Alta States 

A sense of place - Whistler's mojo revisited

"The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he receive either."

- Benjamin Franklin

What a dilemma...

It felt like the last beautiful day in September. The sky was clear from one end of the valley to the other. The plants and trees were just beginning to garb themselves in their fall attire. Despite all the nasty weather earlier in the week, the air still exuded that elusive, warm breath of summer that we all love so much here on the Wet Coast. In short, it was a marvellous day for a walk in the alpine. Whistler at its seasonal best.

"This is our weather window," said Arthur DeJong, WB's homme-à-tout-faire. "I can't wait to show you some of my new trail plans up high. An hour of hiking, an hour-and-a-half max, and we'll be there. I promise you'll be impressed."

It was a wonderful invitation. And one that I'd been counting on for weeks.

So what the heck was I doing sitting under a plastic tent on the northern outskirts of the Chateau, eating a heavy lunch, sweating under my shirt and listening to a chamber-sponsored lecture on something called "place-based" tourism? To tell you the truth, I soon began to wonder myself.

I should have gone on that hike...

It's not like Ontario-based consultant Stephen Thorne didn't mean well. Armed with an engaging sense of humour and a statistical grasp of urban tourism, the former theatre instructor took us on a selective voyage of facts and figures. Alas, he flitted over all the important stuff. And when there was a significant trend to examine, he missed the point.

As in? Please, Mr. Thorne, don't tell us Spain ranks among the top five tourism destinations in the world solely because of its cultural amenities. It's the cheap sun, silly. Just ask the millions of Brits who flock to the Costa del Sol every winter. They couldn't give a rat's as about the Alhambra.

But seriously, if there's anywhere in the world that lacks a genuine sense of place it's Costa del Sol...

But I digress.

Given his apparent lack of experience with mountain culture (the "m" word didn't come up once in his talk), I felt the best thing I could do with Mr. Thorne's lecture was to re-write it with a bit of historical perspective thrown in. So that's what I did. And this is the result:

"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. And thank you so much for inviting me to your beautiful valley. Before we begin, however, I have an important admission. I can't accept the cheque you sent me.


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