As the brand-new sports reporter at Pique Newsmagazine, I had never been to Whistler before my arrival on Friday, Nov. 4. I knew beforehand that it’s a gorgeous resort town nestled among majestic, snow-capped peaks. I knew it was a major hub for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the event that caused me to become the passionate sports fan I am today. I knew that it was more than just a dot on the map, with roughly 14,000 residents in addition to the waves of tourists that come through every year.
I did not know beforehand that the closest IMAX movie theatre is about two hours away, and I was admittedly troubled to learn of this fact.
Before you locals judge me too harshly, please allow me to introduce myself. I’m 26 years of age (going on 27) and I have no siblings. I was born in New York City, which gives me an American passport to go with my Canadian one. After bouncing around several major cities (Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Toronto, in no specific order), my parents and I moved to Calgary when I was seven years old. The only other place I’ve lived is Indianapolis, Ind., where I completed my master’s degree in sports journalism earlier this May.
In other words, Whistler is the only place with a population under a million people that I’ve ever called home.
Some of you might be asking yourselves: what exactly is a city boy like myself doing in this neck of the woods? Surely, he must love fresh powder, or was raised astride a mountain bike.
False and false. The extent of my skiing experience is one singular lesson back when I was in Grade 6. I own a very average road bike that I haven’t used in years (and did not bring with me).
So why Whistler then?
Well, despite my lack of skiing and biking aptitude (I am far better at watching sports than playing them), I love the outdoors in my own way. Give me a picturesque view of mountains, trees or water on a nice, sunny day and I could stare at it for hours. Getting into nature and breathing fresh air, be it in a city park or the grandeur of Banff, has always been good for my mental health, so the privilege of living in such a beautiful place is not lost on me.
Secondly, as I mentioned, I love sports. Hockey, football, basketball, swimming, track and field, baseball, mixed martial arts, freestyle skiing and snowboarding… I have a genuine interest in all of these and more. When time allows, I go to great lengths to check out sports of the non-mainstream variety (for instance, buying a VPN last year so I could watch an NCAA Division I women’s volleyball championship that wasn’t available in Canada).
Most of all, I love the Olympic Games. Ever since 2010, I have watched Olympics coverage (summer and winter) like a man obsessed. I’m talking six to nine hours a day for two weeks straight every two years, and in that time, I do nothing else for fun. Such calculated fanaticism has bred in me an appreciation for sports like skiing, snowboarding and bobsleigh, and this town has plenty of that going on.
Furthermore, I’m a people person, and that fact was obvious from the moment I could talk. I’ve always hoped to incorporate my desire to connect with others into my future career, so when this opportunity arose at Pique, I was excited to take it. My work here will allow me to get to know this community, telling meaningful, grassroots stories that larger publications might overlook. I’m obviously very new here and I don’t claim to have much existing knowledge about what makes Whistler tick, but I look forward to learning.
Of course, it has been an adjustment going from Calgary, Alta., to Whistler, B.C. This town has what you need to get by, but I haven’t found all the good spots yet. I already plan to drive down to Vancouver next month to watch Avatar: The Way of Water on the biggest possible screen, and I might just do the same thing with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. (Yes, I’m aware that this is not a frugal idea, so we’ll see).
Here’s what I’ve already begun to appreciate about Whistler: The natural beauty, obviously. The lively, non-stop sporting scene. The fact that there are so many people from different places (I’ve already met folks from Quebec, the U.K., Australia, Poland, Hong Kong and the Czech Republic just by visiting local stores and restaurants). Most of all, the sense that there are friendly and close-knit communities here, willing to welcome you if you put in the effort to find them.
I’m sure parking will get harder to find once the mountain opens, though.