Whistler went to the head of the class for a group of middle school youngsters from the Okanagan, a major British Columbian tourism mecca itself, who chose the resort as the "place they'd most like to live in North America" for a class project.
Rob Steciuk, a social studies teacher at Constable Neil Bruce middle school in West Kelowna, had set the assignment to help his 88 Grade 9 pupils in three classes study eight major geographical regions in North America, and was surprised when eight of his students picked Whistler as their ideal home.
"It was the most by far for one place out of all of the students, it even beat out our region. They really liked what they learned about all the activities in Whistler... Though it would have been an easy transition for them to make because we have so many active people here in the Okanagan Valley," Steciuk said.
The students created brochures to show off their chosen locations, and sent the brochures to tourism bureaus for each place chosen, along with letters that explained the project and why Whistler or other towns were chosen. Other popular places included towns in Florida and Oregon and Mazatlan, Mexico.
"They all sent them individually... I labelled the project 'Living the Dream.' The curriculum states that they have to research eight geographical regions in North America, but how boring is that? I thought we should work backwards and had this driving question 'If I could live anywhere in North America, where would it be and why,'" Steciuk said.
Whistler was chosen as an ideal "city" located in the Western Cordillera.
In one of the letters, Grade 9 student Emma Tucker wrote: "If you are reading this right now you are a very lucky person because you are in my idea of the perfect city, Whistler, British Columbia..."
Her classmate, Adeel Wasti, wrote: "What is the most diverse and extraordinary city? I believe that is Whistler. It is an area that has mild and desirable weather which is very relaxing in the lowland, but if you go up to the high mountain peaks you will find tundra-like climate."
Fifteen-year-old Austin Sandrin wrote: "I picked Whistler because of its rich culture and active vibe towards winter sports and summer sports."
Steciuk said one of the reasons he set out a broad exploration of the chosen locations, was getting the students to look into the "need to knows" about Whistler.
"They had to tell me what they needed to know to do the project, about the place, so they looked at things like industries, activities, housing. It was so student-centered and had them writing letters to introduce themselves and what they had learned," he said.
Patricia Westerholm of Tourism Whistler said they had received the letters and brochures from the eight students on behalf of the resort.
"We had no prior knowledge of the project so it was a complete surprise. It was interesting to read each letter and brochure to see the information that the students had gleaned through their research," she said.
Westerholm commended them on their work on Whistler.
"These students have an understanding of Whistler and what makes it such a special destination – they highlighted the many winter and summer activities that Whistler offers, the climate and the natural setting and we are excited that they chose Whistler as the place where they'd most like to live," she added.
So does this mean a field trip to the coast so the students can check out Whistler's slopes for themselves?
"That would be great, but probably not," Steciuk said, laughing.
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