Maxed Out 

The price of progress, the value of a plan

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This weekend marks the 22 nd annual mad celebration of life in Whistler. Perhaps, more accurately, it marks the anniversary of what life in Whistler used to be when the town was a simpler place and life’s focus was, well, more focused.

The Appleton Rum (legitimate plug) Peak to Valley Race is arguably the iconic event that captures the true spirit of this whacky place. Truth be told, had I not calculated — incorrectly as it turns out — that a cheap and easy flash of full frontal nudity could carry the day, I’d have argued for the Peak to Valley at Icon Gone instead of the Toad Hall poster. I still can’t figure out how gravity beat out sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Somehow I fear we’ve lost our moral compass. But I digress.

Whistler was a simpler place and life was more focused those many years ago when Dave Murray peered down through the tips of his skis, sighted downhill from Whistler peak to Creekside, gazed down 5,000 vertical feet and thought, “Wouldn’t a race from here to there be a gas?”

There was no question about what this town’s goal was then. We were on our way to becoming one kickass ski resort. And while some with further vision saw a four-season resort, those other three seasons lay mostly in the land of wishful thinking.

For most, it was all about the skiing. Finding a way to make a living was a necessary evil, a distraction.

Life was easier in 1985 than it had been in 1975. There was a village. There was a grocery store, a liquor store, a neighbourhood pub, a drugstore, a few shops, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. More of the necessities of life could be found in town.

Getting those things built hadn’t been easy and, for some, hadn’t been popular. Other plans, other developments in other parts of town had been put on hold by a mayor and council who understood the urgency of the present and the effect of present-day decisions on the rapidly approaching future. Building the village core was the key piece of the puzzle and a delicate balancing act: meet the needs of the residents and the needs of the hoped-for tourists. There was a sense of sacrifice coupled with an ironic sense of enrichment. Life in the best place most residents could imagine was getting visibly better. But progress came at a price.

The price was sticking to a plan, a plan for the future, a shared vision of what the town was going to be and what needed to be built to get there. Sticking to the plan meant some things that might be desirable, might be expedient, might mean a personal gain were either put on hold or simply not allowed because they didn’t “fit”. C’est la vie. You can’t be all things to all people. The best places grow to a plan, not to a whim.

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