"What I remember most? That's easy: it was the BOOM of the avalanche cannons going off in the morning. Even though it was raining outside, I knew it was snowing like crazy up high. But I had to go to work, not knowing if the Olympic downhill would be run that day... I also remember coming home at night and being so envious of all the happy skiers I saw who had taken advantage of the day's fresh powder."
Simon Drouin, La Presse newspaper
He wanted to know how Whistler was faring. Had things gone well since the klieg lights were extinguished? Was the community thriving? Had the visitors returned? Was there a new post-Games buzz in the air? A new storyline?
Like many Canadian journalists this month, Simon Drouin was writing a piece on his Olympic experience. A veteran of five previous Games (he works for Montreal's venerable La Presse newspaper), Drouin had spent three weeks in Whistler last year covering the sliding events for his readers. And now he wanted to do an update. Could I help him out?
Sure, I said. So we talked.
Most everyone agreed, I told him, that Whistler's Olympic adventure had been a HUGE chapter in the resort's overall story. But that chapter was now over. What the community was wrestling with, I explained, was creating a dominant theme for the next chapter. And that was proving to be a much more complex task than anybody had anticipated.
Mountain town or resort-village-for-rent? Health, wellness and education centre or drink-and-party place? Sustained prosperity or boom-and-bust? These were today's issues, I told him. And how we addressed them, I concluded, would determine how Whistler would evolve in the 21st century.
But wait a minute, I thought. With all the navel-gazing and mutual back-patting going on in the valley this month, wouldn't it be interesting to add the impressions of a visiting journalist to the record? So I turned the tables on him. Would he mind telling me what his impressions were of 2010 and Whistler? The resulting conversation was fascinating.
A little background first. A ten-year veteran of the newspaper wars - "I started off covering Les Canadiens for La Presse and went from there," he tells me - the 35-year old Drouin is a keen skier who calls the Eastern Townships' Mont Sutton his home resort. "It's nothing like Whistler, of course," he explains. "But it's a really cool hill. Old school all the way, lots of glade skiing and lots of good skiers." Oh yeah, and downtown Montreal is only an hour away. Closer if you're in a hurry...
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