Christmas time at Whistler — lots to be happy about 

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In fact, I can see the day when WB is simply the place where neophytes are introduced to the snowsliding basics — before venturing out into the out-and-beyond for "the real deal." Don't laugh. Stranger things have happened...

The People: I had lunch the other day with WB mountain manager Doug Mac. One of the most understated people I know — calm, reasoned, impossible to fluster — the long-time Whistlerite makes his work look easy. But make no mistake: he's probably got the toughest job in the valley. For whatever goes wrong on the hill, he's the man ultimately responsible for making it go right again.

And yet... And yet. We talked for a whole hour he and I. We talked about the mountains and the ocean and our unbridled passion for both. We talked about our children and how much they were influenced by the environments to which they were introduced as youngsters. We compared notes on getting older and commiserated with each other on injury management. It was the kind of conversation that happens every day at Whistler. The only difference being that when it was over, he went back to his high-stress job and I went home to write about it.

Then it hit me. Doug Mac is one of those Whistler people that make this place such a unique — and welcoming — community. Know what I mean? He's the kind of guy who brings a smile to people's faces the moment they see him. Who reduces the stress level in a situation the moment he enters the scene. And he's far from alone in this. Whether it's Rob Boyd or Mike Douglas, Ace Mackay-Smith or Guitar Doug — Roger McCarthy, Mike Varrin, Nigel Woods, Binty Massey or Nancy Wilhelm Morden — Whistlerites simply address the world in a fundamentally different way from the mainstream.

Bold, funny, passionate, creative, independent — and highly appreciative of their mountain surroundings — Whistler folk have much to offer the world. It's one of the main reasons I keep coming back to this place. There's nowhere on the planet that feels so much like home.

And the Happy Party? I tried to attend. I really did. I even made it to Dusty's front door. But I just couldn't take the final step.

Like Ebenezer S. in Dickens' Christmas classic, I watched through the window as four decades of Whistlerites spent the evening exchanging happy stories with each other. Alas for me, there were just too many ghosts in the room. And I was haunted by all of them.

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