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Whistler: Year in Review 2014

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It'll be hard for Whistler to top 2014

As far as the numbers go, it was the busiest year in the resort's history — record room nights in both summer and winter.

By Alison Taylor

It was also the third consecutive year for council to deliver a budget with zero property tax increases, a feat that earned it kudos from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in B.C. at the end of 2014.

Real estate is hotter than it's been in years; redevelopment in the village core is giving a positive facelift to the tired town centre; and, there's the promise of even more events to pepper the 2015 calendar.

Whistler is buzzing; even the most cynical locals are starting to believe the hype.

"There seems to be a real momentum with the economic activity, with the number of visitors and then with what we are doing with the implementation of the recommendations of the four big plans," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, reflecting on the last year and referring to the recent planning documents that touch on all facets of the resort from the economy to the arts and culture and recreation and education.

Arguably, this is the legacy of the last council, a council that brought a renewed sense of stability to Whistler, a council that rallied the community, getting key organizations on the same track, adding to the sense that there is a common goal everyone is working towards.

"There just really is a positive momentum," added the mayor. "I'm not saying that as the head cheerleader. It's just really my sense of what's going on out there."

And yet, behind the scenes the pressure is on. The old council is out, gone with its brainpower and its collective will.

There are three fresh and unproven members on the new team, ushered in after one of the most lacklustre elections in Whistler's history.

Along with the pressure of living up to their predecessors, this new team is dealing with other political factors.

There are issues that have been quietly festering in 2014, issues that could have significant ramifications in the resort this coming year.

The First Nations factor

The biggest disappointment in 2014 was the collapse of Whistler's Official Community Plan (OCP) at the hands of neighbouring First Nations.

Whistler, for all intents and purposes, was forced to abandon an appeal of the earlier B.C. Supreme Court decision that ruled in favour of Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, with the court upholding the First Nations claims that the B.C. Government did not fulfill its duty to consult on concerns the nations had about the resort's new community plan, namely its cap on development.

In the 30 days between the judgment and the deadline to appeal, the legal landscape in regards to First Nations claims shifted significantly when the highest court in the land granted the Tsilhqot'in people ownership of a 1,750 square-km area in the Chilcotin region, redefining the concept of aboriginal title.

The province would not appeal the Whistler decision, effectively forcing the RMOW's hand to abandon as well.

"I would have loved to have seen an appeal," said the mayor. "But, without the province it just couldn't happen."

Whistler has since reverted back to its 20-year-old OCP.

But aside from that, there is the question of how to move forward with neighbouring First Nations who claim Whistler as part of their traditional territory.

The decision to abandon the appeal happened in early July; in the six months since, Whistler has yet to meet with Squamish or Lil'wat on the issue.

That's not to say the wheels aren't turning behind the scenes, but how it will play out remains to be seen.

"We are developing a strategy but the election put everything on hold," said Wilhelm-Morden. "With the new year, that will be one of the issues at the top of the list."

The RMI uncertainty

Throughout the past year, there has been a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the future of Whistler's RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) funding.

It mounts up to about $7 million, money transferred from the province to Whistler and used to develop the local tourism infrastructure with things like the outdoor ice rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza, the events program, and amenities like hiking trails.

The province isn't convinced Whistler should be getting as much as it does and is looking at the funding formula.

"We caught wind of it at the end of February and have just been very focused on informing the province of the importance of the funds on the things that we're able to achieve with them," said the mayor.

There has been a lot of work on this file throughout 2014, all with a focus of illustrating just how important those funds are to Whistler. A decision is expected in 2015.

"I would like the certainty of a decision... and now that we're into the budget process, it really is becoming a bit of a hamstringing exercise," said Wilhelm-Morden. "We just want to get on with it so we can focus on other things."

The question of education remains

Despite a council commitment to pursue and develop education opportunities in Whistler, little has come to pass... as yet.

This could be the year that begins to change.

When it closed the door on the much-talked-about stand-alone university, council announced in late 2013 that Whistler would have its own Emily Carr University of Art + Design satellite summer campus in 2014.

That never happened.

Due to low enrollment, the summer program was cancelled, postponed until 2015.

With the opening of the Audain Art Museum this year, the mayor sees more potential for Emily Carr learning opportunities in the future. `

The focus now, however, is on the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute of Whistler (VSOIW), coming to Whistler this summer.

It will offer intense, eight-day orchestral classes to talented music students aged 15 to 22.

"From all the indicators we have currently that looks like it will be successful next summer," said Wilhelm-Morden.

Meeting the mark with the environment

Challenges still abound when it comes to hitting Whistler's environmental targets — water usage, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy usage. So too, addressing the challenges of resident affordability.

The most recent data on each is not yet available but the trends are clear.

Whistler needs to pull up its socks if it is going to do what it set out to do in Whistler2020.

Water use is up. Whistler treated and sent out roughly 5.28 billion litres of potable water in 2011. That number was up to 5.35 billion litres in 2012.

Meanwhile, the per capita daily water use at 556 litres/person/day decreased slightly from 2011 to 2012, but it's still far above Whistler's recommended target of 425L/person/day.

When it comes to GHG emissions, Whistler has delivered a 17-per-cent reduction since 2007. Bear in mind, however, those reductions come from big infrastructure projects — pipeline conversion, landfill management and increased organics recycling.

To meet the resort's GHG reduction targets, Whistler must continue to cut an additional 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of GHG emissions each year until 2020.

Council has set its sights on really moving the numbers on these in the coming years.

"We... want to refocus on environmental performance outcomes," said the mayor, when speaking about council's recent retreat and its discussions there.

So, while the pressure abounds and the issues never fade away, Whistler rounds out 2014 at the top of its game. On Dec. 31, the Active Times released a list of the best ski resort in North America for the season.

Whistler Blackcomb was No. 1.

And while the record-breaking visitors are impacting municipal services and facilities and putting strain on some areas of the budget, the mayor is optimistic.

"This is a good news story," she said. "I'd much rather be dealing with those challenges than the challenges associated with nobody coming here."



Arts and Culture: Arts and Culture gain a more solid base in Whistler


By Cathryn Atkinson

Culturally and in the arts, Whistler experienced a rush of growth and a solidifying of its commitment to cultural tourism in 2014. A common theme was the laying of plans for the future; many of the most significant developments in arts and culture were foundational.

So many new and positive moments unfolded last year, from performances to behind-the-scenes developments. It is difficult to list them all, but here are some of the most memorable.

An officer for arts and culture

Whistler got its first-ever community cultural officer in 2014 with the appointment of Anne Popma in June. The job was created as an umbrella in fostering support of all levels of arts development.

Popma spent her first few months meeting arts community stakeholders like the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and the Whistler Arts Council (WAC), and artists of all sorts, as well as crunching numbers about the artistic community.

In October, she presented to the RMOW Committee of the Whole an integration of official studies and work plans in order to paint a picture of the state of Whistler's arts and culture industries. She found at least 800 residents made some, or all, of their living from artistic endeavours at the resort.

Four principles as priorities were identified for the future of Whistler's cultural program: Integration, economic impact, growing the cultural landscape and community enrichment through the arts.

Popma's short-term goals, she said, were enhancing cultural vitality to allow artists to prosper, expanding cultural capacity to maximize facilities already in place and enhancing awareness and participation by improving communication.

Let there be music

Pemby fest — to be or not to be?

The revived Pemberton Music Festival in July was as eagerly awaited as a half-a-metre dump of powder in December. Early in 2014, fans expected to find out what the lineup would be but delays led to initial impatience.

Finally, all was forgotten in April when the festival announced who was performing and, oh boy, it was worth the wait. Nine Inch Nails, Outkast, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Soundgarden were some of the almost 100 performers taking part.

Organizers HUKA also brought in a new idea, a comedy stage. At Pemberton, the comic acts include Bob Saget and the Trailer Park Boys.

HUKA's CEO A.J. Niland said: "A lot (of the delay) was due to availability and competition with other promoters that really dragged it out... all it took was a little extra time. I know that frustrated people, and that kills me... I understand the frustration," he said, adding that he read the feedback and criticisms levied by fans each day.

"We could have announced sooner with a lesser quality of lineup and we didn't want to do that..."

Pemby fest also shared the joy with a concert in Whistler on Wednesday, July 16, before the festival. Gord Downie, The Sadies and Dan Deacon played Whistler Olympic Plaza.

The 2015 dates have already been announced, with promises of equally exciting talent for next July. The first round of early bird tickets have already sold out without a single act being announced.

Meanwhile, the Squamish Valley Music Festival was back in August with headliners Bruno Mars, Arcade Fire and Eminem, a vastly increased number of tickets and camping spots and more consolidation of their position in that community.

The Whistler Presents Concert Series kicked off the summer with performances and smaller ensemble appearances at Whistler Olympic Plaza and around the village by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO). The first took place on Canada's 147th birthday on July 1 and continued through to American Independence Day. Music was by Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Gershwin and John Williams.

The relationship between the VSO and the RMOW is set to continue with the orchestra confirming it will again perform next summer and the establishment of a music-education program currently set to start in 2015.

Other Whistler Presents artists included Corb Lund, Said the Whale and Lindi Ortega.

At the local level, musician Will Ross won the annual Whistler Music Search competition in October at the Crystal Lounge.

A (paint) brush with genius

One of the biggest stories of 2014 won't exist until 2015. Progress on the building of the Audain Art Museum carried on through this year. Its ark-like structure still rises from the trees across Blackcomb Way from the municipal offices.

Suzanne Greening took on the role of executive director of the gallery in October. Hiring of other staff was underway by late 2014, with the aim of moving into the gallery at the end of the summer this year. The museum is due to open in the fall of 2015.

Benefactor Michael Audain purchased the Emily Carr painting The Crazy Stair in the fall of 2013 for a record $3.39 million, but held off announcing that it would join his many donations to the gallery until last year. The painting, which is described as "indicative of the artist's lifelong engagement in First Nations Culture," will be one of more than 20 works by Carr at the Audain Museum.

Vancouver art collector Jacques Barbeau announced in October that he was donating 15 paintings by B.C. landscape painter E.J. Hughes to the Audain Museum. The collection will join several other Hughes paintings being donated by Audain in a special gallery room. Meanwhile, a rare selling opportunity in Whistler occurred when three landscape paintings by two artists belonging to the Group of Seven went on sale at The Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont in June.  

Forest Fire and The Golden Road by Franz Johnston, were offered for sale (with the former being previously owned in Whistler) along with A.Y. Jackson's Camsell Portage. The paintings also went on display at other Mountain Galleries locations in Banff and Jasper.

Movie magic

In May, Whistler's Sherpas Cinema brought home the Grand Prix from the International Alliance for Mountain Film in Tento, Italy, for their film Into the Mind. It was the first time a ski film from anywhere in the world won the coveted prize. One of the competition's judges said Sherpas had "created a new style in filming snow sports."

And in December, the first documentary feature by Mike Douglas and Anthony Bonello, Snowman, won the Mountain Culture Award at the Whistler Film Festival (WFF). It also closed the festival.

Speaking of WFF, what a year it had overall.

In April, WFF executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw was named Woman of the Year by Women in Film and Television Vancouver. In August, actor and director Jason Priestley was named the festival's first-ever ambassador.

The story of the $500,000-plus Rainbow Theatre refurbishment, particularly its new digital system, was of major importance to the festival and to Whistler in general. The renovation was completed in June, with the digital system going in later in the year.

By the time the 14th festival arrived in December with honourees like actresses Kim Cattrall and Sarah Gadon, the theme of continued growth was evident.

Out of 87 films shown at WFF, 22 were world premieres and 40 were features. There were more Oscar-worthy contenders, including A Most Violent Year, starring Jessica Chastain. Total attendance for this year's festival was 11,273 attendees, a 13-per-cent increase (9,964) over 2013. There were 2,231 delegates at the WFF Industry Summit, a 68-per-cent increase over 2013.

As well, 56 filmmakers were selected in WFF project development programs, covering everything from film producing to screenwriting.



Sports: Two memorable weeks in February offer highlights for 2014


By Dan Falloon

For a year that had 52 weeks jam-packed with sports action, this retrospective is admittedly going to focus on a couple of the early ones – the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The Games were fraught with controversy in the lead-up, as the country's anti-gay laws and the event's skyrocketing costs (estimated to be upwards of $50 billion by many outlets, though a Washington Post examination disputes that figure) took attention away from the surfaces of competition.

But when action got underway, Canada had a fantastic showing, finishing fourth in the medal table with 25 (including 10 golds), just eight off Russia's pace.

Local ski cross racer Marielle Thompson led the charge, winning her first Olympic gold as part of a dream 2014.

Without further ado, here are several of the athletes, teams and events that impressed here in the Sea to Sky corridor and on the provincial, national and international stages.


Impressing internationally

Marielle Thompson

Whistler's Marielle Thompson was the biggest local story of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, scoring the gold medal over fellow Canadian Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna. Thompson got out in front early on and rushed to victory.

"It wasn't really until I was in the air on the last jump that I realized I was going to win the Olympics," Thompson told Pique shortly after the Games ended. "I kind of had a freak-out in the air... You couldn't see it, but in my head I was freaking out. Then, I kind of realized I needed to re-focus and actually land."

Thompson's win helped keep the gold medal in the Sea to Sky corridor as Ashleigh McIvor-DeMerit won here in Whistler in 2010.

Thompson then claimed her second Crystal Globe in three years by winning the final race of the season in La Plagne, France on March 23, holding off defending champion Fanny Smith of Switzerland.

Thompson also ended up winning the Sport Chek Canadian Ski Cross Championships at Banff's Sunshine Village on Apr. 11, edging out Georgia Simmerling in a photo finish.

She had a fine start as she looks to defend her World Cup title, claiming the first race of the season in Nakiska, Alta. in December.

Justin Dorey

Thompson wasn't the only Whistler-based athlete to score a Crystal Globe, as newly settled Brio resident Justin Dorey earned one in men's halfpipe.

Buoyed by a first-place finish in Calgary on Jan. 5, Dorey collected all the points he needed with a sixth-place finish in the final event of the FIS season in Breckenridge, Colo. on Jan. 12.

Dorey finished eighth in the Winter X Games in Aspen leading up to the Olympics. He placed 12th in Sochi.

Mike Riddle

Fellow halfpipe competitor Mike Riddle wowed the word in Sochi taking silver at the Olympics, part of a consistent season in 2014.

The Squamish resident was third in the FIS Crystal Globe chase, and finished fourth at the Winter X Games. On that snowy Sochi night other competitors were a bit more conservative in light of the conditions, but Riddle went full blast and it paid off.

"Knowing what to do when the weather is bad — when to hold back and when to send it — definitely is an advantage in conditions like this," Riddle told assembled media after his run that put him on halfpipe's first Olympic podium.

Roz Groenewoud

Another Squamish resident took home some hardware on the international stage, as Roz Groenewoud hauled in silver at the Winter X Games in January. She repeated her runner-up position in the superpipe in her first competition after bilateral knee surgery about a month before.

She then placed seventh in her Olympic halfpipe debut in Sochi.

Mike Janyk

Slalom specialist Mike Janyk went down to the wire punching his ticket to Sochi, only securing Olympic berth with a 14th-place finish in slalom at Kitzb├╝hel, Austria on Jan. 24.

In the men's slalom in Russia, Janyk ended up in 16th in what he later announced would be his final Games. Austria's Mario Matt became the oldest Olympics alpine champion by taking gold at age 35.

In his final World Cup event at Kranjska Gora, Slovakia, he won the last run, ultimately placing 15th.

Never one to shy away from showing off his personality, Janyk had the chance to go out in style at the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine Championships right here in Whistler.

After a tough first run, he ditched his race suit, opting to high-five former coaches and teammates before being greeted by an ovation at the bottom of the hill.

Caleb Brousseau

In Paralympic action, Whistler-based sit skier Caleb Brousseau earned a bronze medal in the super-G.

"It was a nail-biter, for sure," Brousseau told Pique. "I was surprised I had any fingers left after the race was done."

Brousseau also took sixth in the downhill event.

In March, Brousseau took home the sitting downhill crown at the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine Championships here in Whistler.

Manuel Osborne-Paradis

After missing most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club product struggled a bit in Sochi, placing 24th in the super-G and 25th in the downhill.

However, later in the year, he hit the World Cup podium for the first time in over five years. Osborne-Paradis placed second in the men's downhill at Lake Louise, Alta. on Nov. 29.

Morgan Pridy

Like Janyk, Pridy was a late qualifier for Sochi, also earning his spot in Kitzb├╝hel, Austria on Jan. 24. Pridy became an Olympian after placing 21st in the super-G.

He turned some heads in Sochi, placing 10th in the super-G. He entered the Olympics without any top-20 finishes on the World Cup circuit, but also placed 19th in the super combined and 33rd in the giant slalom.

Pridy later won the downhill title at the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine Championships here in Whistler on March 22.

Yuki Tsubota

Local Yuki Tsubota suffered a concussion and broken jaw after a crash on her final jump of the slopestyle finals. Her first run score was good enough to place her sixth.

Tsubota is back competing in the 2014-15 season.

Dave Duncan

Whistler's Dave Duncan had a fantastic start to the 2013-14 ski-cross season, emerging as the World Cup leader early on. However, things deteriorated as the season progressed. In Sochi, Duncan was eliminated in his first round heat, as was fellow Canadian Chris Del Bosco and Calgary's Brady Leman was just off the podium in fourth.

As for the Crystal Globe chase, injuries hampered him down the stretch and he did not compete in the final race.

Simon d'Artois

Though mounting a challenge to make it to Sochi, the local freeskier fell just short.

As a member of the Canadian Freestyle Association's 'B' team, he didn't receive any direct funding from the organization, but recorded two new career highs on the FIS circuit in a three-competition span. The current best is a fourth-place in the halfpipe in Park City on Jan. 17.

D'Artois was promoted to the 'A' team in the offseason.


Best of Biking

Will Routley

Locally raised Abbotsford-based cyclist Will Routley won the Chico Stage Race in California held from March 20 to 23. Routley also competed in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland on Aug. 3, but was one of several who struggled with the elements as he did not finish. Only a dozen competitors crossed the finish line.

Brandon Semenuk

Whistlerite Brandon Semenuk became the all-time leader in wins at Crankworx, winning his third Red Bull Joyride in five years. Semenuk then secured his Freeride Mountain Bike Diamond Series overall title in late September.

Finn Iles

At Crankworx Whistler, local rider Finn Iles was a major story, earning a special exemption to participate in the Official World Whip-Off Championships at age 14. He then went on to win the title. He also won two age-group DH events at Crankworx before inking his first contract with Team Lapierre Gravity Republic in October.

Iles is also impressive on the slopes, winning one giant slalom at the Teck U16 Provincial Championships in Prince George last February.

Jack Iles

Older brother Jack also had a fine year in his own right.

He hit the UCI World Cup podium for the first time in Mont Ste. Anne, Que. on Aug. 3, taking silver in the junior men's downhill. At season's end, Iles was fifth overall in the World Cup standings. Locally, at Crankworx, he also scored three junior downhill golds.

He wrapped the season by signing a contract with Norco Factory Racing.

Cathy Zeglinski

Cathy Zeglinski bounced back from a "nightmare year" recovering from injury to take a silver medal at the UCI Mountain Bike Masters World Championships in Norway on Aug. 24.

Canadian Downhill Championships

Steve Storey (master men's 30-39), Wynnie Tipton (U15 girls'), Stephanie Denroche (U17 girls'), Georgia Astle (U19 women's) and Keara Clark (master women's 30-plus) all became national champions in their respective divisions at the Canadian Downhill Championships at Sun Peaks in July.

Meanwhile at the Canadian Cross-Country Championships/Canadian Junior and U17 Track Cycling Championships in Ontario two local riders earned hardware. In the U19 championship race, Rhys Verner of Squamish won a silver and Whistler's Felix Burke won bronze. Verner was also second in the open men's eliminator race.

Burke, Verner and Luke Di Marzo ended up winning bronze at the Canadian Junior and U17 Track Cycling Championships in Burnaby in November.


Local events

Peak to Valley

On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, Team Capital Home Energy — Julia Murray, Davey Barr, Luke Dolan and Clay Dolan — repeated as Peak to Valley champions at its 30th annual running. Murray also had the fastest individual women's time. To commemorate the anniversary, a blanket make up of several commemorative T-shirts from over the years was auctioned off to support the Whistler Museum.

Sport Chek Canadian Alpine Championships

Marie-Michele Gagnon won the women's slalom for her 11th title as she chases Nancy Greene's record of 17 national crowns.

Whistler's Brodie Seger was the top Canadian in the slalom, placing ninth.

Squamish's Matt Hallat won the men's standing slalom titles.

World Ski and Snowboard Festival

On Apr. 12, North Bay, Ont.'s Max Eberhardt won the World Ski and Snowboard Festival showcase event, the Monster Energy Shred Show Big Air competition, pulling off a backside triple 1440 to score the $15,000 prize. American Kyle Mack won the slopestyle event and local Rube Goldberg topped the podium in the boarderstyle event.

Sweden's Jesper Tjäder won the World Skiing Invitational's Gibbons Life Big Air competition with his finale of a double-cork 1620 to claim the $6,000 prize. Oakville's Evan McEachran ended up taking the Samsung Slopestyle men's title, also with a $6,000 prize.

Ontario's Nikki Blackall ended up taking the women's slopestyle title as part of the AFP World Championships. The Black Diamond Betties roller derby smashed the Sunshine Coast's Red Tide Warning 205-141 in the second annual bout as part of the festival.

Sea to Sky Enduro Series

The Sea to Sky Enduro Series launched on May 3 with The Gryphon in Squamish. Jesse Melamed won the pro men's event and Miranda Miller captured the pro women's title. Melamed swept all five races to win the men's title while Katrina Strand hit the podium in all three of her entries to win the women's title.

Great Outdoors Festival

The Great Snow-Earth-Water Race returned to headline the inaugural Great Outdoors Festival held May 16 to 19. The McSkimming family ended up taking the title.

American Curtis Keene and local Sarah Leishman took the men's and women's enduro titles, respectively, at the GO Festival. Team Prestige Worldwide, composed of Jonathan Lee, Michael Dobson, Kalen Martyniuk, Candace Bergmann, Sophie Manfredi and Cailin Lau won the Great Green River Challenge, Dave Brown won the DiscGO Disc Golf Tournament, and Barbara Walker and David Stein won the GO Ski to Sail Regatta.

Nimby Fifty

Canadian Olympian Max Plaxton of Tofino won the men's division of the Nimby Fifty for the second time in three years while Mical Dyck defended her pro women's title. Local junior Austin Reith, 17, was the top local rider, placing seventh.

The North Face Whistler Half Marathon

Abbotsford's David Jackson became The North Face Whistler Half Marathon's first repeat winner in the June 7 race. Anne-Marie Madden, meanwhile, was victorious on the women's side.

Whistler Longboard Festival

Patrick Switzer swept his way to first place in the men's downhill at the Whistler Longboard Festival, knocking off defending champ Jimmy Riha. Reigning world champion Elena Corrigal defended her title in Whistler on the ladies' side.

Subaru Ironman Canada

Marino Vanhoenacker of Belgium won his 11th full distance Ironman and Bree Wee of Hawaii won her second at the Subaru Ironman Canada stop here on July 27. Vanhoenacker was returning from a stress fracture in his pubic bone, but dominated from the get-go, emerging from the Alta Lake swim in first place and never looking back. Wee, meanwhile, made her move in the final stage — the marathon — to emerge with the win. Adam Ward was the top local, qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, though he opted not to go because of a hip injury. Bill Geddes also qualified, finishing at the top local in the men's 55-59 division. At the worlds on Oct. 11, he battled through a strained soleus muscle to place eighth in his age group.

Canadian Orienteering Championships

Orienteer Will Critchley of Edmonton was the story of the Canadian Championships held here over B.C. Day long weekend. Critchley nabbed two national titles, winning on the middle and sprint courses.

Crankworx Whistler

Crankworx Whistler brought the best mountain bikers in the world to the resort once again. Australia's Jared Graves repeated as the Canadian Open Enduro champion and France's Cecile Ravanel was victorious on the women's side. Local Claire Buchar took the pro women's Garbanzo DH title, and Colombia's Marcelo Gutierrez Villegas (who was later named King of Crankworx) repeated on the pro men's side. Jean Ann Berkenpas won the pro women's Fat Tire Crit while Craig Richey won the pro men's title. Kyle Strait took the CLIF Bar Dual Speed & Style crown a decade after his first Crankworx podium. Mick Hannah took home the men's Fox Air DH crown while Jill Kintner did the same for the women. Barry Nobles and Caroline Buchanan won the men's and women's titles at the Ultimate Pump Track Challenge presented by RockShox. Sandra Walter and Geoff Kabush won the elite women's and elite men's divisions at the Canadian Open XC. Rhys Verner of Squamish took the junior expert men's division with Emiliah Harvie emerging on the junior expert women's side. B.C. rider Casey Brown was named Queen of Crankworx.

RBC GranFondo Whistler

Kyle Buckosky of Surrey captured the RBC GranFondo Whistler on Sept. 6, separating himself from the pack with 35 kilometres to go. Vancouver's Sara Bergen won the women's event, edging out Denise Ramsden by a second.

Whistler Cyclocross

Cyclocross made its Whistler debut on Sept. 20 and 21. Nanaimo's Carey Mark won both women's events and North Vancouver's Kevin Calhoun swept the men's side.

Lumpy's Trifecta

Squamish's Greg Day and Brandi Heisterman won the men's and women's divisions at the Lumpy's Trifecta mountain bike race in Pemberton on Oct. 4, overcoming a soaked course after heavy rains.

Youth A and Junior Luge World Cup

Canadian racers dominate the FIL Junior and Youth A World Cup stop here in Whistler in December with 12 medals (nine from Sea to Sky racers). Adam Shippit cruised to gold in both events and has won the first three youth A men's races this year.



Crime: Car thefts,rental fraud and partygoer problems mark 2014 for Whistler police


By Brandon Barrett

If you pay close enough attention, you'll find that most of the crimes committed in Whistler typically fall into a handful of categories.

Thefts of pricey winter gear or customized mountain bikes stream in on a near weekly basis. The same goes for rental fraud, a tricky issue for police to get a handle on when the majority of culprits have never set foot in Whistler, and prey on naïve internationals looking to secure a place online before setting down roots here.

Of course, no police report would be complete without some drunken shenanigans in the mix, and as a town that loves to imbibe, late-night fights and minor drug busts are a regular occurrence.

But what made 2014 so notable was that some of the biggest crime stories of the year didn't necessarily fall into the typical Whistler mould. They would have been front-page stories in almost any city — no matter the size — which is what makes them all the more surprising in a ski town of 10,000.

So, without further ado, Pique presents a selection of headlines from 2014 that dropped our jaws, sparked incessant debate and, in some cases, even inspired a laugh or two.


Biggest crime stories of the year

BASE Jump from Peak 2 Peak Gondola

Unless you've lived under a rock for the past year, chances are if you were in Whistler, you know all about the brazen stunt that saw alleged BASE jumper Graham Dickinson pry open the doors of a Peak 2 Peak cabin and plummet hundreds of metres to the Fitzsimmons Creek below.

While local police and Whistler Blackcomb officials tried to keep a tight lid on the story in the immediate aftermath of the Feb. 6 incident, a video shot from the jumper's helmet cam posted to YouTube days after set off a shockwave of national and international media attention.

The jumper was after his 15 minutes of fame, and, boy, did he get it.

And while Dickinson has yet to be apprehended by police (he's believed to have fled the country), the consequences of his stunt — an apparent homage to late daredevil Shane McConkey, who did a sanctioned jump off the Peak 2 Peak in 2008 — were far reaching. The cabin sustained over $14,000 in damage, and a female accomplice, Whistler local Kathleen Adams, had her day in court, pleading guilty in August to charges of mischief. She would ultimately avoid both jail time and a potential criminal record after committing to pay back Whistler Blackcomb and being sentenced in November to 18 months probation pursuant to a conditional discharge.

The stunt starkly divided public opinion in the community, with some championing the jumper as a sort of folk hero, and others criticizing his attempt at Internet fame as self-serving and ultimately dangerous.

It's an incident that local authorities would probably like to forget, but for the rest of us, it will remain one of the most polarizing crimes to ever hit the resort.

Violence continues on May Long Weekend

It probably didn't come as much of a surprise that trouble continued for Whistler's notorious May Long Weekend, especially after 2013's chaotic holiday, which saw an unprecedented level of vandalism and property damage in the village despite a beefed-up police presence.

As a result, a municipal task force was formed, and the RMOW brought back the popular Great Outdoors Festival to encourage a more family-friendly atmosphere in 2014, but still, a number of violent incidents were reported.

A man was found bleeding from his head from an apparent assault outside an Upper Village hotel. Police discovered another man with what appeared to be a stab wound to his stomach. Another young man was slashed in the face near a village nightclub. Over two-dozen men came to blows after a bar-room dispute.

Of course, changing the culture of the weekend, which tends to attract droves of high-school students from across the Lower Mainland looking to blow off a little steam, will take some time, and Whistler officials have admitted as much.

"From a realistic perspective, it will take two or three years, much in the same way as it did trying to reclaim New Year's Eve," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden this spring.

Unidentified body found in Emerald

While Whistler is no stranger to death, the discovery of an unidentified body near Green Lake in April left residents — and investigators — scratching their heads.

The body was found by a cyclist on the No Girly Man trail, a heavily wooded area about 200 metres above Highway 99 in Emerald. It is believed the man had been deceased for several months at the time of discovery. Police believe the death to be non-suspicious and said the man, who was put at between 50 and 65 years old, was in a state of emotional stress at the time of his disappearance.

Despite poring through dozens of missing person reports throughout B.C., police have so far been unable to identify the man.

Attempted shooting outside Pemberton bar

A 23-year-old Quesnel, B.C. man was arrested Jan. 12 after attempting to shoot another male outside a Pemberton bar following a verbal altercation.

Police said the suspect "appears to have taken exception to something the (intended) victim had said," according to Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair, and soon after went to a vehicle to retrieve a .45 calibre handgun. The man then pointed the firearm at the 20-year-old Pemberton male and fired a single shot, missing his intended target, said RCMP.

The suspect fled the area but was quickly apprehended by Pemberton officers.

Whistler RCMP officer rescues injured hiker 

A 42-year-old Whistler man who broke his femur while hiking has a courageous RCMP officer to thank for his rescue.

Police received a distress call on March 18 from an area near Brandywine that an ambulance could not access, so Cpl. Scott Langtry took it upon himself to find the injured hiker, walking several kilometres through snow along a railroad track. After about an hour, the RCMP officer heard the injured hiker yelling for help. The man was then taken by sled and ATV to receive medical attention.

American volunteer attacked in Pemberton park

An Oklahoma man who was in Pemberton May 18 to help erect the town's community barn was viciously attacked in a late-night assault that left him with serious injuries to the face.

According to witness accounts, the man was trying to sleep in Pioneer Park when he approached two youths to ask them to be quiet after several loud cracking noises were heard. While speaking with the males, one of them reportedly kicked the victim in the face.

The American man decided not to pursue charges, and police subsequently asked the public for help in identifying the suspect.

Death clouds return of Pemberton Music Festival

The death of a 21-year-old Saskatchewan man was the biggest storyline out of July's Pemberton Music Festival, which returned to Spud Valley after a six-year absence with new event producers at the helm.

Rumours spread like wildfire with homicide investigators on the scene after Nick Phongsavath's body was found late July 18 in a camping area of the festival grounds. Although officers initially said foul play could have been a factor in the death, it was ultimately ruled out.

Peeping tom arrested for filming in village nightclub bathroom

A July visitor to Whistler was shocked to find a camera-phone recording her in a public washroom in the Carleton Lodge.

The phone was placed in a light fixture above a toilet and had been recording for approximately three minutes, the Vancouver woman said.

"It's so creepy and traumatizing knowing that someone would go out of their way to do this. I don't know what happened in (the suspect's) life that was so bad that this is the path he chose," she told Pique at the time.

A 27-year-old North Vancouver man was subsequently arrested for voyeurism.


The Lighter Side of the Blotter

Two dudes found with coke outside RCMP detachment window

Police didn't have to travel very far to make a June 6 drug arrest after two Whistler males were found sitting outside the RCMP detachment's window in possession of what appeared to be cocaine.

Just before 1:30 a.m., officers inside the detachment overheard someone speaking right outside a window located near an emergency exit. Police opened the exit and found two males sitting outside the door.

Upon searching, police found a bag containing a half-gram of suspected cocaine in one of the suspect's back pockets. The 24-year-old Australian man was released with a promise to appear in court.

The second male was released without charges.

The Beeb's manager gets married in Whistler and sparks noise complaints

Apparently when you're the mega rich manager of one of pop music's biggest stars, those pesky local noise bylaws aren't much of a concern.

The Internet was abuzz in July as news spread of the celebrity-studded wedding between Scooter Braun — the longtime manager of Canadian icon and ne'er-do-well Justin Bieber — and Yael Cohen, the founder of Vancouver-based charity Fuck Cancer.

Whistler RCMP reported a number of noise complaints from homeowners in the area of Crabapple Dr., with the music reportedly shut down by 2 a.m.

Among those reportedly in attendance were actor Tom Hanks, singer Carly Rae Jepsen and Bieber himself.

Drunk woman catches a few Z's — after breaking into Whistler sports store

A 21-year-old Abbotsford woman with a penchant for public intoxication and trespassing was found sleeping one off in a Main Street sports store one June night.

Police attended the scene after an alarm was sounded, and found no sign of forced entry, leading police to believe the sleepyhead entered through an unlocked door.

She was discovered by an officer while catching a few Z's in a corner of the store, and was initially unresponsive to police commands. Eventually the woman, who has a history of public intoxication and trespassing, was escorted out of the store and arrested for break and enter.

Thief breaks into village bar only to steal a top hat and can of beans

No self-respecting gentleman would be seen in public without a top hat — but a can of beans?

This is the grand mystery at the heart of a puzzling August break-in to a village pub. The suspect is thought to have gained access through a door on the bar's roof, but when staff examined the scene, all that was missing was a top hat and can of beans.

Perhaps Mr. Peanut has fallen on hard times.



Pemberton/SLRD: Pemberton's 2014 marked by change and challenges


By Braden Dupuis

It was a big year for the town known as Spud Valley, from the departure of Mayor Jordan Sturdy in February to the election of a new mayor and council in November. There was a lot going on in the months in between, as well.

The Hill Academy and subsequent debate over recreation facilities took up a big chunk of Pemberton-related headlines in the pages of Pique last year, as did the planning and execution of the Downtown Community Barn.

The Hill Academy may be gone, for now, but 2014 saw the return of the Pemberton Music Festival, which looks like it's here to stay this time.

Here's a look back at some of the people and stories that made news in Pemberton in 2014.

Changing of the Guard

It was less than two weeks into 2014 when Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy announced he would officially be stepping away from the job.

Sturdy was elected as the MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky in May 2013.

He originally planned to hold both positions until the municipal elections of November 2014, but felt it was too hard to participate being away from Pemberton so often.

At his last council meeting on Feb. 4, Sturdy took some time to rail against what he said are inefficiencies in the governance of the community.

Having four jurisdictions in the area — the Village of Pemberton (VOP), Mount Currie band, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and Pemberton Valley Dyking District — is "inefficient, costly and confusing," Sturdy said during the mayor's report at the meeting. "It's a wonder it works at all. I can't emphasize enough the importance of a restructure."

With Sturdy gone, Village of Pemberton councillors Mike Richman, James Linklater, Ted Craddock and Alan Leblanc assumed mayoral responsibilities on a rotating basis until the November election.

In June, Pemberton's chief administrative officer (CAO) Daniel Sailland announced he was leaving the position to assume CAO duties for the Town of Qualicum Beach.

In November, new Pemberton CAO Nikki Gilmore replaced him.

The last months of 2014 represented another new beginning for the Village, as municipal elections brought with them a new mayor and council.

Mike Richman was elected mayor over longtime Pemberton resident Jerry Mohs, while newcomers Jennie Helmer, Joanne Molinaro, Karen Ross and incumbent James Linklater formed council.

"I think it's a really good, diverse collection of people there," Richman said after the election, of his new council.

"I think the town is well represented by the people at the table."

Recreation Woes

Perhaps the biggest news story coming out of Pemberton in 2014 concerned the incoming Hill Academy Pacific, and the issue of a recreation facility for the village.

In October of 2013, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ontario-based owners of the proposed private sports and healthy living school, Hill Canada Inc., the VOP and the Sunstone Group.

A key facet of the agreement was the development of recreational and sporting facilities to accompany the school.

To build the facility, the VOP proposed taking out a $4.8 million loan, repayable through taxation over a 30-year period.

The proposal led to a referendum in June, in which an overwhelming majority of Pemberton residents voted against authorizing the loan.

Of 624 ballots cast in the referendum, 531 opposed borrowing for the facility.

Despite the setback, The Hill Academy originally said it would continue to pursue plans for a recreational facility on its own.

But by November, plans for the independent school were put on "indefinite hold."

"I just needed to get a firm commitment from somebody in terms of where we were going financially, and I never got that, so I had to back away," Hill Academy CEO Peter Merrill said.

Return of the Pemberton Music Festival

One of the highlights of 2014 was the long-awaited return of the Pemberton Music Festival.

In September of 2013 it was announced that the festival — originally held in 2008 — would be revived by New Orleans-based promotion company HUKA Entertainment.

By April of 2014 the star-studded lineup was announced — featuring acts such as Nine Inch Nails, Outkast, Deadmau5 and Soundgarden — and by the end of that month all of the necessary permits were in place.

The 2008 edition of the festival was marred by long traffic delays, a dusty festival site and overflowing portable toilets — issues that were all addressed for the 2014 edition.

Following the July 16-20 event, feedback from Pemberton residents indicated that the majority felt the festival was good for the community.

Some residents expressed displeasure with the noise level and the fact that not many festivalgoers made their way into the community itself.

Nevertheless, the show must go on, and in late 2014, HUKA announced the dates for the 2015 edition of the Pemberton Music Festival, set to take place July 16-19.

Around the Village

After months of planning, Pemberton's Downtown Community Barn was raised in May of 2014.

The 7,500-square-foot, open-air facility officially opened on July 16 and was used as a home for the Pemberton Farmers' Market throughout the summer.

Future uses for the barn were discussed at a community meeting on Aug. 25.

Also in May, long-time Pemberton fire chief Russell Mack announced he would retire in the fall.

After his retirement, Mack was elected to represent the residents of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's (SLRD) Area C.

Mack was replaced as fire chief by newcomer Robert Grossman, who officially introduced himself to council on Sept. 16.

In September, the Transportation Safety Report released its report into the 2013 mid-air collision that killed four people in the skies over Pemberton.

Pemberton's Rudy Rozsypalek was among the victims.

The report stated that a blind spot was the main cause of the collision.

In July, 44-year-old Judd Feldman was killed in a paragliding accident just north of Pemberton.

Jim Orava, owner of Cayoosh Expeditions in Pemberton, described Feldman as "an ambassador for humanity, let alone Pemberton.

"Judd was the kindest of humans who, more than anyone, would put everyone in front of him in the line to make sure they were taken care of before himself," Orava said in an email.

"That's the way he approached life in general."

Also in July, the VOP and the SLRD reached an agreement over the Pemberton North Water Service (PNWS), ending a dispute that dragged on for several years.

The two government agencies reached a settlement over disputed rates between 2007 and 2013, and agreed on a rate structure for PNWS users through 2019.

The dispute arose when the village doubled what it billed the SLRD — from $0.52 to $1.04 per cubic metre — in 2007. In the absence of a formal agreement, the SLRD continued to pay the old rate, leading to what the village considered an outstanding balance.


Squamish-Lillooet Regional District

While the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) as a government organization calls Pemberton home, the Regional District itself covers much more ground than Spud Valley.

Here are some of the biggest news stories throughout the region in 2014.

LNG Sparks Debate

One of the biggest ongoing news stories in the SLRD in 2014 was the continued quest for a LNG plant located at the former Woodfibre pulp mill site in Squamish.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark made it clear that her government was in support of the proposed plant; while many residents in the SLRD made it clear they were not.

In 2014, it was all about the debate, with people on both sides of the issue weighing in.

"This is not a business B.C. wants to be in, should be in, or needs to be in, in order to make a vibrant economic base for the province of B.C." Eoin Finn, a retired astrophysicist, told Whistler residents at an informational meeting in July.

"A smarter industrial policy would have us making stuff, doing secondary manufacturing out of the raw resources we have. This proposed LNG industry offers none of that."

The opposition to the project made its voice heard in 2014, something that Woodfibre LNG was expecting, said spokesperson Marian Ngo.

"In B.C., any industrial project will automatically have people that are opposed to it. It's just the nature of the province, and that's fine," she said.

"My job is to listen to those concerns, listen to the community and listen to both sides of the story and see how best we can address that as we develop this project."

The end goal of the project is to be "the gold standard for development in B.C.," Ngo said.

"We're going electric (and) we've moved it on land," she said.

"We're going to go by best practices, and make sure that this is a project that is environmentally responsible and it meets the high standards of the corridor."

While LNG was one of the biggest newsmakers of 2014, it's likely to do the same in 2015.

Sea to Sky Gondola Opens

After months of planning, consultation and construction, the Sea to Sky Gondola officially opened on May 16 in Squamish.

Though a gondola cabin came detached during testing in February, additional safety measures were put in place before the grand opening and the gondola operated without incident through the rest of the year.

From May through the end of July, more than 110,000 people rode the gondola.

"This is just an outstanding addition to our community and to the tourism attractions and businesses we have in town," Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham said at the gondola's grand opening.

"I think everybody is going to benefit from this."

New SLRD board forms after election

The board of directors at the SLRD had a decidedly new look to it following the municipal election in November.

Longtime Area C representative Susie Gimse decided not to seek re-election after 21 years on the board.

"This was a difficult decision, but after much consideration and soul searching I know it's the best decision for me," Gimse told Pique, in an emailed statement.

"I've had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people and I leave knowing that we've accomplished a lot. For the most part I've found the work gratifying, recognizing that no matter how hard you try you cannot please everyone all the time."

Retired Pemberton fire chief Russell Mack was voted in as her replacement.

The new board is made up of Mack, Area A director Debbie Demare, Area B director Micky Macri, Area D director Tony Rainbow and municipal representatives Patricia Heintzman and Doug Race (Squamish), Mike Richman (Pemberton), Marg Lampman (Lillooet) and Jack Crompton (Whistler).

At the board's final meeting of 2014, Crompton was named the new chair of the board.

"As far as my individual desires for the organization are concerned, we need to do our strategic planning, we need to get together and we need to hear everyone's voice and understand where we want to go as an organization," Crompton said.

"But for me, the most important thing is good government."