World Cup Legacy Forest lives on Whistler/Blackcomb to run with idea, create enviro centre By Chris Woodall What started as local Whistlerite Maxine Druker's idea to ease the impact of ski development on the local environment and to provide a lasting legacy of Whistler's World Cups, the World Cup Forest has grabbed the imagination of Whistler/Blackcomb. About 1,000 trees were planted last May from donations out of the 1996 Hongkong Bank Whistler Ski Classic event. Up to 6,000 more trees are to be planted this coming May, including one tree for each of the 98 skiers participating at this year's World Cup races. "We want to take this to a higher level," says John Evdokimoff, Whistler/Blackcomb manager of planning and development. To that end, the mountain has committed $500,000 to tree planting and building an environmental interpretive centre that will also act as a focal point for green season hiking and mountain biking, and for white season snowshoeing and other non-ski activities. But during Festival Week, the World Cup Forest will have a booth to widen knowledge of the program, accept donations to plant trees, and have a Yule log for special wish making for snow or a race favourite. The forest strives to have a definite First Nations element. Totems and a First Nations-themed display could be part of the environmental centre for the forest. During this weekend’s festival, the 10 dancers from Squamish Nation Sea-going Society will perform at the Saturday bib draw, and program partner Tree Canada Foundation will give Roots Canada an award for funding the ambassador program that brought a group of youth to Whistler to help plant last year's crop of trees. But more than just planting trees to protect mountainside slopes or stream beds, as was the original plan, Whistler/Blackcomb plans to set aside a whole working forest near the Olympic Station Benchlands on Whistler Mountain with trails that loop back to the environmental centre. The centre would act as a sort of staging area for long or short walks, Evdokimoff says. Learning benches and signage would help walkers think about their forest and their part in it. The log building environmental centre would embrace a First Nations theme with totem poles and other traditional carving, and a trading post theme. "There could also be a general Pacific North-West theme, we haven't decided," Evdokimoff says. Nearby would also be a demo centre where visitors can try the latest in mountain bikes or snowshoes and cross-country skis, depending on the season. "We'd like it to be a kind of interactive interpretive destination area that can facilitate that shoulder-season thing, too," Evdokimoff says. To that end, sawmill equipment could be strewn through the park that hikers and bikers can walk over or around, including an old tugboat plunked crazily on the mountain. Tree planting would go on to rejuvenate the area, Evdokimoff says, to replace leafy trees that grew in the forest after it was logged in the 1950s with conifers (pine trees). The new effort is part of plans to double the size of the mountain bike park, Evdokimoff says. Work starts in earnest on May.