By G.D. Maxwell
What a week. First winter arrives bringing one of this seasons rare opportunities to catch what many of us fondly remember as "powder skiing." The take-it-when-you-can-get-it attitude that is Whistler found many businesses abandoned and cars parked helter-skelter as locals rushed to the mountains desperately trying to remember where theyd stored their powder straps and how to ski snow above their ankles.
Then Crazy Canuck Dave Irwin critically injures himself preparing for a skiercross in Banff. Dave, who thrilled the ski world with death-defying performances during his years with the White Circus including several spectacular crashes still included in many highlight reels did a slow tumble on a bunny slope at Sunshine. Although he was wearing a helmet at the time, Dave suffered severe bruising of the brain, is in a coma, on life support and has about a 33 per cent chance of coming back to us more or less intact. Fight Dave; were pulling for you.
But this bizarre tragedy underscores two important points. Helmets, while making even the dorkiest skier look radical, probably provide more mental comfort than real protection and, like hockey padding or four-wheel-drive SUVs for example, may well incline their wearers to take chances they probably shouldnt. The other point should be obvious: never ski easy runs. Like highways in Saskatchewan, easy runs lull you into not paying attention and not using good form. Get high; stay high; ski hard.
Lost in the shuffle of the weeks news, you might have understandably missed the announcement coming from Intrawests head office about their plans to change the name of Blackcomb Mountain. It seems Whistler-Blackcomb, at least in the travel business, is a bit of a mouthful. I can understand this. Its a lot like those hyphenated last names that were all the rage a couple of decades ago. Their proponents undoubtedly thought they lent an aura of sophistication and lingering independence to their decision to cop-out and get married. The rest of us just thought they looked dorky and showed an inability to make a choice. In the literal world of computers that has come to dominate our lives since, having a hyphenated last name simply means your reservation always gets lost. But I digress.
Confidential sources from within the belly of the beast say the move to rename Blackcomb is being spearheaded by none other than Joe "I liked it so much I bought the mountain" Houssian. Citing a long history of renaming nearby mountains called originally by the local indigenous population "The Mountains" but in a language so guttural it makes Yiddish sound less like throat-clearing and more like parlour talk Joe decided one of the names had to go.
"Whistlers Whistler," Joe said in typical understatement. Although Whistler Mountain was, in fact, known as London Mountain, the early ski pioneers decided London Mountain sounded too effeminate, conjuring up images of Beefeaters and a civilization of stocky people with bad teeth. To toughen the place up imagewise, they renamed both the mountain and the town after the shrill whistle of the hoary marmot, a large, indigenous rodent bearing an uncanny resemblance to a stocky Beefeater with bad teeth.
Having easily made the decision to keep Whistler, unfounded rumour has it that Joe quickly turned his sights on Blackcomb. "It has to go," he thundered. Former Senior Manager of Intrawests Warm Glow Division, Sloof Lirpa, purportedly challenged his now-former boss contention that Blackcomb was a "stupid" name to begin with. He boldly pointed out the mountain had been named by Alex Philip, husband of the sainted Myrtle Philip (née Tapley) who cast his eyes up one summer afternoon and, as history records, said, "You know, that thar mountain kinda looks like a roosters comb. Only black."
"He was drunk," bellowed Joe, shortly before giving Mr. Lirpa the boot. And so he could have been. I have personally spent many an afternoon on the site of the former Rainbow Lodge and at various places on and around Alta Lake. The only time I can recall looking up at the peak of Blackcomb and saying to myself, "You know, that thar mountain kinda looks like a roosters comb. Only black." was after Id passed out in the bottom of my canoe on a hot day when I wasnt wearing a hat and had committed the culinary faux pas of combining unchilled tuna fish sandwiches with red wine and kosher dill pickles. Who knows for sure?
So, "poof" Blackcombs history. Having made the decision, Joe purportedly set in motion the two most creative forces within Intrawest to come up with a new name for Blackcomb. Venerable marketing consultants, Wasserman & Co., were asked to come up with an idea "as big as all outdoors." Wasserman, for those of you with short memories, was the creative genius who devised the devilishly cleaver "Lego Logo" a few years back. That was the cutting-edge logo that looked deceptively like two simple boxes any precocious three year old might have come up with by noodling around with a Paint program long enough. It proved to be so "avant garde" it was replaced a year later by the Woooooosh! logo.
Leaked memos indicate Wasserman is leaning towards toughening up the image of Blackcomb to better appeal to the nihilistic, Echo Generations inclination toward upscale self-destruction. X-Treme Zone is apparently the front-runner around the Wasserman water coolers, having narrowly edged out Zone-X.
Also charged with the task is Intrawests in-house Department of Hip Names. Formerly the Evocative Images Division of the companys real-estate development group, the small coterie of creative geniuses changed their name after the short-lived Whistler Station fiasco for which they were also responsible, that being the ill-fated attempt to rename Creekside after some fictitious, romantic, vaguely French-sounding train whistle link. Nothing a 12 step program and a name change couldnt fix.
Sources close to the action claim "The Mountains at Whistler" is Hip Names current favourite. This has recently replaced "Whistler Too" after the group decided that little play on words was "just too cute" and not nearly "touchy-feely" enough. As of press time, I couldnt confirm the claim the group was considering recasting the mountain as "IROC Phase III" and planning to pre-sell "points" that could be exchanged for lift access at various times during the season.
And in a completely unrelated news story, also no doubt missed by most Whistlerites since we tend not to pay much attention to whats going on around us newswise, Whistler Council has reportedly taken bold, definitive steps to deal once and for all with the following problems that have lingered without resolution for far too long: liquor law enforcement; affordable housing; amenity swap guidelines; personnel vacancies at muni hall; the inability to make a decision after studying an issue to death; and councils collective narcolepsy problem.
Asked by Pique about these decisive moves, Mayor OReilly said, "I guess this proves beyond a doubt this is an April Fools column."