Nov. 4 marked the one-year anniversary of my arrival here in Whistler. As I said back then, it was the first time I’d ever set foot in this picturesque resort town. I arrived not knowing what to expect, and I wasn’t especially optimistic about making friends in a place that thrives on skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking—none of which I’d ever really tried.
I’m a city boy used to the amenities found in my longtime home of Calgary.
More than 365 days later, I know that I’ll be sticking around for the foreseeable future. But it’s not for the reasons that most people choose Whistler as their home.
I still haven’t gone skiing yet. Sacrilegious, I know, but it was important for me to find my bearings at work before taking up a new leisure activity. Rest assured, I have plenty of church friends who’ve been good-naturedly peer-pressuring me into skiing, and the plan is to try the Magic Chair this winter. (If I break my femur out there, my blood is on all of your hands).
Mountain biking is even further outside my world. Don’t get me wrong: covering Crankworx this July was a privilege and a learning experience, but bikes are expensive and I just don’t think this particular activity is for me. No offence to any of the talented riders I’ve written about so far, but I’ll leave the speed and acrobatics to you.
There are certainly things about this town that disappoint me or make me anxious. Cost of living is a constant factor, and having experienced it, I cannot listen to Albertans complain about gas prices in the $1.40 range ever again. Village 8 closing down was frustrating—though a movie theatre is a first-world luxury, I love watching films the way most of you love skiing, and I’ve burned a lot of fuel driving to Vancouver to do so.
That puts me at the mercy of Highway 99: our sole timely link to civilization at large. Disruptive accidents seem to happen on that road far too often for my liking, though I’m told it used to be much worse. Nonetheless, I check the “Sea to Sky Road Conditions” Facebook page obsessively whenever I have plans.
So what’s keeping me in Whistler, other than a job at Pique Newsmagazine that pays me for talking to Olympians?
I did get exceptionally lucky with housing. Outside of that, my mind goes back to something Vicki Romanin told me. Romanin was my very first interview for Pique, and a truly memorable one after she’d conquered her age group at the 350-kilometre Tor des Geants ultramarathon.
“Takes a lot to break into any community, let alone this one, which can seem a little bit ‘closed’ at first,” Romanin wrote me in an email. “So many people in and out—people (ok, locals) get a bit wary. That being said, you are the perfect age to get into it all!”
I celebrated my 27th birthday back in January, and while it’s somewhat disturbing to be close to 30, I’m still relatively young. As one of the most extroverted people you’ll ever meet, I do my part to connect with others, but Whistler was daunting at first for a non-athlete like myself.
Even our town’s neighbourhoods are typically sequestered away from one another and hidden from view of the main highway. That’s as closed-off a first impression as any I’ve encountered.
Yet today, it’s not the sports or the nature that keep me here, although they are great. It’s the people.
Understanding that religion is not a very popular pursuit in the Sea to Sky, I found a lively and welcoming friend group at Whistler Community Church. Against the odds, it happened in one of Canada’s most secular areas. No doubt some of you have had much more negative encounters with Christianity than myself, but that’s a topic for another time—I’m just telling you about my personal experience.
With a support system in place, I felt empowered to really explore life in my new town. Gradually, I began meeting other locals for whom sport is not king. Folks like Ira Pettle showed me that one need not be a ski bum to find one’s niche in Whistler.