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Heartburn about sale of Intrawest

Allen Best

WHISTLER, B.C. – The sale of real estate developer and ski area operator Intrawest to Fortress Investment is all but completed, and with that sale stockholders will gain a large profit, as will key company executives. For example, Joe Houssain, who founded the company in 1976, stands to make $126 million.All this has caused some heartburn in Whistler. Under a column entitled “Uncle Joe and the Intrawest Myth,” Michel Beaudry of Whistler’s Pique newsmagazine reports several anonymously sourced interviews with top Intrawest officials who are anything but happy. One used the word “betrayed.”Whether the executives had any reason to feel betrayed is one thing. The more serious allegation that Beaudry – and his anonymous sources – make is that Intrawest’s success was based largely on a tourist product it did not create. The argument is that Intrawest bought the Whistler-Blackcomb ski areas (and assorted real estate base properties) at just the right time. Whistler through the 1990s was what Paris Hilton would call “hot.” And then, Intrawest-branded villages began to sprout like mushrooms on a cow pie, he observes. But everything that made it “hot” was the result of the vision and work of others.”It’s not like we lied about it,” Beaudry quotes one “former real estate executive with the company” as saying. “It’s just that we never corrected people who made that assumption. And it definitely worked in our favour – particularly when we first broke into the U.S. market. Whistler was hot. We were hot by association. We landed a lot of projections by insinuation.”Beaudry has his own heartburn about the sale of Intrawest, because he never did like Intrawest. Houssain, and others at Intrawest, were not part of what in Whistler is called the culture of the snow-eaters. Intrawest homogenizes its resorts and hijacks the local stories, he says.”Let’s make sure the next big talker to come knocking … isn’t given the means to hijack our story ever again,” he writes.

DURANGO – The issue of dependency on foreign oil continues to overlap that of climate change. That became apparent in Durango, where the city council has joined the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement.While the vote was unanimous, Councilman Doug Lyon insisted on language in the city’s resolution that states that continued dependence on foreign fossil fuels poses a threat to national security.The commitment to rolling back greenhouse gas emissions in Durango to 1990 levels, as specified by the mayors’ agreement, may be relatively painless. Bob Ledger, the city manager, said he believes no substantial costs will be incurred. For example, the city had already set aside money for next year to tap the methane captured from wastewater.At the prodding of town residents, the city is also planning to seek green-building certification, under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, for the new municipal library. The LEED certification quantifies energy savings, but the certification also helps projects obtain grants. The certification is “not frosting on the cake,” said Mayor Sidny Zink. “It’s the cake.”

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler municipal officials may have a larger hand in managing the adjoining forests by next year. The forests belong to the provincial governments, but the municipality is applying to manage the forests under the Community Forest Program. Officials believe there is enough wood in the forests to fill approximately 200 logging trucks, reports Pique. However, while the city may make some money, the greater benefit is that it will have a larger say in ensuring that aesthetics, recreation and tourism are taken into account in the management decisions.


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