Updating the Whistler model

Somewhere between last January’s Icon Gone event and the increasingly frequent horror stories about the labour shortage — that few people east of the Prairies seem to have heard about — a mind grown damp and mouldy from the summer of rain generated just enough heat to conceptualize a recruitment poster for Whistler.

That poster was a head-on shot of a guy on a mountain bike, airborne, wearing all the pads, and a little cloud of dust behind him as he traveled at mach speed. One hand held a cell phone up to an ear; the other utilized two fingers to grip a latte (in a travel mug) while also maintaining a loose hold on the handlebars. Underneath this image were words first heard uttered by John Nadeau: “Whistler: Population 10,000. Type A personalities, 9,900.”

This may not be the kind of person Whistler needs to recruit more of, although in the labour climate of 2007 anyone willing to work and resourceful enough to find a home is welcome.

More to the point, this is the type of person Whistler has always attracted. The DNA of the adrenaline-fuelled, multi-tasking mountain biker is a close match with the DNA of the people behind Whistler’s five Olympic bids. It’s linked to the DNA of the people who decided they could build an international mountain resort on a garbage dump and create a brand new ski area right next to an existing one. The idea of stringing a gondola from one mountain to another grew from the same gene pool that spawned the current efforts to build the arts and culture in Whistler. There may even be a link to the genetic disposition that Highway 99 drivers have for tailgating at NASCAR speeds.

Not every effort that has its foundation in these chromosomes is successful, of course. Even the best mountain bikers crash once in a while. But don’t underestimate Whistlerites’ determination, as the Vancouver Sun did during the devastating recession of the early ’80s. “It’s too bad that Whistler’s bubble has burst, but that’s what happens when people get over-ambitious and try to do too much too soon,” a July 22, 1982 editorial stated. “If the village hadn’t tried to turn itself into a world class ski resort almost overnight, it wouldn’t be in the difficulties it’s in now.”

In fact, Whistler probably couldn’t help itself, it was born to defy the odds and aim higher than conventional wisdom dictated. Evidence that this is still the case can be seen today at Meadow Park arena and the Air Dome, where a second generation of Whistler athletes is performing jumps and playing hockey at levels that leave their very competitive parents in the dust.


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