The annual migration of seasonal employees to Whistler is underway, as thousands of newcomers arrive with their bags of luggage and set about finding places to live, jobs and friends to share the season with. It can take some time to find your bearings, and even longer to realize that there's a vibrant, fun and supportive community behind all the hotels and stores.
To help newcomers get into the swing of things quicker, the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) has been hosting Welcome Week since 2003. This year's Welcome Week runs from Nov. 15 to 20.
"It definitely has grown," said Claire Mozes, who is helping to coordinate the week through WCSS. "We're seeing a lot more interest and people are approaching us to ask how they can get involved this year.
"It's an event to welcome new people to town, first and foremost - and to provide them with some cheap entertainment and food to get settled in, and not break their budgets in the first week. More important, it's a chance to connect to locals and see the community that's here, so they will realize how Whistler can be their home, even if they're only here for six months - and really get into the spirit of being here."
Welcome Week is also an opportunity to get information into the hands of newcomers, such as where to go for drug and alcohol issues and the affordability and support programs that are in place.
WCSS welcomes any sponsorship or support for the event and is still recruiting table hosts for the annual Welcome Week Dinner. Local chefs are volunteering their time to prepare meals for newcomers with food provided by the WCSS. Long-term residents are asked to host tables for the evening. Each table will have two locals (or more, if families take part) and up to six newcomers.
"The idea is just to get them oriented to Whistler, answer questions, let them know where to get groceries, where to get their skis tuned," said Mozes. "Hopefully this helps the newcomers get settled in a little more quickly and they will have a happier and healthier time in Whistler."
The week's schedule includes:
Monday, Nov. 15
The first welcome events kick off on Monday with a pancake breakfast and fundraiser at the Whistler Fire Hall (corner of Blackcomb Way and Village Gate Boulevard) sponsored by Whistler's Millennium Rotary group. Donations from the event will go towards the cost of other Welcome Week events.
The grills will be fired up from 10 a.m. to noon. A plate of pancakes and juice is priced at $3.
From 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Neoalpine Yoga will be offering a free class in the Whistler Conference Centre foyer.
That evening there will be a premiere of the local ski movie Out of the Shadows by Dendrite Studios. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. at the Rainbow Theatre, and the screening starts at 7 p.m. The price is $3.
Tuesday, Nov. 16
The day opens with a complimentary Neoalpine Yoga class from noon to 1 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre.
There will be a scavenger hunt and barbecue getting underway at Whistler Blackcomb Staff Housing at 2 p.m., where participants will find their way to various useful places around town.
From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. there will be a Whistler Volunteer Fair - the first ever - at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, hosted by the Whistler Museum and the Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) animal shelter.
From 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. there will be a Rent it Right Workshop for landlords and tenants at the Whistler Conference Centre, starting with a Kitchen Demo (baking bannock) from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 17
Neoalpine will be offering its complimentary class from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre.
The Jill Ackhurst Community Welcome Dinner takes place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre for $5. There will be presentations and entertainment throughout the night, as well as an opportunity for newcomers to ask locals any questions they might have about Whistler.
Thursday, Nov. 18
The first Level 1 Spirit Session, hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, will take place from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Rainbow Theatre. Spirit Sessions are mandatory to qualify for a reduced price Spirit Pass for Whistler Blackcomb, as well as a discounted pass for cross-country skiing at Lost Lake.
Neoalpline Yoga will be offering a class from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Whistler Conference Centre.
That evening is the Stand Up for Mental Health Comedy Night at Rainbow Theatre. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the cost is $3 per person.
Friday, Nov. 19
The annual Moist pool party runs from 9 p.m. to midnight at Meadow Park Sports Centre, and is hosted by LUNA Whistler. The cost is $3 for LUNA members and $5 for non-members.
The theme for this year's event is Greek Gods and Goddesses, with pool-side snacks by Kypriaki Restaurant.
Saturday, Nov. 20
The Community Life Open House event includes free admission to Meadow Park Sports Centre all day, with information on the types of programs available.
Feeding the Spirit takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Whistler Museum. This is an exhibit about Whistler's Olympic history, dating back to the first bid to host the Winter Games in 1968.