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THE OUTSIDER: Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, 2020

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As long as we can make some turns this winter, everything’ll be all right. Photo by Vince Shuley

I’ve always found the calendar ticking over to a new year to be somewhat of a manufactured milestone. “This year, I plan to…” and all that. But as the rest of the human race can probably attest, 2020 was different. So different, in fact, that New Year’s resolutions take on a whole new meaning. 

Some of us in the Sea to Sky are lucky enough to be in as good a place as ever; busy with work, adapting to new professional/social lifestyles and buying up outdoor equipment to guarantee the physically distanced good times. Many, however, have struggled to stay in business or employed, and have had to upend everything just to stay afloat. A lot of us are somewhere in between, doing our best to make it through an economic downturn with mainstream vaccinations and a renewed sense of optimism on the horizon.

But if there’s one thing that levels the playing field in this particular part of the world, it’s skiing. In a town where mountain access is written into most employment contracts and an essential winter expense for almost everyone else, there really is no better way to feel better in the midst of an almost-over-but-definitely-not-over pandemic. 

This could not have been more true than on Whistler Blackcomb’s opening day. The familiar conditions of pow in places, groomers groomed and open creeks and rocks outside of the ropes wasn’t just about skiing properly again. For the length of the run (until we masked up for the lift line) there was no thinking about the second wave, what Whistler’s winter tourism season is going to look like or maybe having to return a few of those CERB payments. Just point your sticks down the hill and enjoy the turns. This is our normal and we relish every moment of it—now more than ever.

Putting all our stock in skiing, however, can be a risky business. If it all falls apart due to an unforeseen COVID-19 outbreak or—heaven forbid—you injure yourself, skiing’s outdoor therapy could be out of reach. Good thing we’ve had 2020 to prepare for such scenarios. For more on that subject read “The Outsider: Diversifying your pastime portfolio” in the April 30, 2020 edition of Pique

By the time this column publishes, it will be Christmas Eve. So merry Christmas, I hope you skied today. As a career Christmas orphan, I’ve come to terms with not having my family around during the holidays. Such is the situation for many non-Canadians, seasonal workers and those labouring in Whistler’s hospitality industry. But Christmas orphans end up getting by with a little help from their friends and celebrating together. Such inter-household gatherings are not in the cards this year, so how best to avoid the holiday blues this week? You guessed it—go skiing. Hopefully you have your reservations, otherwise best of luck with the refresh key.

While the hopeful positivity of 2021 isn’t going to miraculously appear on Jan. 1, I’m happy to give a pass to the manufactured milestone this year. After all, there’s a lot to be excited about. People we know (or friends or family of people we know) are already getting vaccinated. Jan. 20 will usher in a new president down south, one that acknowledges climate change, science and reality. Travel might even resume again, giving us the opportunity to finally use those flight credits and allow B.C.’s tourism industry to wake up from its induced coma. 

What I’m the most optimistic about is our own societies acknowledging what’s really important rather than what we’ve been led to believe is important. It would be awesome to see accumulation of economic wealth take a backseat to preserving our environment and cultures. It would be awesome to see the polarized political world return to a series of boring debates rather than threatening to mobilize against one another. It would be really awesome to see our own town make the most of the hard reset we received.

But hey, if none of that happens, at least we can still go skiing.

Vince Shuley wishes everyone safe and happy holidays and an optimistically prosperous 2021. For questions, comments or suggestions for The Outsider email vince.shuley@gmail.com or Instagram @whis_vince.