An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Changing face of Whistler?

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Most of us will happily acknowledge that whilst change can be a bit of a challenge at times (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), but we’ll also readily accept that change is also inevitable. It’s just that some of us are slower adapting and accepting than others.

However, it seems as that Whistler Blackcomb has some draft plans about to air that show some pretty impressive propositions. Expansion of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are in the offering with a good few more planned, such as chair lifts, greater access to more skiable terrain, plans to redefine and expand boundaries and improve current infrastructure are all currently on the table to be muted. The success and implementation of some or all of these offerings are of course, subject to much debate, politics and finances and I guess, as always, time will tell. For now though, the proposals all look to be for the good of Whistler as a whole and aside from what will no doubt throw up a few environmental opposition, the plans initially seem to merit further discussion…at least in my book. Perhaps I should have bought some Whistler Blackcomb shares after all!

Other matters worthy of note, trivial or otherwise, are the decisions to name several dates throughout late February and March in recognition of outstanding feats by local athletes and volunteers from the 2010 winter Olympics. Just yesterday, we ‘celebrated’ (or at least noted) that February 23rd is now officially Ashleigh McIvor day here in British Columbia. Hardly the same as St. Paddy’s day or perhaps even St. Nicholas, but great recognition of a local girl from these parts who struck gold in the ski cross (she’s also a great mountain biker, often seen out and about around the trails that are so well renown here).

So the long Presidents’ weekend came to pass and thankfully went off fairly uneventfully. Sure, the resorts hotel beds, bars and restaurants were full to the rafters, but on the whole most everyone was well behaved. When these weekends go well, the resort can be very thankful of the business they bring. Thank god for the many different holidays and celebrations that come to pass here. That said, it’s looking as if this coming weekend could also prove to have the tills ringing. No special events, no festivals and no particular holidays. However, what it does promise is a huge base of snow (in excess of 3 meters as this is being written and far exceeds what most ski resorts around the world can only hope for), glorious sunshine, although time will tell, and plenty for all to enjoy. What some may not realize though is that it’s also going to be flipping cold!

This week has seen temperatures plunge to around minus 15 Celsius down in the village and all I’ve heard over the last couple of days is the mumblings of many visitors of how darn chilly it was on the hill. It’s an unusual cold snap for sure, but if you’re not well wrapped up and prepared, you might get caught out. Frost bite can on occasion be a real concern and everyone should be diligent in covering their exposed skin, perhaps not staying out in the ‘fresh’ air for too long at a time and take note of their skiing partners’ exposed areas, noses, cheeks, etc and watch in case of skin colour changes. All this said, this is no reason not to get up the hills and enjoy the bountiful supply of snow that is there for everyone. This is reflected by the number of visitors from around BC and just south of the border and proves that the local marketing dollars are hard at work.

So as we’ve seen a slight drop off in European visitors so far this winter, the tactics to pursue other affluent areas of the globe have worked to varying degrees. There are many travelling Australians spending as much as two or even three weeks at a time here in resort. However, for many who follow the global resort snow reports, especially around Europe this year, those truly in search of snow may choose to look further a’ field to ‘guarantee’ their skiing conditions on their much vaulted and well earned vacations.

Personally, wherever you may have access to a ski hill, life is always good. Sure, conditions will vary hugely at times and some will have been blessed with geographical benefits that bring huge storm fronts rolling in. However, as long as you’re able to escape from the day to day rigours of life, breathe in all that the mountains exude and sample the turns that the slopes afford, how can you go wrong….Even snowboarders are welcome these days!