By Alison Taylor
The study, which highlighted the Brandywine area as a possible site for a Whistler airport, is on the shelf for the time being.
Instead, two Whistler representatives will sit on the board of the Pemberton Valley Airport Authority, which will help develop a strategic business plan for the small airport.
“Because there already is a Pemberton airport in place today, the opportunity to expand upon that certainly is a more realistic opportunity in the short- to mid-term than creating a Whistler airport from scratch,” said Tourism Whistler President Barrett Fisher.
Fisher is one of the Whistler representatives on the PVAA, along with Diane Mombourquette, the municipality’s general manager of economic enhancement. They were chosen in early 2007. The new board of the PVAA has not yet met.
So while there is the potential for an airport within Whistler, those plans are on the backburner for the time being.
“We truly believe that we only need one airport in the region,” said Fisher on behalf of Tourism Whistler’s board of directors. “And so if Pemberton is serious in proceeding, as they have committed that they are, then we’re certainly prepared to go down that route first. If at some point that Pemberton chose to back away from an airport then we certainly now know that there is an opportunity for a Whistler airport and that opportunity could be further investigated.”
Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb jointly funded the Whistler airport study in 2005 after the council of the day balked at the suggestion of spending $20,000 on a feasibility study.
The idea of building an airport came after several years of a flattening or declining resort economy.
Tourism Whistler’s research shows a regional airport would bring more visitors to the resort, particularly those guests who are choosing not to come now because of the travel time.
And though a Whistler airport isn’t on any work plan, Fisher said the study which showed the Brandywine potential was not in vain.
“I think it was important to undertake that study because we need to understand what our transportation options are looking forward,” she said.
The PVAA received a $100,000 grant from the province recently to create its business plan.
In addition to the Whistler representation, the nine-member PVAA board is made up of two members from Pemberton council, two members from First Nations, one from the regional district, one from Tourism Pemberton and one member-at-large.