You’ve seen them wandering in and out of business handing out resumes, stumbling through Coopers looking for groceries and poking their way around the ski hill.
With another winter upon us, another influx of skiers has arrived, here to enjoy the snow, the resort and, hopefully, the town.
Taking a page from Whistler, Revelstoke is hosting Welcome Week for all these new residents starting this Friday, Dec. 7. The goal is to help introduce these visitors to the community and help bridge the gap between newcomers and year-round residents.
“When you think of Revelstoke you don’t think we have racism or discrimination in our community but something that is emerging is the tension between existing residents and the newcomers to the community,” said Jill Zacharias, the city’s social development coordinator and one of the organizers of Welcome Week. “The whole goal is to build bridges, to connect newcomers with what’s already going on in the community. To offer opportunities, to be a welcoming community.”
Part of her inspiration was a feature article on Revelstoke in Powder Magazine that said, “There’s something about a ski town where a large portion of the residents don’t ski. Until 2004, Revelstoke was mainly a railroad and forestry town. Meaning, the population of 8,000 worked hard. Not to say that skiers don’t work. It’s just that a lot of the workers don’t ski – and don’t get all the hullabaloo about the high-speed lift thingies going up on Mackenzie.
“The end result in 2012 is that about half the town looks like it wants to beat the crap out of the other side.”
“I was just like, ‘We so do not need that,;” said Zacharias upon reading that.
For Welcome Week, what organizers have done is gather all the existing events that happen around Revelstoke – Tighwad Tuesdays at the Roxy, drop-in curling, the Grizzlies, open mic night at the Last Drop, jam night at Benoit’s, and more –added a few special events and thrown in some deals at some local businesses.
The special events are the Welcome Week kickoff reception and chili dinner at the community centre on Sunday and a pancake breakfast hosted by the Revelstoke Rotary Club next Saturday, Dec. 15. There will also be free yoga classes, discounts on lane rentals at the Cabin and free entry to the Revelstoke Museum & Archives for the opening of its new exhibit on the history of skiing next Thursday, Dec. 13.
Zacharias hopes to get locals to realize the positives newcomers bring to the community – they work, they spend money, they volunteer, they start businesses – rather than the negatives. And, of course, there’s the matter of getting newcomers to accept Revelstoke as more than just a place to ski and party.
“It’s definitely two sides of the coin. Its getting to that mutual acceptance and engagement,” she said. “If the newcomers feel welcome and a sense of belonging, then they might feel more part of the community, and vice versa.”