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Jian on winter

CBC personality to broadcast live from Whistler Village Square

What: colder>play — live broadcast

Where: Village Square

When: Friday, Dec. 3, 5 p.m.

Those born and raised on the Prairie, such as myself, learn early on that every winter includes a spell of unearthly cold. We’re talkin’ dry ice levels here. Planet Hoth. Insta-frostbite cold. Tears-freeze-in-your-ducts-so-you-can’t-even-cry-about-it cold.

You never get used to it but you do figure out how to deal with it.

Which is why, while living in Edmonton in my early 20s, I found myself not only driving to work in minus 40-degree blizzard conditions but driving with a coffee in one hand, singing along to the stereo.

I arrived to find one of my co-workers had ridden his bike. He had an ongoing bet with another co-worker on who could ride their bike to work the most days that year. Pride cometh before the iceman cometh.

Even considering leaving the house that day was so Canadian , I recall thinking, like somehow winter’s extreme chill was tied to my identity.

Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC Newsworld’s hip weekly arts and culture program > play, was not quite so sure when he recently found himself pondering the same subject.

The sharp, Toronto-dwelling urbanite, known to many as a musician, both solo and with activist folk rock band Moxy Früvous, came to the realization that he, though a proud, patriotic Canadian, (listen to his tribute ballad to Pierre Elliot Trudeau if you have any doubt) truly hated winter.

It led to the premise for a special edition of >play, which consequently led Ghomeshi and his production crew away from Toronto in search of somewhere in Canada where winter is welcomed and celebrated. Where snowfall is cause for partying and balmy temperatures are viewed with suspicion.

Which is how he ended up sitting across from me, warm and dry, at the Fire Rock Lounge at the Westin Resort last week.

"I’m on the quest to examine our love/hate relationship with winter," Ghomeshi said.

"Here’s the thing. We have this history, this legacy, this pedigree, this mythology around Canada as a northern nation and the ‘hearty Canadians trudging through the tundra.’ But what does that really have to do with the contemporary reality, when 80 per cent of the population is living as far south as possible?

"We’re not living in igloos," he continued. "It’s a hassle to shovel the driveway. The swimwear shops do their best business in winter because people are trying to get the hell out of here and fly south. Just like Canada geese, they have the right idea. Smart those geese. The things I love that are associated with winter, like hockey, well, you don’t need cold to play hockey. Who won the cup this year?"


En route to Whistler Ghomeshi and his TV crew stopped off in Winnipeg, a place often mocked for extreme winter temperatures, to talk with scientists, Environment Canada staffers and long-time Canadian children’s entertainer Fred Penner.

"Fred Penner was awesome," Ghomeshi enthused. "You know what Fred Penner said? Fred Penner said ‘I love winter.’ And I said, ‘Fred, I love you and Fred Penner’s place, but listen, minus 40? You’re really f***in’ telling me you like winter?’ And he said ‘yes.’"

Penner’s reason was that he loved the seasons. Hot summers and cold snowy winters keep him in the ’Peg. Ghomeshi, who is of Iranian heritage, realized it’s a mindset shared by his own immigrant father.

"My dad, one of the things he treasures about Canada, is that diversity of weather, and so it kind of hit me that I like that about Canada too," he said.

"I’m also realizing all kinds of nuance things. The way you experience winter depends on where you live. It’s a very different experience in an urban setting than it is in a rural setting. The majesty and the beauty and the clean white snow in a rural setting set against slushy, disgusting grossness somewhere between the tram and the friggin’ SUVs in a downtown city is a very different experience.

"And clearly, here in Whistler, winter’s a great thing. It’s beautiful."

While in Whistler last week, Ghomeshi filmed with members of the local arts and music community including Chili Thom and KLC Nash, Dave "Pepe" Petko, Scott Johnston, Vincent and Cheryl Massey and Robby Dagg, and toughened up by snowboarding with Leanne Pelosi and taking a Zip-Trek eco-tour.

The resulting show – colder>play will air nationally this Friday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST). Included in the program will be a live broadcast from Village Square, also beginning at 5 p.m. PST presenting a chance for Whistlerites to send their face across the country via the airwaves.

Following the broadcast is the first of the Whistler Film Festival’s free outdoor screenings of short films. A collection of films from the eclectic CBC television program ZeD TV will be shown on the festival’s large inflatable screen beginning at 6 p.m.

The outdoor screenings continue with a selection of BravoFACT short films on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in Village Square. The Whistler Film Festival runs Dec. 2-5.