International Partnerships

Whistler’s International Partnerships with Sister City Karuizawa in Japan and its Friendship Pact with Les Deux Alpes in France strengthen economic and cultural ties, promote tourism and offer opportunities to share knowledge and experience.

Whistler celebrates 20 years as Sister City with Karuizawa, Japan. 

The Resort Municipality of Whistler has a sister city relationship with Karuizawa in Japan. The relationship, which will be 20 years old in 2019, strengthens economic and cultural ties and promotes tourism.

Whistler and Karuizawa both boast year-round tourism and a multitude of outdoor recreational activities. In addition, the two municipalities have hosted the Olympic Games. Karuizawa hosted the Summer Games in 1964 and the Winter Games in 1998, and Whistler hosted the Winter Games in 2010. 

The two municipalities became the 67th pair of Canadian-Japanese Sister Cities in 1999.

The relationship involves several visits between the cities over the years. Most recently, Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden visited Karuizawa in July 2016. The Mayor of Karuizawa invited and graciously offered to host and pay for travel for the mayor and her husband to attend Karuizawa’s 90th anniversary celebration and explore their town.  As part of the 90th Anniversary Celebration, Whistler’s mayor gave an address where she spoke about the Whistler-Karuizawa connection.

The mayor of Karuizawa also visited Whistler in October 2012 and spent three days exploring our community with a tour of the Cheakamus Community Forest, tree planting outside of the Meadow Park Sports Centre to commemorate the mayor’s visit, tours of the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and the Squamish Lillooet Cultural Centre. 

The Sister City relationship includes student exchanges between Whistler and Karuizawa. The exchange provides a cross-cultural experience that explores the traditions, history, language and present day geography of both countries.

In March, Karuizawa junior high school students immerse themselves in the Whistler living experience and spend time with 10 selected youth ambassadors. In October, Whistler students have the same opportunity to experience Japanese culture when they visit Karuizawa.

The RMOW funds 50 per cent of the flight costs for the Whistler exchange to Karuizwa. The RMOW also organizes various fundraising activities. Students taking part in the program cover the remaining travel costs. Whistler families receive an honorarium for hosting Karuizawa students in their homes.

A story of two countries, three towns and four mountains

The Resort Municipality of Whistler signed a Friendship Pact with the French mountain resort area Les Deux Alpes in July 2018.

Les Deux Alpes comprises two communities, Mont-de-Lans village and Venosc village, and is the oldest ski 

resort area in France. Whistler and Les Deux Alpes share the experiences of renowned winter ski and snowboard activities and summer mountain biking. Importantly, both share a focus on the preservation of community and the environment.

The Friendship Pact began with an invitation from Les Deux Alpes Mayors to delegates from Whistler municipality, resort operations and tourism (Whistler Blackcomb and Tourism Whistler), local biking association (WORCA), real estate and housing representatives and Ecole La Passerelle to visit in July 2018.

The towns and their representatives met to share lessons learnt, best practices and advice on year-round tourism, governance for community and housing sustainability, aging infrastructure maintenance, longevity of mature resorts and school, language and cycling club connections.

The Friendship Pact formalizes this ongoing partnership and knowledge sharing for the mutual benefit of Whistler and the Les Deux Alpes.

Learn more about Les Deux Alpes.

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