"Why do you live in Whistler? What are you passionate about?"
I know I'm a little late getting to my Backyard Barbeque Brainstorm but it's been a busy summer. Besides, I'm certain my answers will be given as much weight as if I'd have done them a couple of weeks ago.
I live in Whistler because I can't imagine living anywhere else. I live here because it's stunning and because I don't bowl, which is one of the few things you can't do in this town. I live here because I can walk to the base of Whistler Mountain and enjoy some of the best skiing in the world, I can walk out my door and in minutes be lost in, well, if not wilderness, at least a wild place... on a trail system I could wander for days and never backtrack or find my way home. Because Whistler's a small town with a big buzz, small enough that I can make a difference.
I'm passionate about keeping it that way. Not encasing it in amber and enshrining the status quo but not letting it go down the road to fatuousness, not letting it become a playground catering exclusively to the lifestyles of the rich and annoying, keeping it a place where dirtbag ski bums can still feel at home without tripping over the more egregious excesses of the Whistler Standard, whatever that is.
"What makes Whistler a great place?"
It's the people, stupid! Always has been, always will until the question is rephrased, "What used to make Whistler a great place?" Think about it for a minute. Why are you here? Where did you come from? Why do you stay?
I've never lived in a town that was so young, so vibrant and so unshackled by the weight of history. Whistler's history - as opposed to Alta Lake's history - is contemporary for so many of us, barely 50 years old. We can still talk to many of the people who built this place.
With the exception of a couple of youngish adults, no one who lives here is from here. We all chose to come here. We all choose to live here... every day. We have to because it's just too hard to live here if you're not committed to it. It's expensive, jobs don't pay enough, and cracking the housing nut is daunting. Whistler is not for the faint of heart.
What does that mean? That means we live in a town full of enthusiastic, dedicated, energetic people. Yeah, I know. So where the heck are they? All around. Busy, active, carving out life in between carving turns. When we're able to tap into them and get them turned on, it's an awesome sight to behold. And when they're apathetic, it's world-class apathy.
"What are some of our community's biggest successes?
Housing. Notwithstanding some notable missteps, the Whistler Housing Authority - no, make that the people behind the WHA and everyone who's ever gone to the wall for resident housing - has done a remarkable job of providing shelter for a significant percentage of the people who make this town the success it is. People who, for the most part, will never have the wherewithal to purchase market housing. If you don't think that makes a big difference to how vibrant a town this is, you haven't spent enough time in other ski towns.
Whistler Village. The village is a gem. Don't think so? Check out Vail, or Breckenridge. Yeah, we could use some better retail. Yeah, we could use fewer corporate food chains. And frankly, we could close a few streets. But as a tourist, this place rocks. And as a local? Whenever I meet someone who should know better who says, "Oh, I never go to the village," as though that's something they're proud of, my only thought is, "What an idiot!"
And in no particular order, the Valley Trail, Whistler 2020 - although blind adherence to any plan may well be bad for our health - the bed unit cap, our small albeit expanding footprint, good working relationships between the major players in town.
"Is Whistler at a crossroads? If so, What is it?"
More like the horns of a dilemma. Whistler has a bunch of tough choices to make but the toughest is likely to be this: Do we opt for the no-brainer, North American model and try to grow our way out of our economic malaise or do we find a way to become truly, gulp, sustainable, recognizing "sustainable growth" for the intelligence-insulting oxymoron it is. Is stability and vibrancy mutually exclusive?
"How can the people in this community make sure the direction we take now leads to a stronger, more resilient resort community?"
Wow, got me there. I honestly don't know. It seems like no matter what we say - and no matter what the candidates say when running for office, e.g., "I'm for open, transparent government" - we're not getting the government we deserve... or expect. Somewhere along the tortuous path from wide-eyed hopeful to socialized councillor, a weird transformation takes place and what seemed reasonable is suddenly replaced with the inexplicable. I've seen it happen to too many friends to think it's just an aberration.
I don't understand, most recently, why our leaders are going to the wall to cut old trees instead of going to the wall to get Victoria to see the optics of doing that are suicidal. Don't get me wrong, I think the guys protesting the community forest plan are being unreasonable. Jeez, it's not like every single old-growth tree is something sacred. Grow up. But tourist towns live and die on perception. If enough people start to think of Whistler the way they thought of Clayoquot Sound, no one's going to win. It sure isn't worth the risk for 20,000 cubic metres of wood annually. In B.C.? Cut an extra 20 in Kaslo or somewhere else no one will care (sorry Kaslo). Even R-E Campbell's boys ought to be able to see this is a lose-lose proposition, compromise notwithstanding.
So what can people do to make sure we take the right direction? Get involved. Raise bloody hell when it seems we're not. Demand better.
"It is the year 2060. You are alive and well. What does your Whistler look like?"
Nice try guys; I'll be deader than granite. But if I wasn't I'd like it to look a lot like now but with a better retail mix, amped tourists and locals, lots of very cool stuff to do and a whole bunch of people living here that are having as much fun as I am.
Hmm, that was fun. Where's the barbeque? What, there's more? Let me think about it another week.