Tucked behind the screens of trees along the highway and dotted throughout the dark and empty ski cabins nestled in the valley there's a vibrant bustling town of almost 10,000 residents living in Whistler. That's not something most tourists are thinking about when they come to visit. But the locals know. They know Whistler isn't just a ski town. They know that it's a community that more than 2,000 families call home, where there are enough kids to fill three elementary schools and one high school.
In many ways, the families who live here get the best of both worlds - living in a place with a small town feel with many of the amenities of the big city - Meadow Park Sports Centre, immaculate sports fields and tennis courts, the Valley Trail, state of the art mountain biking and skiing and concerts galore.
But there's no such thing as a perfect place to live, and Whistler is no exception. Raising a family in Whistler has its challenges, beyond the obvious one of the cost of living. With the strong emphasis on sports, arts and culture opportunities can be more difficult to come by. But they are there; you just have to look for them, maybe work a little harder to get them, and sometimes create your own.
Long-time resident Susie Howe feels that people living in Whistler today don't have much to complain about. She moved to the valley in 1980 and had the first of her three children in 1982. At the time, there was very little for families or kids in Whistler.
"There was no comfort level," says Howe. "You had to work for your kids to make things happen."
All the same, she remembers that time fondly, despite some of the challenges of small town life.
"I loved raising my kids in Tapley's Farm. We were all new moms and we really relied on each other."
If they wanted an opportunity for their children, they had to create it. Gymnastics? They found a space and created a club led by local moms. Swimming? The moms convinced the owner of JB's (now Roland's Pub) to let them use the pool. Summer camp? When parents asked for a summer program for their children, Howe and fellow teacher Sue Christopher created Camp Rainshine, a place for kids to do arts, crafts and physical activity.
The pioneering spirit shown by parents in the '80s is still alive and well today. Rather than complain about what's not available, there are many parents out there who either seek out and take advantage of whatever comes up or decide to fill a niche by starting their own organization or business.
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