As the song title suggests, sometimes you have to leave a place (or person) to love it or them again. In my case, I've been doing this for seven summers. I leave Whistler in the spring and head to Savary Island to run my summer business, and after a busy winter season I am more than ready to get away from the hustle and bustle of Whistler's ever- increasing busyness.
"It's like a city now," I once remarked to some friends visiting from Seattle.
They both stared at me and said, "Oh please. This is so not a city!" (I visited Seattle soon after. I stand corrected).
Paradoxically, this year after a slow summer on Savary I couldn't wait to get back to Whistler. Yup. I'm never happy. But it's great to see Whistler with fresh new eyes again. Mind you, Savary Island is off the grid — so just having abundant electricity is exciting!
Now, the last "Love in" article I wrote (Pique, July 10, 2014) focused on the local characters I appreciated, so I decided that this one would be more about things — the things that we usually take for granted.
Whistler really does have it all without being overdone. Even though some people may compare it to Disneyland, I think we're really giving "The Happiest Place on Earth" a run for its money. I mean real happiness, not the fleeting joy a lukewarm GMO corn dog can bring.
So, if you ever start to feel jaded about Whistler, or maybe think there might be somewhere else better, there are two things you can do:
1. Leave town for a little while. Guaranteed there will be some things you've taken for granted. Like running into friends all the time and feeling like you truly belong to a place. Trust me — a couple of days of being a complete unknown will have you screaming, "Don't you know who I am?" at a grocery clerk or a bartender who barely acknowledges you. You'll long to come back to the town where it takes two hours (with a stop at a pub, "Just for one") to complete a couple of errands because you're running into friends all the time.
2. Show someone around who has never been here. Watch your inner braggart emerge while you take them to yet another cool restaurant, up a mountain or to yet another gorgeous lake. The Westside Road, and all its viewpoints, is truly a winner. Nicklaus North restaurant patio another. If you're lucky, a bear may stroll by — but act cool. Don't jump up and scream "BEAR!" The tourists will do that for you. Another fun thing: Take them to your favourite hangout where everyone greets you by name. Priceless. You belong here.
So with that said here are a few reasons why I'm happy I live in Whistler:
Everybody is really good looking
Yes people, take a bow. You're gorgeous! Visitors and locals alike are pretty much exceptionally attractive here. You may accuse me of buttering you up for the rest of the article, but you are. Way more attractive than anyone in the People of Walmart: Shop and Awe book that someone gave me last Christmas... The combination of fresh air, exercise and positive attitudes is quite apparent. Happy people make for attractive people. Just look at any Whistlerite's Facebook feed.
Here's a sampling from today... "Appreciating my job and my life."
"I've been here 20 years today and I'm so grateful!"
"A picture of my garden bounty."
See what I mean? What a cheery bunch!
Which totally debunks the myth that Whistler is full of rich, snotty people.
Whistler isn't full of rich snotty people
Quite often, when I say I'm from Whistler I hear the comment: "I'd like to go there, but I hear it's full of rich, snotty people." Sure there may be rich people here, but they're rarely snotty. The fact is, Whistler's just not really like that. I've seen it try to be a living episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but it never seems to take.
For example, if you were unlucky enough to catch the first episode of the Real Housewives of Vancouver, (it was the incredibly stupid one of the "wives" when they visited Whistler. And I was only watching it for research purposes because I was writing a skit.... Really) there were scenes of the overly made up "Housewives" in frothy designer dresses tottering down the Village Stroll in impossible high heels and getting onto the Whistler Gondola. What were they planning to do after that? Hike?
While I watched this scene in horror, I took great joy in knowing, really knowing, that just out of the shot there were Whistlerites rolling their eyes at this spectacle.
You see, when the truly affected, overdressed, rich, snotty people do wander through town they're the ones that look out of place.
And I like that.
Because what most of these people don't realize when they're strutting around in the village is that they're actually walking on top of an old dump.
Cool things get built on dumps here
It's fairly common knowledge that Whistler Village was built on a dump. But it was very well built on a dump. It was very well planned out — from the pedestrian strolls to the placement of the parking lots to the angles of the roofs to let more sun in, to the planters and water features. The village is a true gem. Just go to the Resort Municipality of Whistler website, or the museum, and see what some of the original plans for the village were and you'll be grateful they never happened.
And now there's another cool thing built on a dump — Cheakamus Crossing and Bayly Park!
The old site of Whistler's second dump was beautifully transformed into the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Athletes' Village. Now a neighbourhood for locals, it's full of beautiful gardens, green spaces and every amenity you could think of — except for the glaring exception of a wine bar.
It's a delight driving through the neighbourhood after the kids are out of school — parents are chatting out in their front yards with a beer or a glass of wine while the kids entertain themselves. It's such an idyllic family scene it almost makes me regret not having children. I also love the little grocery store that has an diverse range of ethnic ingredients and the cheapest soy sauce in town...
And Bayly Park, adjacent to the neighbourhood, is almost complete, with community gardens, a soccer pitch, tennis courts, basketball courts, doggy run and playground with that cool spongy stuff that I wish was around when I was a kid — just look at my knees. The park gets the last sun of the day and it's close to my new neighbourhood...
After 30-odd years of living in classic Whistler style accommodation, my boyfriend and I moved to Function Junction. In comparison to those annoyingly peaceful forested neighbourhoods most Whistlerites live in, this is like living in New York City. And I love it. It's loud, dusty and lively. Even the trains rolling through at all hours are kinda cool. (Except for that 4 a.m. one that precision-times its horn to sound when it's closest to our bedroom window.)
Often described as the Soho of Whistler, it sports an eclectic array of shops, galleries, salons, restaurants and heavy machinery. It lacks sidewalks, enforced parking regulations and uniform signage and is filled with locals, as it supplies all the necessities of everyday life that us rich, snotty people need to stay on top. Like — everything is down here!
You could get your pet a check up with the vet, drop it off at the doggy spa next door, go for an eggs Benny while you get your boat welded. Then, why not a fresh brewed beer at the Whistler Brewery while you peruse the sexy, organic produce you scored at the market. Pick up an antique across the street while you get your tires rotated. Watch while truckloads of hot tubs arrive at The Splash before they reach their final homestead. And wait. What's that commotion next to the hot tub place? Pure what? Purebread? Oh yes. Purebread (no money has exchanged hands for this endorsement).
The first morning we woke up in our new pad, my boyfriend, John, wordlessly got up, pulled a coat over his pajamas and left the building. He returned five minutes later holding two small white bags.
"I just went to Purebread," he said. "These cost eight dollars. We have just added $240 dollars to our monthly food budget."
Luckily we've managed to not hit it every day (I don't have a sweet tooth, thank God, or I'd be screwed).
However, just watching the steady stream of customers is entertainment enough.
I've noticed people always look a little bit happier coming out. But the same can be said for the brewery.
(As fate would have it, I worked at the information booth in the Olympic Plaza across from the second Purebread location until they had to relocate due to the fire in the building last fall. When I told people I live next to Purebread in Function and worked in front of their second location — they pretty much assumed that I had set fire to the building myself so I wouldn't balloon up any further.)
Then there's Bounce, the wall-to-wall trampoline fun zone. It's very cool to live across the street from this place. I'll be standing in the living room and out of the corner of my eye see an inverted body fly through air. I quickly check just how far down that bottle of wine I am before I realize, "Ah. Bounce."
There are a lot of fitness places down here as well. I'm hoping that just being around them may compel me to actually join one, but it hasn't happened yet. There must be three yoga studios down here, Crossfit and even more in my face, the TAG spin class downstairs.
I really had to re-examine my life choices when I came home from work carrying two bottles of wine and a deep fryer I had just purchased.
Later, with a crispy spring roll and a cold glass of Pinot Gris in my hand, I felt a small twinge of guilt when I heard the instructor yelling for the class to "GO HARDER!!!!" But ya, just a small one.
When I do leave my little New York to go into the village I now really notice....
The tree corridor along the highway
I used to think it was funny that tourists couldn't figure out where the locals lived. You'd think that they would have noticed all the neighbourhoods once they hit the Welcome to Whistler sign. But then how could they? Unlike most towns in North America where you're alerted to your imminent arrival by ugly urban sprawl, fast food joints and malls, Whistler has nothing but trees lining the highway. That was actually put into place by the town planners back in the '80s. They envisioned the town centre as, "A village in the Forest." They achieved this admirably by making sure there was a 10-metre tree border lining the highway. All the houses are neatly camouflaged.
Pretty cool, huh? Almost as cool as...
The quick commute
If you feel like you should move to the city because "Whistler's Not Reality" just watch Vancouver commuting reports at rush hour. When my mother retired from nursing, she took great delight listening to commuter updates on the radio with the knowledge that she would never have to do it again. Like mother like daughter.
It's pretty nice that the Whistler commute — even "all the way from Emerald" is 10 minutes tops. And if you're on your bike you don't have to suck exhaust and avoid doors opening in your path thanks to the Valley Trail. Sure — you might have to dodge a bear along the trail, but you'll have the added bonus of telling your disbelieving city friends.
That said, my boyfriend actually exploded in anger when he saw the new stoplight being installed at the Tamarisk intersection. The poor man. On a bad commute, he has to endure three, count 'em, three potential stoplights on the way to work. Torture!
The only bad thing you have to deal with is if you have to go to the...
Only gas station in Whistler
It's not exactly something I love, but when you think about the fact that there's actually fewer gas stations here than when I moved here 30 years ago, and it's still not really a problem except at peak times, I think that's sorta cool. Almost as cool as
Knit bombs, everywhere!
Makes me feel like I'm living in the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. It started in Function by a fun gal that works down here. Suddenly a bike rack is covered in colourful knitted covers, then a tree trunk, then another. Suddenly you feel like you're wandering around in a fairy tale. The municipal council commissioned our lovely knit bomber to cover the tree trunks around Millennium Place. If you're there, you might as well check out the knit-bombed bicycle in the MY Place foyer. My personal message to the "Bombers" is, "could you please do my car? Please? It's the old red Honda parked near Purebread."
The cutest, and latest, K.B.'s I've noticed are spikes that have been covered in red and white stripes — they look like adorable Seussy mushrooms. You can find them on the way to the...
Just out of Function there's a beautiful trail just past the Re-Use-It Centre that leads you to an incredible pump trail. Entirely built by volunteer biking enthusiasts, it is a series of mind-boggling jumps carved out of the dirt beside the commuter trail. It's hard to imagine how long this has taken and it keeps getting bigger. There must be some good energy in there because my pugs "drop in" and run around in there like a couple of greyhounds (I did notice the sign saying something along the lines of, "If you didn't help build this course then you don't get to play here..." I hope pugs are exempt.) To add extra coolness there's a social area with a barbecue and a vegetable garden. I think I've only seen people there a couple of times, but it looks like an amazing place to hang out. Wait a minute — if not yoga, or spinning, or martial arts — maybe I'll take up Pump Trail riding and hand carve out a couple of sweet, tasty jumps for myself!
Hmmm, is that what that kind of riding is called? Or is it BMX riding... maybe I'll have to ask someone in the know — maybe I should ask a...
A lot of people love the Village Host Program. Really love it. And by people I mean tourists, because as one guest told me, "This village is laid out like a labyrinth on acid."
Yes, great as the village is, it's very confusing. Funnily enough it was designed that way. You were meant to feel like you're meandering and exploring, and want to come back another time because you've probably missed something. That's all well and good, but if you just really need to get to a bathroom, exploring is the last thing on your mind. And that's where we come in. I say we because I've been a Village Host for six years and I love it! It's a great thing to be able to show off your town and help people. On a selfish note it's also fun to feel like you know everything.
What you may not know is that most V-hosts are volunteers. There are over 100 people doing this out of the kindness of their hearts because they truly love Whistler and want visitors to enjoy it too.
While the questions we get are usually, "Where's the closest bathroom, bank, grocery store etc.," we get some challenging and fun ones too. How to explain snow to someone who's never seen it before? Or a mountain, or a chairlift? Try it! It's harder than it looks. Try to give concise directions on how to get to the library from the Upper Village in three turns or less. See what I mean?
I once had to explain to a guest how the snowline works. "It's white up there, but its water down here," she said. "Please explain."
Or, "What do you mean, go to the base of the mountain?" It seems a silly thing to ask, but hey, if you've never been to a mountain, how are you going to know what the base is?
As I've said, it's good to see Whistler with fresh eyes, and a Village Host sees a lot of fresh eyes. It changes your perspective on things.
And speaking of fresh, there's always the...
With the fall comes the fresh influx of new Whisterites. Whether they're coming for the season, or making a life change it's nice to see the new energy come into town. As our editor Clare said — "I love watching their fresh faces at Turkey Sale. I like watching our new recruits equipped. They make me feel so young!"
That feeling isn't mutual. They make me feel the opposite, especially at The Liquor Store. I'll be watching an ovum approach the check out clutching a bottle of butterscotch schnapps and think, " That person is sooo getting carded." And then... then..."OMG!! There's no way that child is old enough to drink!"
But they are.
I have no idea what people's ages are anymore, but that said, you enjoy that Schnapps, young one, and welcome to Whistler, freshie!
(But you may want to consider switching to wine in a few years, but you'll figure out why your hangovers are so bad.)
Once I started thinking about thankful things I got on a roll, but this love in must end — but not without mentioning: Whistler FM. After listening to "classic" radio stations up the coast this summer I am thankful to NOT have the urge to scream; The Re-Use-It and Re-Build-It centres; restaurant specials in the fall and lastly The Point Artist Run Centre on Alta Lake. This is the coolest historical place in Whistler.
And now I love — Thanksgiving! So thank you Whistler! Have a good one.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, This is Michele Bush's second installment of her "Whistler Love In." You can find the first online at www.piquenewsmagazine.com from July 10, 2014. "If you didn't already madly appreciate Whistler I hope this rekindles your warm and fuzzies," says Bush.
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