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A flight of fancy

By G.D. Maxwell Now that my childhood – chronologically speaking – lies in a galaxy far, far away, I’ve pretty much given up on all the silly things I hoped I’d be and never became.

By G.D. Maxwell

Now that my childhood – chronologically speaking – lies in a galaxy far, far away, I’ve pretty much given up on all the silly things I hoped I’d be and never became. Even my long-coveted dream of being six feet tall, I’ve decided, isn’t worth the risk of growth hormones or leg implants at this point in my life. I’m 5’10" on a good day, 5’9.5" after a day of skiing moguls and will doubtlessly compost my way down to around 5’7" by the time I’m ready to check out. C’est la vie.

Being tall is only the last of a long parade of passing desires I’ve watched doppler away to the vanishing point. Flying like Superman was the first and most painful, both psychically and physically. I was determined to succeed but gravity was far more stubborn.

I made peace with never driving the tail-end of a hook-and-ladder fire truck, never being the toughest kid in school and never being a star athlete. I learned quickly to stop sweating not being what someone else wanted me to be when one of my baseball coaches, dazzled by the speed at which I could throw a ball, kept trying to make a pitcher out of me. In half a dozen trips to the mound, I amassed a perfect record. No batter ever hit me. For the most part, I hit them. The ones I didn’t hit, I walked. Hell, I couldn’t be blamed if they all looked like better targets than the catcher’s mitt.

Really, there are only three accomplishments in my life I’m particularly proud of. After enough years to prove I could do it and sock away a bit of savings, I left a high-paying suit ’n’ tie job to be a ski bum and scribbler, both of which are far more satisfying and let me live a first-world life with as little stress as possible in the 21 st century.

I tricked my Perfect Partner into falling in love with me and managed, with her help, to cobble together a relationship where we pretty much have learned to accept each other’s weirdness and fallibilities.

And I’ve grown very, very comfortable with my own limitations. Everything I need to know, I learned from Popeye – I yam what I yam.

Too bad the folks running Whistler can’t seem to learn that last one.

These are tough times in Tiny Town and coping with the stresses and strains of the Winter That Never Was is making everyone just a leetle bit testy, some more than others. It’s also painting the town with the unmistakable patina of Oz. Not the Oz of our brothers and sisters Down Unda, but the Oz of the mythical Wizard. Whistler is in desperate need of heart, courage and especially brains. Unfortunately, we seem to be blinded by wizards selling their own particular brand of snake oil.

The latest wizard flies on aluminum wings rather than a hot air balloon, although the hot air balloon seems a more appropriate metaphor.

An airport! Whistler – wart on the landscape that we are – needs an airport to get us back on track to unlimited, straight-line growth. After all, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. Councillor Davies has augured the entrails of the Community Monitoring Report and said so.

If only we had an airport, we could resume the sustainable growth we so justly deserve. An airport would certainly please the hard-workin’ boys at the MotherCorp, weary as they are of trying to do the old silk purse, sow’s ear trick this season. It would certainly fulfil the if-you-build-it-they-will-come vision of dreamers. And it would most certainly divert our attention away from dealing with the real problems facing the long-term economic health of our happy mountain home, at least as well as any Olympics or sustainability plan legerdemain we’ve seen so far.

But let’s pause for just a moment, take a deep breath and lift the skirt of the premise of an airport south of town for a quick peek.

Let’s just suppose we could get Transport Canada to completely ignore and rewrite all their safety regulations and approve a runway capable of landing a commercial jet in the Callaghan or Brandywine. And while we’re hallucinating, let’s also suppose we could raise the bazillion dollars it would take to build an airport capable of landing commercial jets. What real difference would that make?

No domestic carrier not contemplating suicide would underwrite direct flights into Whistler. There just isn’t the traffic, not even in our technicolour dreams. International direct flights? Those would be technicolour IMAX dreams.

So, anybody wanting to fly to Whistler would have to land in Vancouver. If they’re coming from outside Canada, they have to deplane, line up for immigration, get their baggage off the carousel, get their skis from oversize, line up for customs, emerge at International Arrivals, hump it over to Domestic Check-In, wait in line, check their holiday baggage, then hump it over to the Tiny Commuter Flight wing of Vancouver International and wait for their flight to Whistler. How many flights per day to Whistler? Don’t know but I’ll bet there would never be as many as, say, 11, which just happens to be how many Perimeter busses there are each day.

If they’re coming from within Canada, they just have to get to another part of the airport.

Then they wait. Their flight comes. They’re taught for the second or third time that day how to buckle their seat belts. They fly; they land; they do the luggage dance again. They get to Whistler.

Oh, wait a minute, they’re only in Callaghan. So they wait for a… bus. Or rent a car. Will the new airport have car rentals? Or they get a cab. Then they get to Whistler… half an hour behind the Perimeter bus they could have taken shortly after they arrived in Vancouver. Of course, it takes a bit longer now that there’s more traffic trying to go north to Whistler from the new airport.

Which part of this sounds like a solution to the making-it-easier-to-get-here problem?

Notwithstanding Councillor Davies’ petulance, building an airport either south or north of town will only increase the size of our wart on the landscape.

Assuming for a moment that Whistler can successfully do the cancer thing – grow forever – it’s not going to be because of an airport. It’s going to be because we successfully tackle the value thing. Which we haven’t even come close to doing.

Or we might begin to understand sustainability doesn’t mean sustainable growth. Duh.




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