Opinion » Maxed Out

Sliding off track on sustainability


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All summer long, we run shuttles to Lost Lake. We do that because it's beautiful and there isn't much parking. People swim, picnic, walk with their dogs and children and marvel at the scenic, natural wonder of it all.

It's even better in winter.

How much fun would it be, how real would it be, to skate on Lost Lake? We already have a concession. Already have infrastructure. Already have staff. Big trees, lit trails, a nice place to build a warming bonfire — or be truly sustainable and let everyone watch iBurn on their phones. The ice is self-sustaining though the skating sucks when it rains, just as it will in WOP. True, we don't have a Dairy Queen within staggering distance but someone could start a maple taffy stand to provide a sugar fix.

But we won't do that. Why? Because we've lost our way. It's one of our Olympic legacies. Bigger, better, more artificial.

Like the Whistler Sliding Centre.

If we ever really want to walk the sustainable walk we need to get rid of the sliding centre. It is the apotheosis of unsustainability. It lives, breathes and eats unsustainable. Whether measured by the three legs of the sustainability stool or the four system conditions of the Natural Step, the sliding centre is a miserable, manifest failure, a monument to elitist, pointless sports.

It was and shall always be economically unsustainable. Its cost was unconscionable. It loses money every time it's fired up and it always will; no World Cup event will ever cover the costs of hosting, and no realistic volume of tourist rides will pay the bill.

It could easily be a poster child for environmental unsustainability. You want environmentally sustainable sliding, check out the bobsleigh run at St. Moritz.

And it has become socially unsustainable or, in Natural Step-speak, it is a condition that systemically undermines our capacity to meet our needs. This development completes the hat trick and is the best reason for Whistler to rise up and demand the damn thing be torn down, bulldozed or left to become a ruin on the side of Blackcomb Mountain.

The sliding centre has become a crippling financial drag on Whistler Sport Legacies. If we all clear the Olympic fog from our brain, we can almost remember the promises of well-funded legacies... in perpetuity. Perpetuity turned out to be about a year; that's how long it was before the province had to commit to spending $6.2 million of those pesky taxpayer dollars to keep WSL afloat.

So how is WSL going to manage going forward? Build baby, build. First, of course, it'll have to put the boots to a guy who's spent a lifetime making a real contribution to this town. Reminds me uncomfortably of the way Texas cattlemen cheated and muscled land-grant Chicanos out of their land in northern New Mexico.