"As long as we are persistent in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow. We cannot choose the day or time when we will fully bloom. It happens in its own time."
- Denis Waitley
I'm not sure I totally believe in karma. But if it does exist, Whistler residents must have led some seriously virtuous lives in the past. Know what I mean? How else does one explain the bounty of white stuff that fell on our slopes in 2012?
Think about it. From the crazy-good March skiing last winter to the snow-Nirvana that visited us this past month, Whistler has been sumptuously blessed by Ullr in the last year. I'm not complaining mind you, just pointing out an interesting phenomenon.
While other big players in the ski world — Colorado, Utah, California, most of the European Alps — struggle to make their snow last through the regular winter season, Whistler just keeps bopping along, breaking snowfall records like it was a birthright.
Take last month. Even before winter had officially made its entry, WB was reporting a cumulative snowfall of over five metres... with a base already exceeding 200 centimetres at the Pig Alley weather station! In my forty years of early-season skiing in this valley, I've never experienced such plentiful snow... or such consistently cold powder in the valley. And no matter whom I asked among long-time locals — Bob Dufour, Binty Massey, Doug Mac, Rob Boyd et al — none could come up with a bigger start to the year than this one.
I know. I know. Be careful what you write about. It could start raining tomorrow and the whole subject would be moot.
But my goal here is not to wax smug about our situation. Au contraire! I think we're not telling our story properly. In my opinion, the Coast Mountains' abundant precipitation is Whistler's principal differentiator. While there are bigger, steeper, more glamorous and/or more sophisticated mountain resorts on this planet, few (if any) can match us in the white-stuff department. Sure, there are other "deep-snow" zones out there — Hokkaido, Japan and our own Vancouver Island come to mind — but they're not really in Whistler's league when it comes to hosting destination visitors.
Still, that implies a certain responsibility on our part. This place, alas, is not for everybody. We're not just a bigger, wilder version of Aspen or Vail. We offer a fundamentally different snow experience here. Meaning? Come to Whistler with the wrong expectations and you'll be sorely disappointed with your visit...
Which begs a fundamental question. Why the heck does Tourism Whistler continue to dwell on sunny-sky shots and cloudless pics in its promotional material? It's naïve and counter-productive — and not at all reflective of the kind of tourists who will appreciate (and enjoy!) our unique attributes.
And the organization is increasingly going to get called on it. Which brings me to my next point. While talk of social media and its impact on business has been all the rage these last few years, it was often more wishful thinking than reality. Not anymore. From tweeters to bloggers, from Facebook posters to YouTube video makers, social-medianots have finally turned the marketing/communications world on its head.
Consider the snowsport world. Long before a conventional press release can go out, hours (sometimes days) before the local marketing mavens can massage their message, net-connected snowplay keeners around the world know EXACTLY what's going on at Whistler. Or Aspen. Or Verbier. Or Chamonix.
But it goes much further than that. This, after all, is the McLuhan revolution we've all been waiting for. No longer is the "message" controlled by a handful of upper-echelon insiders. No longer is the mass distribution of messages dependent on costly, old-school production methods.
Today everyone is a citizen reporter. And the technology has never been more human-friendly. From increasingly sophisticated smart phones to super-lightweight head-cams and plug-and-play editing suites, the communication toys available out there are allowing people to create personalized messages that are just as compelling (sometimes even more so) than those produced by the so-called pros.
And nowhere is that more evident than in passion-driven activities like skiing and snowboarding. Doubt my words? Just Google "Whistler" or even better, surf on over to the YouTube site and type in "Whistler riding." You'll be flabbergasted by the range of messages, stories, testimonials, raves... and put-downs and complaints that our little mountain redoubt engenders.
Yes, some of them are goofy. Many are in bad taste. A few are even agenda-driven. But they're all out there for the aware consumer to review. And that totally changes the game.
It truly is a revolution. Which begs another question. How does a traditionally-structured marketing team à la Tourism Whistler adapt its ways to take better advantage of such a game-changing global trend? Don't get me wrong. I'll happily concede that they're trying. In fact, TW's latest advertising campaign is a big step in the right direction. But they've got a long ways to go yet...
Which brings me to my final observation. While our local marketers still struggle to make a dent in the international destination market, there's a very promising trend happening at Whistler that remains well under the radar. Let me explain.
Back in the day, Whistler's ski (and snowboard) bums were mostly recruited from Canada's big cities. They came from Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal and Thunder Bay... and many of course, from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. A few even made the snow-pilgrimage from south of the border. Still, the overwhelming majority of young people attracted to Whistler's slopes in the early years were Canucks. That's not the case anymore.
While waiting for the opening of the Peak Chair on a blustery morning last month, I was surprised to hear languages spoken in the line-up among the youthful crew assembled there that I'd never heard spoken at Whistler before. And it's not like there was a big group of us — we were probably less than a hundred souls in total. So I decided to see just how many language groups were represented.
And I was blown away by the results. There were Spaniards and Norwegians, Germans, Swedes and Japanese, French and Quebecois, Italians, Slovaks... even a couple of Danes for good measure. And they were all under 30 years of age! But what made it even more interesting — at least for me — is that everyone, EVERYONE, in the line-up appeared to be an expert skier or snowboarder. And while each group expressed its sartorial aesthetic in its own particular way, the gear these riders wore on their feet reflected the very leading edge of snowplay technology.
"So big deal," you might say. "So now we have ski bums from around the world. But they're still cheap. They still have no money. They still don't impact our bottom line much."
But what about later? I mean, how do you think mainstream riders in Montreal or Toronto first heard of Whistler? While those responsible for promoting the resort in those early years would love to take credit for drawing newcomers here, the real sales vehicle back then was word-of-mouth. And it's the same today. One happy, super-charged, Whistler-raving kid, I would posit, is far more effective at infecting potential visitors with the Whistler bug than a million dollars' worth of conventional advertising.
And given the current communication revolution, that potential has never been greater. I mean, word-of-mouth has grown a seriously-big megaphone in the 21st century. Just imagine right now what these Whistler-touched foreign kids are saying/blogging/posting/tweeting/skyping to their snow-starved peers back home? Or where, in the future, these young people might plan a mountain vacation with their new, growing families and/or business colleagues? It really is a no-brainer. We have become global... just not in the way we expected.
So enjoy the snow my friends. And enjoy the ride. A new Whistler era is upon us...
May 24, 2013, 2:05 PM
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May 24, 2013, 2:00 PM
Course to be announced at mandatory athlete meeting Sat. 6 p.m. at the GLC More...
May 24, 2013, 2:00 PM
Eight candidates were nominated for three positions on the Board More...