There’s a popular saying among members of the Ski and Board Club at the University of British Columbia, one such member reports: “If you can’t find a better solution, there’s always the lodge.”
In the future, there might not be. Whistler Lodge, in the famous resort town two hours up the coast from Vancouver, may be sold to help improve the financial situation of the Alma Mater Society, the undergraduate student group that owns it.
One might expect an uproar about losing the 42-bed chalet built in 1965 but even Ski and Board Club members are divided on whether it’s worth keeping.
It may be out of their hands. In a vote of 21 to 12 in September, the AMS council rejected a motion to operate it as a “student service” instead of a business as it’s currently designated. As a result, it will be reviewed by the AMS Business Administration and Governance Board later this year. That board will be presented with a business that has had decades of expensive repairs but is not financially sustainable. Between 2006 and 2011, it brought in $200,000 and paid out $500,000 in repairs. A 2011 assessment valued the 1.7-acre property at $977,000—money the AMS could use.
While the lodge is designed to entice UBC students with cheaper fees, they do not get priority, and the AMS reported in 2011 that only a quarter of revenue came from UBC students. Peter Wentz, a Ski and Board Club member, says that students who try to book it often find it full. The third-year business student went to Whistler about 50 times in first year and gave up on trying to book it.
There’s also increased competition. After the 2010 Winter Olympics, Hostelling International (HI) purchased Whistler’s athletes’ village and converted it to a hostel. Peter Wojnar, president of the Ski and Board club, prefers the HI hostel. “It’s brand new, much nicer, and the cost is the same,” he says, “and they provide shuttles to and from the mountains.” This from a man who says he came to UBC thinking, “Wow, there’s this lodge that I’m going to stay at all the time.”
On top of that, says Wojnar, Whistler Lodge is in a largely residential location, making it a less fun place to have a party. “There are bylaws in the neighbourhood,” he says. “Quiet time after 10 o’clock and all that, and the management has been against any alcohol, any loud noises.”
Nevertheless, he expressed regret at a possible sale. “Maybe right now it’s not profitable but property value in Whistler is constantly going up and space is getting more and more hard to find.”
For those who want it saved, there is hope. Joaquin Acevedo, the AMS vice-president of finance and a proponent of keeping the lodge, says a sale would have to be approved in a referendum.