "How do I choose just one?!" wrote one reader. We're a tough audience, and no-one knows that more so than mayor and council!
All volunteers get a special shout-out in this new Best of Whistler category because Whistler just wouldn't be Whistler if not for the volunteers. They are what make this town tick whether it's the Village Hosts, or the Food Bank vollies, event volunteers, the parents that make the school events extra special, the sports coaches who keep our kids active. We could go on. But Pique readers have called out special volunteers this year. They are: the WAG volunteers. They are the people who make Whistler Animals Galore our special, wonderful animal sanctuary for cats and dogs. "It's been a busy and tough year for them," said Councillor John Grills, the council rep for WAG. "That's fantastic!" WAG took on a special project this year, finding homes for all the sled dogs left in the wake of a mass killing of the working dogs after the business they were part of began to fail. WAG volunteers pitch in with a helping hand where needed whether it's dog washing and walking, or organizing photos with Santa.
Best excuse for being late:
The 20cm rule
We know. We know. There's no excuse when Pique's late off the presses on Thursday morning! But sometimes, just sometimes, there's good reason not to be on time. And the best reason of all is the old 20 cm rule. Let's face it, sometimes it feels as though those days are few and far between. Best to drop everything and feel the single sweetest sensation on earth. Floating over some fresh powder is life changing — it makes you work a little harder, smile a little brighter, dream a little bigger, so much so that it's really easy to simply forget the time. Don't hang your head in shame as you explain your reason for ditching the early shift. Stand proud and proclaim: "I just couldn't help myself. It was epic." There are other jobs after all but you never know when you're going to get the next 20 centimetres of powder!
It simply can't be knocked from its Pique perch. Even with hundreds of new locals living in two vibrant new neighbourhoods — Rainbow and Cheakamus — nothing comes close to beating the old-school charm of Alpine Meadows, which takes best neighbourhood once again. Let's take a quick closer look at that charm — Alpine is home to the community's swimming pool and ice rink, there's a quaint café/market at the entrance, it's north of the village so you don't get caught in the weekend traffic snarl. There's the kids' waterpark and playground, the baseball diamonds, the Valley Trail, the mountain biking trails. It's one of the original neighbourhoods and it still feels that way. Alpine is Whistler.
Best new business:
It needs no introduction because we hear it every day broadcasting "from the soul of Function Junction." That's right. This new business made us all play our radios a little louder, Shazam new music, and made us feel a little cooler too this year. Best new business in Whistler goes to Whistler FM, which officially went live on April 1. You can find it on the dial at 101.5. "It's a thrill," says general manager Robert Wilson, upon hearing the news. "Amazing... It's been very turbulent but more positive than expected in every way." He called it a hope and a dream to deliver radio in the Whistler market — winning Best New Business is "such a nice Christmas present." But let's not forget honourable mentions in this category cause it's not easy starting out and we applaud all who have the guts to do it. Peaked Pies , that little taste of authentic Australia in the heart of the village, took second spot this year. And the Patagonia store took third. Congratulations to all for taking the risk and believing that Whistler would back you!
Best place to hang out in a blizzard:
Home sweet home
Whether it's on the couch, under the covers, in front of the fire, with a bottle of wine, or without, nothing quite beats home sweet home as the best place to hang out in a blizzard. That's not to say there weren't a fair share of votes from the more adventurous among us, who would rather be on the mountain. Most specifically, here's where Pique voters go in blizzard conditions on Whistler Blackcomb — Arthur's Choice, Khyber's, Seppos. Well, any tree run really. That's where you'll find a little shelter from the storm, and some awesome skiing while you're at it.
Best rainy day activity for families:
Meadow Park Sports Centre
"Pretend it's sunny and do everything you would normally," says one Pique reader. A good idea, in theory. In practice, however, there can be some challenges — wet grumpy kids quickly translate to wet grumpy parents. Don't get wet. Go to Meadow Park, the community's sports centre. That's where you can skate. You can swim. You can swim and skate. You can play squash. You can work out. You can enjoy a coffee and a snack. But wait, there's more!
Bounce , the indoor trampoline facility in Function Junction, took second spot for best rainy day hangout. It's fun for all ages. And after you've jumped out all that energy, check out the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre or Whistler Animals Galore , the local animal shelter, or the library or the museum . When all else fails — just go out and jump in the puddles.
Best place to take a visitor:
The mountains. Nothing can beat it, really. Some readers were specific — Blackcomb Glacier, Peak Chair, Crystal Hut, 7th Heaven. Others were more general — the alpine or top of the mountain. The Peak 2 Peak was specifically mentioned and takes second place after the mountains generally. It's hard to compete because we all have that special transcendental spot at Whistler Blackcomb, that place that puts everything in the world right again. You want visitors to know why you live in Whistler. Take them to the top and they'll soon realize.
Best Whistler trend:
It became part of the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary this year. In November it was announced as the "word of the year" by the Oxford English Dictionary, which gave the word an Australian origin. Say no more. That perhaps explains one of the reasons why "selfies" are Whistler's best trend in 2013. For those not in the know, a selfie is a type of self-portrait photograph, usually taken with a digital camera or a phone. Let's not dwell on what it says about us that the best local trend is taking photos of ourselves. Rather, let's embrace the trend and put "take more selfies" on our list of things to do in 2014.
Best free thing to do:
Hiking and walking
It's technically free to go hiking/walking, but that would belie the time and money poured into making Whistler one of the best places in the world to go hiking or walking. There's 40 km of paved Valley Trail or boardwalk from one end of Whistler to the other, linking all the neighbourhoods in a pedestrian-friendly network. It's arguably one of our best manmade assets. And it's free! Beyond the valley floor there's a growing and increasingly important network of hiking trails in our backyard. They're free too! Whether that's for snowshoeing in the winter, mountain biking or hiking in the summer, get out and enjoy. Your wallet will thank you for it.
Best tip for saving money in Whistler:
Admittedly it's hard to stay home with temptation knocking on the door, every night. 'Cause it's Whistler and there's always something to do, all the time; always a party, always an event, always a reason to go out. If you want to save that hard-earned cash you need to practice the delicate and difficult art of saying "no." Go for a walk on the Valley Trail instead!
Best photo op:
There's no shortage of photo ops in Whistler. Top choice goes to Whistler Blackcomb and the myriad of places on the mountains from Peak Chair to 7th Heaven to the Inukshuk to the top of Harmony Chair. It's hard to compete with a backdrop like the ones offered on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. The Olympic Rings in the heart of the village took a close second place and Black Tusk third.
Favourite Whistler myth:
Weather tall tales
We live and die by the weather in Whistler. Checking the Snow Phone is one of the first things we do upon waking up in the winter, watching the freezing level is another favourite pastime. We study the backcountry advisories, we pray to snow gods, we lament and moan, we rejoice and embrace. A fickle change in temperature can turn a wet miserable day into a winter wonderland playground. So it only makes sense that our favourite myths have to do with the weather. Such as: "it never rains", "it rains too much," "the sun never shines", "there's no ice on the trails", "it snows more on Blackcomb", "when it's cloudy in the village, it's cloudy on top." Stay here awhile, you'll get just as obsessed with the weather as we are and start making things up too.
Name one thing you would change about Whistler:
A shout out to all the voters who said "Nothing" or some variation thereof like "Nothing! It's my home, it's my life, and that's why I live here." But when you're not in the glass-is-always-half-full kind of mood, there's things that could be tweaked in our little piece of heaven on earth. Namely pay parking. It's not enough that the current council rolled back the decision of the past council and brought back free parking to Lots 4 and 5! Pique readers are not satisfied. Pay parking is still an issue. The cost of living/the cost of housing took second and third place which all goes to show — it's a pricey place to live and we don't like parting with our hard-earned cash.