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Opinion: Another Whistler goodbye

'It’s part of the deal we make—trading comfort and stagnant predictability for the comparative tumult of life in a tourist town'
Pique editor Braden Dupuis (left) and features editor/reporter Brandon Barrett, after both taking gold at the 2021 BC and Yukon Community NewsMedia Association Awards. Barrett is leaving Pique this week after 11 years on the job.

There were never frogs underneath the outside staircase at my parents’ house when I was younger. They didn’t start appearing until I was well out of high school, probably around the age of 23. Where they came from was anyone’s guess.

One summer, after two or three years of the frogs appearing in droves, my father and I ripped off a piece of the aging brown staircase to see what was growing underneath. But there was nothing. No water, no signs of a mutant frog nest. The frogs, I could only surmise, were rising up from under the earth somewhere.

My mom told me once she had taken one of them from the basement landing and tried to set it free in the grass and in the sunlight… where it promptly died. The sun’s heat and the fresh air were alien to it, having lived its entire life under my parents’ outdoor staircase.

So the resurfacing earth frogs inspired much curiosity, and meditation on life itself… on how and why and where it grows, and all the wild, unseen forces guiding it.

And I remember feeling a strange kinship with those dumb frogs—because it was hard to ignore the other metaphor staring me in the face.

There I was, contemplating my first big move away from my small town—the only home I’d ever known—while quietly worrying the world might just eat me alive.

What if I hop out into the great unknown and just fail miserably?

For many, that uncertainty alone is enough to keep them under the stairs, bumping around in the quiet, familiar dark with the other frogs.

And that’s perfectly OK. Small-town life, at least in most places in Canada, means security and predictability. And predictability means comfort.

It’s just not a satisfying existence for everyone.

By its very nature, Whistler attracts the latter crowd, first and foremost; the adventurers and thrill-seekers, the vagabonds, and the dreamers.

It’s a big part of what makes this place so damn special. Whether they’ve been here a year or 30, Whistlerites are not the type to shy away from taking risks. They dream big and often overachieve.

But, unlike life in Canada’s small towns, Whistler is far from predictable, and its ruthless housing grind and revolving door of residents are recipe for endless, recycled heartbreak—particularly for those who don’t do well with goodbyes. Because the simple truth is resort life just isn’t designed to accommodate most of us forever.

So if you’re one of those who manage to stick it out for years on end, you sort of just get used to all your friends leaving after a while.

Pique has been blessed with a low staff turnover for much of the past decade, particularly in relation to other newsrooms, but we are not immune to the tourist-town churn.

This week marks the last issue of Pique for longtime reporter and features editor Brandon Barrett, who is leaving the publication, and Whistler, after 11 years.

There’s no denying his departure will be felt significantly here in the newsroom, and in the community at large—the outpouring of support from readers as the news filtered out is proof of that.

He doesn’t ski, or bike, but somehow Brandon embodies some of the best qualities of Whistler—creative, idealistic, resourceful, compassionate, and always striving for the best, with just the right amount of crazy thrown in the mix. But as much as I’ll remember him for his incredible contributions to community journalism, and Whistler in general, I’ll remember him for his friendship far more.

Like most Whistlerites, Brandon will never be content living a sheltered life under the stairs. And now it’s time to see what’s next. Exciting and terrifying in equal measures—as life’s most worthwhile endeavours always are.

And so of all the Whistler goodbyes over the years, this one will hit harder than most, for myself and for Pique. But at the same time, it also feels natural, if not inevitable.

All goodbyes are, on a long enough timeline. They just tend to come quicker in Whistler. But that’s OK, too. We know it comes with the territory.

It’s part of the deal we make—trading comfort and stagnant predictability for the comparative tumult of life in a tourist town.

And while I’m terrible at goodbyes, I still wouldn’t have it any other way.