"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."
- Steve Jobs
As much as I look forward to summer and all the activities that sun and warm weather can offer us, my heart still skips a beat when I see the first hints of new snow in the high country. I can't really explain it in rational terms. It's full-on existential. Full-on foolish, illogical, unexplainable an-ti-ci-pa-a-a-a-tion.
It's not that I enjoy living in the dark for 18 hours a day or anything... or that being cold and wet is my favoured living condition. Still, the realization that I'll be sliding on snow soon — that I'll be zooming down a crazy winter carpet that lets me fly without leaving the ground (and doing it for days and days in a row) — well, that manages to bring a smile to my face every time.
As I said, it's not rational. Still, that's why I get so jazzed up in early September. Barely two months now till everything changes in this town... the countdown is on.
I know. I know. Whistler has grown up these last few years. Summer activities are increasingly important to the community's bottom line — both financially and culturally. Mountain biking, road cycling, hill walking, hiking, touring, yoga even — suddenly Whistler is beginning to attract the same kind of active-minded people in the off-season as it does during its traditional high season.
It's taken a while. Sure. But I think we've turned the corner. As my boss at the Pique, Bob Barnett, brought up a couple of weeks ago in his editorial: "This summer's combination of festivals, participatory events and animation has worked well with the long term strategies of the municipality and Whistler Blackcomb."
To me, the biggest change in Whistler's summer face has come on the "participatory" side of things. And most of these new events, thankfully, are self-propelled. Bike races, running races, enduro tests, yoga-wellness gatherings — the list of successful participatory events in and around Whistler is growing by leaps and bounds. And they attract a group of people to this place who may become (if they're not already) four-season visitors.
We saw it again this past weekend with the skinny-wheelers participating in the Vancouver-Whistler GranFondo. Animation, enthusiasm, fun, passion — this was the kind of outing that could justify its own dedicated festival-weekend. I mean, I don't know about you but I'd rather have a resort-full of healthy, outgoing outdoor-focused bike riders than a bunch of urban yahoos coming up here to rent cheap rooms and party-drink-fight the night away.
The thing is, most of these new events are also being embraced by the local populace. And I believe that's another vital component in their growing success. The more Whistlerites are encouraged to participate alongside visitors and newcomers — the more they want to participate alongside non-residents — the bigger and better anchored in the community those activities will become.
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