The moral outrage was palpable this week in both print and online media. Somebody had the temerity to pry open the doors and jump out of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. The pretty lady who was allegedly unwise enough to show her face for most of the video was arrested and thrown in the stockade, probably with nothing more than McDonald’s takeout to survive on. According to the press, the RCMP is out in force looking for the perpetrator himself.
Why all the angst? People break publicly used property doing stupid things all the time. Surely when Whistler Blackcomb’s representatives were over in the Alps meeting with Dopplemeyr one of them must have said, “For sure somebody is going to jump out of this thing, so design it to withstand a little abuse.”
One need only look at how difficult it is to get tickets for the premiere of Sherpa Cinema’s latest movie to know we are a town that fosters and approves of a culture of extremism. We actively encourage our guests to throw themselves off of cliffs, hopefully in full view of the Peak chair lineup.
By local standards, the stunt itself was not particularly risky and, frankly, not all that outrageous. If some crazy, but rich Russian dude wants to parachute out of a helicopter into Green Lake in front of his specially imported guests on the houseboat he had trucked in for the occasion, there are people in this town who are more than happy to accommodate him for a fee. We even go so far as to raise our children to launch themselves down the hill at 120 km per hour or more on nothing more than a couple of sticks.
For a couple of hundred bucks anybody can drive up to the Pemberton Airport, take a quick course and then jump out of an airplane with a parachute.
In fact the only reason I can see for the public wailing and gnashing of teeth was never mentioned in the press. I was having a beer at La Bocca with a couple of guys who looked like they were more than a little adept at jumping off cliffs and would be fully prepared to volunteer for the mystery leaper’s support team.
Ironically, these two connoisseurs of the adrenaline rush made a very good point. The damage to the gondola can be repaired. But what if the video had never been posted? What if the damaged doors had never been noticed? What if somebody leaned against the doors and fell out? Imagine the suffering that would cause. I can see the headline now: “Star student falls to death from Whistler gondola while shocked parents look on in horror.” How many millions of dollars in lost business would that cost the community?
The way I see it, there is a market opportunity here. The area under the Peak 2 Peak is accessible by road. A couple of landing zones could easily be built. Why not modify a gondola specifically for BASE jumping and provide a package service? There would need to be some sort of minimum qualifications. A parachute license would be a good start. A cabin attendant would be required, but that could be built into the price. Whistler Blackcomb’s lawyers already have more than enough experience at drafting liability waivers to ensure that the activity would not attract liability for the hill.
Here is an opportunity to create a Peak 2 Peak that nobody anticipated — the only world record-breaking ropeway that you can jump out of.
Nicholas Davies is a lawyer, mediator and arbitrator who lives in Whistler and Vancouver. Nick put himself though law school by driving icebreakers and working on offshore oilrigs, knows a thing or two about stupid stunts done with too little forethought and is glad to still be here.