Life in the mountains and binge drinking come with certain risks, but after the deaths of two young men in the woods in less than three months the RCMP is looking to take action.
"We're starting to look at engaging community stakeholders to come up with preventative measures that might help us avoid similar tragedies in the future," said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair on Tuesday.
The RCMP hosted one meeting with a mental health professional last week, and is looking to meet with stakeholders like bars and nightclubs, community services, Whistler Blackcomb and others to discuss programs to educate locals — especially men — about the dangers of drinking and walking home alone.
The RCMP, municipality and other resort partners recently teamed up to create a Walk Safe program to educate people about the dangers of walking on roads after dark, and to provide young people with reflectors that they can carry with them to make them more visible after dark.
LeClair doesn't know what form a safe drinking campaign would take, but it could be anything from educational materials at bars and nightclubs to a presentation during Whistler Welcome Week. "At this stage we'll go to the community stakeholders for ideas and to determine the level of engagement and participation we can expect."
Whistler Blackcomb already promotes a buddy system to help staff get home safely at night.
All employees get an orientation, and the 1,200 newcomers who live in staff housing around the resort get another orientation when they check in, which covers everything from making smart choices while partying, to budgeting, to the support services available in the community.
"This year's and last year's (orientations) have really been focused on the importance of having a drinking buddy," explained Joel Chevalier, the director of employee experience at Whistler Blackcomb. "What's really sad is that Dave (Christian, one of the men found in the woods) was one of the advocates for this, he participated and he was involved.
"That's the really difficult part for a lot of people. He was a responsible guy, and a really well-liked person who always made sure that everyone else got on the bus and got home safely."
Friends believe Christian may have gotten onto the wrong bus that night and wound up in the Benchlands instead of Staff Housing, then walked in the wrong direction.
There has also been a larger than usual focus on alcohol-free events at Whistler Blackcomb. Since November some 238 events have already been held, ranging from small events involving one floor of a residence to larger events like the Amazing Race-themed scavenger hunt held recently.
"I don't think the party scene will ever go away, but it seems to be more responsible now that it has been in years," said Chevalier. "There are always going to be people wanting to go out and have drinks, we all do it, but we want them to be as safe as they can be."