The Whistler Holiday Experience is turning six this Friday, Dec. 21, and while it won't be radically different than in past years the event is growing in a lot of small ways that regulars might notice.
Sue Eckersley, who produces the event for Watermark Communications, said they have continued to invest in the event every year to make it a little bigger and better the next year. This year the main investment was in tables — two new pool tables and five other gaming tables running the gamut from foosball to air hockey that will fill that section of the Whistler Conference Centre. There are also new televisions and there will be three video game consoles set up with family-friendly games.
The bouncy castle room will be much the same as past years, although Eckersley said they would be investing in a major piece for next year. As an amenity, she said the event has proven its worth.
"It just seems like it's become a staple, and there aren't too many people out there now who don't know about it," she said. "We hear of calls to making bookings where people say they chose Whistler over other destinations because they know tis place exists to give younger kids a place to run around at the end of a ski day. People tell other people, and locals tell their friends and guests about it."
They do track numbers, but with three entrances and only one person with a clipboard the numbers aren't exact. Still, Eckersley said numbers in 2011-2012 were up 15 to 20 per cent over the previous year on a daily basis compared to the previous year, whem the average was 1,000 users per day.
The complete set-up includes a café with family-friendly food and hot chocolate, a portable mini golf course, the bouncy castle room and the teen room with the gaming tables. There are also areas where kids can participate in arts and crafts, which Eckersley said would be increased this year.
"We kind of threw a few things together last year and they went really well, so the plan is to make more of a dedicated effort in the craft world," said Eckersley. "Most of these will be free, but there will be a few where people will have to pay for some of the materials while making a nominal donation to charity."
This Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Santa will arrive on the Whistler Fire Department's vintage truck after a short parade and will be available to meet kids and take photos from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. You can take your own photos, although there will be an opportunity to get a professionally-taken photo and get a printout on site for a $10 donation to WAG, Whistler's animal shelter.
There will be additional live shows through the period that the Whistler Holiday Experience is open, including a dance performance by the Vibe Dance Centre on Saturday and Sunday night (see related story pg.102).
The conference centre will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, although it will close on New Year's Eve to prepare for the Whistler Presents: New Year's Eve Celebrations, including a teen dance. It will reopen at 1 p.m. on New Year's Day. The Holiday Experience will run through Jan. 6 to match the school break
A detailed schedule of live shows and arts and crafts will be posted at the Whistler Holiday Experience once it's open to the public.
In keeping with the celebration of the holidays Whistler Blackcomb will also be running its annual Dress Like Santa Day on Saturday Dec.22 with a free lift ticket awarded to the first 75 skiers and riders who check in at the Garibaldi Lift Company at the base of Whistler Mountain in their very best Santa or Mrs. Claus costume.
The costume must include red or black pants or a skirt for Mrs. Claus, a red jacket with white trim, a black belt, a beard for Santa, and of course, a Santa or Mrs. Claus hat. The meeting time for all Santa and Mrs. Claus participants is 8 a.m. on the patio of the Garibaldi Lift Company.
There are also numerous places to enjoy carolling in the village, as well as take in faith services over Christmas.
The Whistler Community Church will hold a service in the Macdonald ballroom at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler while the 29th annual Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols will be at the Westin Resort and Spa, presented by the Whistler Children's Chorus. Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church will host several services — find out more at www.whistlercatholicchurch.ca.
For those who like to snowboard or ski Christmas morning but don't like the idea of missing the Christmas morning church service, Whistler has a solution.
Reverend William Roberts will lead a Christmas Morning on the Mountain service at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. The service is planned for Pika's in the Roundhouse at the top of Whistler Mountain. This is the second year Whistler Blackcomb has hosted the service for those of all faiths. The service will include hymns, readings and prayers.