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The Whistler (holiday) Experience explained

Family-friendly indoor activity centre returns for third season

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A Whistler Christmas is like no other; while most people go home for the holidays, people flock to this winter wonderland for the season, and it's easy to see why. On top of all the family-friendly outdoor recreation options, we also offer almost two weeks of free indoor activities to keep kids (and parents) occupied and warm, should the winter weather prove too harsh.

Sue Eckersley is the president of Watermark Communications, the company at the helm of events like the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Cornucopia and First Night, all popular events with Whistler's grown up crowd. But with the kiddie crowd, their most popular event has to be the annual Whistler Holiday Experience, which is held in the Whistler Conference Centre.

Watermark started the event back in 2007 as a family-friendly indoor option over the Christmas season.

"It was born out of necessity and a group of people just saying, 'well, let's make it happen,'" she explained.

"The final straw was the 2006 winter when it was rainy and CBC was up here interviewing people saying what a miserable time they were having here over Christmas," she recalled. "...This is the kind of event that can easily make sure that that doesn't happen."

After years of talking about the community's lack of an indoor space for families during the holidays, Eckersley pitched the idea to the municipality, volunteering the planning services and resources of her own company to get the event off the ground and using funds from the RMOW to foot the bill.

Now entering its third year, Watermark will finally be paid for its role in organizing and running the Whistler Holiday Experience.

"Really, it's gotten to a point where it's become significantly more work and its established itself as a valuable asset of the community."

The Whistler Holiday Experience is a chance for everyone to get a reprieve from the elements and let the kids run around (under parental supervision, of course). Watermark fills the entire top level of the conference centre with video games, foosball and air hockey for the older kids, a mini putt course, which draws everyone from tiny tots to senior citizens, a bouncey land section for kids 12 and under, and many more activities. There's even a café and lounge area for parents to have a coffee or cocoa and keep an eye on the kids.

"Because it's not a 'drop and shop' area," Eckersley adds. "We're not there as child minders, we're there to ensure the safety of people and that's what the staff's responsibility is."

The event kicks off on Friday, Dec. 18 at 10 a.m., and Santa is visiting Saturday and Sunday between noon and 4 p.m. Coast Mountain Photography will be offering pictures with the big guy himself. And this year Santa will be bringing some special, furry friends to the official grand opening on Saturday.

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