Much ado in Whistler about motors on snow
WHISTLER, British Columbia – Backcountry skiers and snowmobilers are sniping at each other in the pages of Whistler’s Pique. A complaint from a self-described “self-propelled backcountry enthusiast” named Mark Grist seems to have been the volley fired over the bow.Indignant snowmobilers responded that Grist was arrogant, and they suggested that people who don’t like snowmobiles should instead go to the provincial parks, where motorized uses are banned. Further, they question whether backcountry skiers weren’t being hypocritical. After all, they use motor vehicles to get to the trailheads, while downhill skiers use lifts.From Australia, a reader named Dan McDonald writes to describe the troubles with four-wheel-drive motorists on the beaches of Queensland. While outwardly the issue may seem one of value-laden objections over noise and visual impacts, a recent study showed broader, more harmful consequences, he says.The pressure from truck wheels is compressing the sand, killing about 40 percent of the clams and crabs that live below the surface. Those crabs clean organic debris, processing the nutrients and making them available for other organisms that, in turn, feed the small fish (that then feed the big fish) and the shore birds (more than 40 species) and keep the sand itself clean.And clean sand and wildlife are vital to the tourism economy there, he argues. “How long can Whistler afford to remain neutral over motorized use of its backcountry?” he asks.Snow groomer charged TELLURIDE, Colo. A sophomore from Telluride High School died after falling off a snow groomer and getting crushed. The driver has been charged with criminally negligent homicide.In addition to two passengers in the cab, the driver, Aaron Apanel, 26, had allowed six skiers and snowboarders in the cargo area on the back of the groomer. Police say the vehicles have international symbols that say “no passengers” in the cargo area.Apanel was ferrying the passengers 800 feet up the ski area to an after-hours photo shoot. Ski patrollers arrived at the scene of the accident within minutes, but Brooks “Hoot” Brown, 16, was pronounced dead after being taken to the local medical clinic. A competitive slopestyle freeskier, he had just been ranked 20th in his age group at U.S. Nationals, says The Telluride Watch.What’s wrong with Whistler?WHISTLER, B.C. Whistler continues to anxiously contemplate its future, trying to figure out what has happened since the glory days of the 1990s. While drought, mid-winter rain, and the exchange rate that has caused more skiers to go to American resorts can all be blamed for the malaise, the organizers of a recent meeting attended by 120 locals insist there’s something else. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong,” said Dave Halliwell the organizer. “It’s just that there’s something missing.”Pique Newsmagazine reports that meeting attendees tried to define Whistler’s mission as a business enterprise. The answers were somewhat expected: make memories, create good experiences, exceed expectations, and so on – none of this particularly new.But the real task, said another meeting organizer, sports-shop owner Scott Carrell, is product diversification. When Whistler was at the top of the tourism mountain five years ago, he said, the Discman was state-of-the-art technology. Now it’s an iPod. Similarly, he said, Whistler must evolve, diversifying whether in arts and culture, or in health, wellness, and learning.