Sometimes a year can be defined by a single event and other times by a series of them. There was plenty to celebrate in Whistler during 2012, however, it was also a year that saw the community remember the lives and contributions of a number of locals that were lost. Honouring their legacies together made their absence easier to bear.
The death of Sarah Burke on Jan. 19 was a loss that reverberated in the community. A pioneer in her sport who helped get freestlye skiing accepted into the Olympics, Burke died nine days after crashing on a half-pipe training run at Park City, Utah.
Local historian Florence Petersen, not long after receiving the Freedom of the Town distinction, Whistler Search and Rescue founder Dave Cathers, Sabre Rentals Art Den Duyf and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient Doug Deeks were also remembered by the community for their contributions after passing away in 2012.
Meanwhile, Whistler’s media continued churning out stories that have made headlines in years past.
From the asphalt plant to sled dogs, the last year saw several stories continue to evolve in the community. Some stories saw closure like the Rainbow Park lawsuit and others only partial resolution, like the Whistler Health Centre helipad.
It also saw a brand new council, fresh on the job, get a full year under its belt as the political leaders of the resort.
A new year was rang-in with dire consequences after a deadly week of avalanches in the backcountry. Search and rescue officials sounded the alarm urging skiers to steer clear of the backcountry and avalanche terrain with persistent weak layers. Whistler Blackcomb ski patroller Duncan MacKenzie died on Dec. 29, 2011 while backcountry skiing with three friends in the Caspar Creek area off the Duffy Lake Road. The 30-year-old was remembered by the community for his infectious smile and enthusiasm for life.
Whistler Community Services Society started the year by moving into a new home in the former Spring Creek daycare facility. The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Social Services Centre officially opened a short time later.
The building had been sitting empty for two years before it was rezoned by WCSS and the Howe Sound Women’s Centre, which also found its first home for a women’s drop in centre.
The location provides operational space for services like the food bank and later on in the year a senior’s drop in centre was also established with the partnership of the Mature Action Committee.
For the second year in a row, property values in Whistler dropped, a 10 per cent plunge since 2010. On the flipside, the year also saw a continued hunger by those wishing to purchase in Whistler. Continued low interest rates, lower prices and easier access along the Sea to Sky Highway saw 2012 real estate purchase trends continue from 2011.
Key community stakeholders put forward a bid at the beginning of the year to bring ESPN’s X Games to the resort for a three year run. By the beginning of February council was officially asked to support the proposed event with $250,000 after it made the short list of nine finalists being considered. Council passed the motion unanimously. The funding matched commitments already made by Whistler Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler. The bid called for the new event to be combined with the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival in April 2013. Local organizers also needed to raise $2 million from additional stakeholders.
ESPN decided in May not to include the resort in its xxpanded global series, instead choosing to add Barcelona, Munich and Foz do Iguacu, Brazil to their lineup.
Former Whistler resident and helicopter pilot Dave Brolin was remembered after being killed in a helicopter crash near Cultus Lake on Jan. 17. He was on a training exercise as a pilot for the RCMP at the time of the accident. Prior to joining the RCMP he was a pilot for Blackcomb Helicopters (now Blackcomb Aviation).
Whistler Blackcomb came out on the record against mandatory helmet use after the Canadian Pediatric Society publicly asked all levels of government to get behind its proposal to see helmets made obligatory for skiers and snowboarders across Canada. Prior to the call by the CPS, Nova Scotia legislated helmet use in that province. Sea to Sky MLA Joan McIntyre noted the issue is not on the government’s agenda.
Council returned from a two-day retreat with senior administration to determine the direction they will take over the year. Five priorities were identified as needing attention: fiscal responsibility, accountability and engagement, client-focused service delivery, open for business and progressive resort community planning, made official with the Council Action Plan released in February, with council identifying the manner in which they would meet their goals.
Local DJ Mike Grefner went missing during a winter storm in the early morning hours of Jan. 17. The 24-year-old’s body was found in March in the woods between Whistler Secondary School and 19-Mile Creek in Alpine Meadows. At the time RCMP said there were no signs of foul play. A coroner’s report released later in the year showed the DJ had significant concentrations of cocaine in his system and the cold weather was a contributing factor to his death.
Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden called for changes to the province’s “archaic” liquor laws, an issue she would continue to lobby for throughout the year. While not a new call to action for local politicians, it was for the newly elected council. A letter was directed to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and a resolution drafted to be presented at the Union of British Columbian Municipalities conference, which was passed in September. By May the province announced new legislation allowing caterers to obtain and carry their own liquor licences. It was welcomed locally as good news for the tourism and hospitality sector. However, council continued to lobby for further changes to the provincial liquor regulations.
A head-on crash involving a limousine resulted in the death of 54-year-old driver Shafiqur Rahman of Vancouver. The Jan. 29 crash eventually led to criminal charges being laid against the 19-year-old pickup truck driver, Jacob Mitzimberg. In October, Mitzimberg was charged with impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death.
February started with bad news for those campaigning to shut down Frank Silveri’s asphalt plant in Cheakamus Crossing. On Jan. 31 B.C. Supreme Court Justice Deborah Kloegman ruled the manufacture and processing of gravel and aggregate into asphalt was permitted in the zoning of Whistler Aggregates site.
The cost to taxpayers for the court action was revealed to be $591,050, including $13,552 in legal fees for Silveri, which Kloegman granted. The cost of a cease and desist petition filed against the plant was later shown to make up $267,174 of the total. Council decided not to appeal the decision. In April, Silveri dismantled his asphalt plant and installed a new more emission-friendly facility. Later in the summer, Silveri objected to a RMOW tender for asphalt services that required the material to be sourced from a plant that is a minimum of three kilometers from a residential neighbourhood.
Efforts to bring the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame and Museum to Whistler began, but failed to result in any decisions by the end of the year. The museum closed its doors in Ottawa in June 2011 due to low visitation and revenue numbers. It was inviting proposals to house the collection of $1.5 million in artefacts.
Two senior managers left their jobs with the Resort Municipality of Whistler, with Mike Vance leaving his position as general manager of the policy and program development division after that position was eliminated as part of an ongoing organizational review. Meanwhile, manager of community planning Bill Brown resigned from his post. The entire department Vance managed was also eliminated with the remaining staff and workloads being spread to other divisions. The responsibility for the Official Community Plan then landed on the desk of general manager of resort experience Jan Jansen. Meanwhile, CAO Mike Furey said Brown’s departure was unrelated to the organizational review as he was leaving for a new job. By the end of the month, the general manager of economic viability position had also been axed, while Ken Roggeman remained with the municipality as the director of finance.
The Whistler Health Care Centre’s upgraded helipad failed its second inspection mid-February, causing even further delays to see it reopened. The previous cause of the helipad’s failure was the lack of snow-melting equipment, the second time around it was the fact that drivers were not stopping at the flashing lights signals set up on the roads adjacent to it. It was shut down in August 2011 to bring it up to Transport Canada standards for twin-engine helicopters. In May, a new problem of particles flaking of the concrete landing surface arose, with further delays as a result. By the beginning of July it was operational, but within a few months members of the local search and rescue community began to express concerns that the landing pad did not allow single-engine choppers to land, which are the kind used at high altitude in rescue situations. While it was the previous council that decided not to undertake the added tree clearing necessary for single-engine helicopters to land, by the end of the year VCH was assessing the site for more possible upgrades.
It was revealed that Tourism Whistler (TW) was once again booking activities for Outdoor Adventures Whistler (OAW) after having banned the group from its services last year in the wake of the sled dog slaughter. TW announced the suspension of all bookings with OAW in February 2011, after news broke that a large number of dogs were killed in a mass cull near Whistler in spring 2010. Officials said the decision was made to start booking again once the B.C. SPCA wrapped up its investigation.
The provincial government released new sled dog regulations with the goal of improving the welfare of the animals in light of the killing of 54 sled dogs by Robert Fawcett in April 2010. Some of the new regulations include restrictions for dog tethering, record keeping and ensuring that sled dog operators have life-cycle plans in place before acquiring dogs.
RCMP disclosed that Crown counsel decided not to file charges against the taxi driver who struck and killed Eleanor Reinecke on Highway 99 in 2011. Even though the RCMP recommended charges, the driver was handed a speeding ticket with a fine of $121 instead.
Reinecke, a 24-year-old seasonal worker from Australia, was walking on the highway near Lorimer Road at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2011 when she was struck by the northbound taxi. Her family was in the resort a month before the decision was announced to mark the anniversary of her death.
Wilhelm-Morden announced in late February that for the first time in 10 years Whistlerites would not have increased property taxes or service fees. The announcement was part of the Council Action Plan presented and followed a 34 per cent increase in taxes since 2002.
By the beginning of March the labour dispute between the province and teachers was starting to bubble over. The Sea to Sky Teachers Association and B.C. Teachers Federation both took issue with provincial legislation that would force teachers back to work for another year and order a mediator to be brought in to negotiate a suitable agreement. A rally of local teachers was soon followed by continued strike action until the end of June when a deal was reached that will last until the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Despite extensive efforts, a 44-year-old Squamish man who was buried in an avalanche south of Whistler on March 6 did not survive. Dennis Leski was snowmobiling in the Grizzly Lake area on Powder Mountain when he and another sledder triggered the Size 3 slide while highmarking.
Administration projected the Whistler Olympic Plaza ice rink would come in under budget and exceed expectations of visitors. The success of the pilot project was that later in the year council voted in favour of spending $1.4 million to install a permanent ice rink surface, which officially opened last Thursday (Dec. 20).
Council voted on March 6 to establish two of several new committees for the year. The Festivals Events & Animation (FE&A) committee was formed to oversee the creation and production of events and programming around Whistler, while the RMI Oversight Committee was formed to oversee the millions the resort receives in RMI funding from the province each year. In 2012, Whistler received $6.35 million. However, by the beginning of September the RMI committee was transformed and renamed into the Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI). The EPI was tasked to evaluate economic risks, opportunities and trends in the community.
At the same March 6 meeting, council voted to contribute $338,000 in RMI funds to the renovation of the municipally-owned Rainbow Theatre, a project proposed by the Whistler Film Festival Society (WFFS). Council also directed staff to submit an application to the Government of Canada for grant funds, however that application was never made. Past attempts to secure Heritage Canada grants have been unsuccessful for the project mainly due to arts and non-arts costs not meeting expectations. The festival also asked for an increase to RMI funding for its annual operations from $50,000 to $300,000. It only received $125,000 and later in the year the festival could not access the theatre money after council decided to review the entire RMI program at the committee level and chose to see that process completed before any funds would be released. Meanwhile Tourism Whistler, which holds the lease for the theatre and has a sublease with the festival, voted at the board level to require WFFS to raise all the funds required for the $2.67 million renovation before it would be allowed to proceed as well as submit a business plan. After a successful 2012 event, council voted in December to provide $350,000 to the project if the remaining funds for the now $1.34 million project are secured by February.
The developer of the Rainbow commercial project announced it had secured the International Grocer’s Association (IGA) as an anchor tenant for the proposed project at the north end of Whistler. As a result landowner Sam Brovender was in front of council with a request for increased commercial space of 7,153 square feet to the already approved 21,527. Council denied the expansion of the project citing concerns about parking and visual impact. By the beginning of May, council voted to allow for a larger convenience store for the development’s proposed gas station. Construction at the site has yet to begin.
Expenses from the 2011 municipal election were released. The election’s top spenders were all from Whistler’s mayoral race, with Wilhelm-Morden having spent the most on her campaign at $22,652. She raised a total of $23,083 and donated the difference to the Community Foundation of Whistler.
The second top-spender was former councillor Ralph Forsyth, who spent $19,610 in his run for mayor. Rounding out the top three was former mayor Ken Melamed, who spent $7,980, and raised $7,715 in contributions.
St. Patrick’s Day ended tragically this year when 27-year-old David Christian, an Irish citizen living and working in the resort at Whistler Blackcomb, went missing after last being seen at Merlins Bar and Grill. He died from hypothermia after entering a creek near the third green on the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course.
The Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) presented details of its 2012 annual allowable cut to council at the beginning of April. The CCF indicated that of the 39 hectares to be logged for the year, 18.4 hectares could be old growth trees that are 250 years old or even older. The logging of old growth trees is a topic of debate for the community, which places a high recreation and tourism value on the old growth forest over timber harvesting. Throughout the year the CCF worked on developing an ecosystem-based management plan with Ecotrust Canada to recognize other values in its management approach. The non-profit is also partners with the CCF on a project to develop carbon credit offsets for the forest to sell on the market in order to generate revenues. One reason for the annual cut to the forest is so it has a steady revenue stream.
WhistlerU announced a partnership agreement with the University of Northern B.C. It followed an announcement in December of a partnership with the B.C. Institute of Technology. Doug Player, the projects proponent, also submitted his proposal for the campus to council. However, that process soon came to a halt when council opted to undertake an extensive community engagement and planning process before moving any further with specific post-secondary proposals. Later in the year, Player announced the project would be rebranded the Whistler International Campus to better reflect what the proposal is about.
In a surprise move, Whistler council introduced and passed a motion officially declaring its opposition to the Northern Gateway oil pipeline project on April 3.
The motion came after discussions at previous council meetings where some members of council voiced their opposition to the project, while others requested more time to research the project before committing to a stance. The announcement also follows much discussion within the community about what impact such a project may have on Whistler should an oil tanker spill its load while sailing past the coast.
Sea to Sky Corridor orthopedic surgeon Dr. Pat McConkey announced his upcoming retirement. While initially there did not appear to be plans to replace the surgeon, who specializes in knee surgery and recovery in a region with very active residents, the VCH later in the year did hire a new surgeon and expanded the orthopedic program.
Hundreds gathered on April 10 for a vigil to pay tribute to freeskiing legend Sarah Burke. Instead of a moment of silence, which would not be fitting for the spirited 29-year-old, the Village resonated with cheers for a moment of noise. Burke, a multiple Winter X Games medallist who was known as much for her warm personality off the mountain as her skills on skis, died in January after suffering a ruptured vertebral artery from a fall while training in a Utah halfpipe. During the memorial longtime friend Luke Vanvalin called her the queen of their freeskiing family, her infectious smile and laughter were insurmountable in breaking down barriers between people. Her friend Elsa Hamel-Robert said the four simple words Burke stood by were “live, laugh, love, but mainly … dance.”
A French tourist snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb died on April 5 after falling into a tree well in the Seventh Heaven area alone and in-bounds.
The draft 2012 budget was presented without tax increases as promised and balanced despite $3.2 million in fewer revenues to work with. It was announced that the Whistler Presents free concert series would return in the summer as part of the $2.6 million FE&A program. However, with provincial announcements of RMI funds coming late in the spring, organizers were unable to confirm bands for Canada Day until five days before the long weekend. As a result, administration proposed changes to how the program would be funded, by advancing $1.2 million from RMI reserves money in July to begin planning 2013 events. Combined with a memorandum of understanding inked with the province securing RMI funds for the next five years. By November and December, the committee was already considering funding requests for augmentation programming from 14 events. By year-end, it was announced WinterPride, which applied for the very first time, was denied funding.
The Question visited the HemLoft in April, an egg-shaped treehouse that was garnering international attention at the time. Hidden in the trees on Crown land near an upscale Whistler neighbourhood, creator Joel Allen wanted its location to remain hidden but its existence to be known.
Longtime Whistlerite Doug Deeks was awarded with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work with the Skatin First Nation as part of the Rotary Club of Whistler. Sadly in July Deeks passed away, but was remembered for his tireless community contributions.
Disgraced musher Robert Fawcett made his first court appearance on May 24 after being charged with “causing unnecessary pain and suffering to a number of sled dogs” under the Criminal Code. The court process was moved to North Vancouver because of security concerns, but Fawcett eventually pleaded guilty in September to a single count of animal cruelty and was sentenced to three years probation, community service and a $1,500 fine in November by Judge Steven Merrick, who considered the public vitriol and its effect on the Pemberton resident as a mitigating factor. Out of the 54 dogs found in a mass grave by the B.C. SPCA, Fawcett was accused of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to nine of the animals.
Jazz on the Mountain organizer Arnold Schwisberg announced he would not bring his event back to the resort in 2012 after the RMOW denied a request for RMI funding through the FE&A program. The event in 2011 suffered from confusion over concert prices and a denied liquor licence.
Meanwhile the FE&A oversight committee announced the $2.685 million schedule of events for the resort. More free concerts in the summer, including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, were announced for Whistler Olympic Plaza. It was the first summer of programming for the stage, which was also utilized by returning events like Crankworx, GranFondo and Wanderlust. The event schedule had issues with noise complaints from community members. The RMOW and Whistler Arts Council announced the FE&A strategy would include a busking project as a pilot over the summer.
The World Ski and Snowboard Festival revealed the event’s title sponsor Telus would not return in 2013 at the same time as ESPN passed over bringing the X Games to the resort and combining with the local festival. By the end of the year the festival had applied for the first time for RMI funding totaling $350,000, however a decision was not announced before the end of 2012.
The Rainbow Park saga took another step toward final resolution when the Saxton family was awarded interest costs in an expropriation dispute dating back 25 years. When all was said and done, the courts ruled the RMOW owed the Saxtons about $2.44 million over and above the $367,000 it paid when it expropriated the land from the Vancouver-based family back in 1987. While the Saxtons were seeking more than $4 million in interest, they were only granted about $1.5 million. Initially the Saxton family indicated it would appeal the ruling, but they later dropped the action in the summer.
Locally-based floatplane company Whistler Air was purchased by Harbour Air. The change in ownership did not result in service interruption, or a name change.
Though there were no serious public safety issues, the May long weekend in Whistler was once again marked with public drunkenness, rowdiness and the presence of large groups of young people from the Lower Mainland causing disturbances in the Village. Police incidents were up over last year’s relatively quiet Victoria Day weekend in Whistler, with 146 calls for police service between May 18 to 21. That’s compared to 104 calls for service during the long weekend in May 2011.
TW announced the 2011-12 winter season was the best on record for occupancy rates with numbers climbing 18 per cent from the year before. On the other hand, those visitors spent less money on average, meaning the season was still lean for some businesses. Meanwhile, TW praised the announcement by the province that the new Family Day statutory holiday being established in February would take place on the second Monday of the month.
The month of June began with headline-grabbing news when a black bear attacked a 55-year-old Coquitlam man from behind while he was sitting in a hot tub. The man received 18 stitches to his head as a result and as soon as RCMP arrived on scene they found the bear 100 metres away and killed it.
Two of Whistler’s most prominent citizens were recognized in the highest way possible on June 4, with Florence Petersen and Joan Richoz both receiving the Freedom of the Municipality Award — the top award given out by any municipal government in Canada.
Town Councillor Jayson Faulkner announced he would be taking the role of general manager and founding partner of the proposed Sea to Sky Gondola project in Squamish. However, soon after Faulkner found his role on the Tourism Whistler board challenged with concerns of conflict of interest. He chose to step down as council’s representative on the board.
The RMOW began work on its Bayly Park project at Cheakamus Crossing, which will see a 21-acre portion of the area transformed into a park, featuring playgrounds, sport courts and various other community amenities.
The project got underway following almost a year of planning by RMOW staff after the project’s budget was cut in March 2011 from $3 million to $1.4 million.
The Conservation Officer (CO) Service indicated Whistler would have an official full time officer stationed in the resort and available at all times to respond. Tim Schumacher was announced as the area’s dedicated CO and it wasn’t until Aug. 21 that officers with the service had to destroy a bear in the resort. The bruin had broken into a home in the 19-Mile Creek area of Alpine Meadows and attempted to access three others. For the year overall bear deaths as a result of conflict with humans were down compared to the year before.
Council voted to send a proposal back to the Lil’wat Nation that sought to rezone its “legacy lands” owned in Function Junction to allow a gas station and a drive thru restaurant.
Commercial property owners in Whistler continue to pay a greater share of the overall municipal property tax bill, according to a study released at the end of June by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
The 2012 Municipal Property Tax Rankings and Report ranks Whistler as the 13th worst municipality in B.C. in terms of its so-called “property tax gap” — the ratio between the commercial and residential property tax rates.
The annual Statements of Financial Information (SOFI) report showed staffing costs at the municipality were down $1.2 million in 2011. The highest paid employee in 2011 was former chief administrative officer (CAO) Bill Barratt, who took home $215,988 — despite only working for part of that year. Barratt retired from the position in early July. Barratt’s replacement, Mike Furey, who began his role in September 2011, did not appear on the report as he had not earned over $75,000, the threshold required to be in the provincially-mandated SOFI.
A first for the resort, the Tough Mudder, an adrenalin-fuelled obstacle course event held at Whistler Olympic Park, resulted in a huge increase in room bookings over the same weekend the year before according to TW. By the end of the year the event was being considered for FE&A augmentation funding.
Following on the heels of the Council Action Plan, administration soon received marching orders with the official Corporate Plan being adopted by council.
On July 8, Whistler resident Kim Slater began her grassroots advocacy run that followed the route of the proposed Enbridge pipeline, which saw Slater run the equivalent of a marathon (42 kilometres) a day for 45 days straight.
Council scrapped an idea to establish free Village-wide Wi-Fi after estimated implementation costs came in at $500,000, with annual operating costs estimated to be $250,000.
The inaugural Whistler Excellence Awards were held, combining a number of traditional annual honours together in one event hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce. Search and rescue expert Brad Sills was honoured as Citizen of the Year while Paul Mathews with Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners was named Business Person of the Year.
RMOW’s CAO presented the results of the two-phased organization review, showing $500,000 in annual savings from staff reductions. Some positions were eliminated, others scaled back. Furey said changes were made to reduce net operating expenditures while still focusing on core services as well as a staff-to-workload ratio “sweet spot.”
Work began on rezoning the BC Transit facility to allow private operators to rent out storage and office space. Concerns were raised by a member of the Transit Management Advisory Committee over a business case prepared by the province, however that document was not made publicly available. Council passed the rezoning bylaw and in October officially marked the change with a ceremony. Pacific Coach Lines signed a one year contract to use the facility resulting in $50,000 in gross revenues for the financially challenged service.
BC Transit’s annual report also revealed that ridership was down in the resort 11 per cent with a seven per cent reduction in revenues over the prior year. However, the drop falls short of matching a reduction in service of 15 per cent instituted by the municipality, which determines the routes and hours of service locally.
The market units at Riverbend sold out by July of this year leaving Whistler 2020 Development Corp. with only $3 million outstanding of a $100 million loan taken out in 2008.
President and CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) Keith Bennett announced his retirement after a little over two years at the head of the organization. Bennett has a long history of involvement with the organization that dates back to when its board of directors was founded in 2007 as part of the efforts to develop Olympic sport venues in the area.
Before he officially left at the end of 2012, WSL released its first financial statements from an entire year of operations. The organization’s facilities cost $7.5 million to run for a whole year, and needed $2 million from an endowment fund established to support Olympic legacy facilities. In December it also released the results of an independent audit of the luge track done by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. It made 29 recommendations, all of which Bennett said WSL would have little difficulty adopting.
Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) questioned the actions of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations staff at the Sloquet Hot Springs after one of two dogs left at that campground was shot and killed. The animal was shot while WAG staff were onsite trying to rescue the animals.
The Alpine Club of Canada officially submitted its Spearhead Huts proposal to BC Parks. The three huts proposed to be run by the club would open the Spearhead traverse up for year-round access. It is estimated to cost $1.7 million and take until July 2017 to complete. A draft amendment to the Garibaldi Park Management Plan released for public comment at the end of the year included the huts proposal.
Florence Petersen passed away peacefully on Aug. 28, followed soon after by Dave Cathers and Art Dun Dyuf. Petersen was remembered at a community memorial on her birthday, Oct. 31, and at the same time, her history book First Tracks: Whistler’s Early History was published. Petersen’s ties to Whistler date back to the ‘50s and she was integral in establishing the Whistler Museum to preserve the community’s early roots when it was known as Alta Lake.
Developers of the proposed Mons Sub-Area, a 6.5 acre site in Northern Whistler, almost came to blows with council after local politicians chose not to adopt a rezoning bylaw even though it had passed three readings with the last council. Steve Bayly indicated he was considering damages for the $2 million he has spent since 2009 to meet the municipality’s demands but further meetings between the parties provided council the details it needed to officially adopt it.
The disagreement over access between Whistler Olympic Park and Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures was resolved at the end of August with both parties announcing the new Ski Callaghan pass that allows skiers to enjoy both areas while only having to purchase one ticket.
MLA for the West-Vancouver-Sea to Sky region Joan McIntyre announced she would not be seeking another term in office, saying she only planned to serve two terms, which opened the door for a nomination process to begin to replace her as the Liberal candidate. By the end of the year only Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy had put his name forward as part of that process.
A 444-day lockout and labour dispute between the Rocky Mountaineer and the Teamsters Local 31 Union was resolved in September.
Partial funding for eight electric car-charging stations were announced for Whistler through the Community Charging Infrastructure Fund.
Council adopted three bylaws in September that officially dealt with the illegal crawlspaces issue, which was on its action plan for the year. The bylaws came as recommendations of the council-appointed Illegal Space Task Force’s formed to tackle the issue of illegal construction and usage of crawlspaces, often built without proper permits and the required inspection by a municipal official.
A 19-year-old Canmore kayaker went missing on the Cheakamus River on Sept. 28 after going over a waterfall feature. Identified as Peter Thompson, his body was recovered in October.
Great news for art lovers and the resort was announced at the beginning of October. Wilhelm-Morden revealed the municipality had been in talks with real estate magnate, philanthropist and art collector Michael Audain to house his expansive collection of notable indigenous and contemporary West Coast art in a new art museum in Whistler.
By the end of December, the two parties had officially singed a memorandum of understanding, architects were hired and efforts well underway to see ground broke on the $14 million art museum between Day Lots 3 and 4. Audain is funding the construction and long-term operation of the museum through an endowment fund.
The application to Industry Canada for two cellphone towers, one new and one to be upgraded, had members of the community expressing concerns about how and where the infrastructure was being installed. Council expressed a desire to have more input on decisions as to where cell towers and how many are installed in the resort.
Council rebooted the update to the OCP, which had not received a comprehensive review in 20 years. However a first reading passed by the prior council was rescinded and an updated document presented to the public and eventually passed by council in November. The document provides a framework for all future municipal policies, regulations and decisions pertaining to land use and development in Whistler that takes into account the community’s environmental, economic and quality of life concerns. After community consultations, a growth cap was one of the most significant things included in the OCP.
Not everyone was satisfied with the OCP however. Chiefs of the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations, with the chief concern being their ability to pursue their economic interests on provincially-owned Crown land that falls within the municipal boundary. With the hard cap on future development built into the plan, the RMOW said it did not have the jurisdiction to allow First Nations to pursue their economic interests freely.
The month ended with the B.C. Liberal Party holding their convention at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. It was the party’s last gathering before the upcoming spring election.
A letter sent by Whistler Secondary School’s principal to the graduating class and their parents stirred controversy over the high school’s longstanding grad “kidnapping” tradition.
A tree on Tin Pants trail in Lost Lake Park that had years of ornaments contributed to it by visitors and locals was mysteriously stripped of its adornments. The RMOW confirmed it was not staff that absconded with the decorations and a plea to the community to see them returned was unsuccessful.
A 41-year-old Abbotsford man is facing charges after he drove to Whistler with a handgun with the intention to take his own life. RCMP were advised of the man’s plan and spotted his vehicle south of the resort. The man, however, refused to stop and ended up in the woods behind the Day Lots in an armed standoff with police for three-and-a-half hours. While he did shoot himself in the head, he did not die from his injuries.
Efforts to establish a fall festival took a major leap in November after the municipality announced it had selected a team of consultants to develop a signature event for the resort. Interplay Marketing out of Vancouver and the Victoria-based Fan Tan Group submitted the joint bid to develop a fall festival through a municipal request for proposal process in September.
Whistler Blackcomb opened early again. With better than expected snowfall early in the season skiers and snowboarders lined up overnight to be some of the first to hit the slopes on Nov. 17.
Former mayor Ken Melamed and local business owner Sue Adams were recognized with Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals.
The draft Garibaldi Park Management Plan was met with resistance from mountain bike group WORCA after provincial officials released the plan without allowing for the activity to be included in the park. Another issue raised by the public at an open house was the fact that heli-skiing operations were allowed to stay in the provincial park despite conflicts with ski tourers.
Hollywood came to Whistler at the beginning of December with the Whistler Film Festival celebrating its 12th year. The festival enjoyed unprecedented success with nearly 10,000 people attending the five-day showcase, a 20 per cent hike from last year. Industry attendance was also up, a 10 per cent increase from 2011, while box office revenues jumped an astonishing 37 per cent.
Private equity firm KSL Capital Partners acquired a 24 per cent stake in Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Ltd., after purchasing shares held by Intrawest. The deal resulted in a few changes at the board and senior management levels, with Dave Brownlie being named CEO and a member of the board.
Local business Whistler Chocolate send its Pocket Rocket milk chocolate bar into space on Dec. 12 with a NASA shuttle headed for the international Space Station with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. The company was nominated as a snack food for the mission earlier in the year.
At the final council meeting of the year the mayor indicated she wants to move forward on efforts to establish a sewer system along Alta Lake Road even if the municipality is not successful in receiving grants from the province or federal government.