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Whistler holds Welcome Week for newcomers

First week of November gives seasonal workers a glimpse of community life



Every year hordes of young adults descend on Whistler ready for a season filled with powder runs, fast friends and endless nights of partying.

Underneath the resort’s hedonistic exterior, however, there’s a strong community of families, business owners, wizened ski bums and long-term residents who call this place home.

The two groups would at first glance appear to be at odds – transient workers are looking for a good time, not a long time, and the permanent community wants a safe and healthy environment.

To strengthen the ties between them, Whistler Community Services Society dedicates one week every year to welcome newcomers, aptly named Whistler Welcome Week. This year it will run from Nov. 1 to 7.

"Welcome Week reminds them that we’re a small, connected community and everyone’s success depends on everyone else’s," said Youth Outreach Worker Greg MacDonnell.

This year’s events, which are all offered for $2, include a pancake brunch at the firehall, a DJ pool party at Meadow Park, a job fair and a Scavenger Hunt.

The events are designed not only to welcome newcomers and give them a chance to meet people but also to learn more about the social services offered in Whistler and give them a glimpse of the community behind the resort. All events are alcohol free.

"It gives them a healthy alternative," said Whistler’s second Youth Outreach Worker Claire Mozes.

The crowning night of the week is undoubtedly the Jill Ackhurst Community Welcome Dinner where permanent residents host tables for seasonal employees over a $2 meal.

Resident Marnie Simon has hosted a table at the dinner for the past two years, not only to honour the memory of her friend Jill Ackhurst but also because it’s a fun, friendly evening.

"It was a very nice experience," recalled Simon. "We sat at a table together. We ate food together. It gave us an opportunity to talk about all the nice things that happen in our community and answer questions about things that the young people want to find out about.

"It is a great way to feel proud about your community and share with strangers coming into the town."

She plans to have dinner with newcomers again on Saturday, Nov. 5 and she encourages others to do the same, regardless of age or occupation.

"The underlying reason for this whole week happening is to try and integrate the new people coming into town to work and make them feel welcome, but also break down some of the barriers between the permanent community and the transient community and be more open and friendly and welcoming than we’ve been in the past," said Simon. "Hopefully by being that way the transient folks will be more likely to respect the things that we value in our community and have a better experience."

Tickets for the dinner can be bought in advance at the Employment Centre in the Visitor Information Centre or at Sammy’s Snacks in Whistler-Blackcomb’s staff housing.

Mozes encourages newcomers to buy tickets as soon as possible. The dinner was sold out last year. Volunteers can sign up by calling Mozes at 604-902-0670.

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