Alta States 

Embedded in the culture - from happy hippie to realtor and back again


"Remember that you are here on earth for one purpose. To love, and to be loved. When you concentrate on this thought, everything in life seems to flow more easily."

Jan Simpson, April 2011


Life hasn't always been smooth at Whistler. Like all resource-based towns (and yes, tourism is a "resource"), this town has been buffeted before by the ill winds of economic misfortune. And though I don't fault local merchants for thinking this last season has been close to catastrophic, the business horizon was a lot nastier 30 years ago.

Back in 1981, the future looked despairingly bleak. Interest rates had flown through the roof, half-finished hotels stared out in silent blame and people were fleeing the valley in droves. As for "making an easy buck" at Whistler, foggetaboudit. It was eat or be eaten. And Jan Simpson was right in the middle of it....

Wait a minute. Isn't this the same woman we heard about last week who was living the mountain-hippie lifestyle, working on road crews to get a tan and make some extra summer bucks? Indeed - but times change...

Let's go back to 1978 for a minute. A period of huge optimism for Whistlerites, the late '70's was a land speculator's wet dream. A new mountain resort was getting built, the much-ballyhoo'ed Whistler Village was being raised above the local garbage dump and everyone in the Lower Mainland wanted a piece of the Whistler action. Forget smoking dope and skiing powder. This was a time to make money!

Now a single mum with a few more responsibilities than merely skiing and partying, Simpson was on the cusp of her thirties. "I was still bartending," she recounts, "when my old buddy Drew Meredith approached me with an intriguing idea: 'Why don't you get your real estate license and come work for me and Arv Pellegrin at the trailer in Bayshores?' he asked." Right. And remember, this is the guy who had once recruited her to work on a road gang planting explosives...

But Meredith is the consummate salesman and it didn't take him long to convince her. "So off to UBC I go," she says with a merry glint in her eye. "I get my license in September and I start work in October." More laughter. "It was that fast."

It might have been fast. But it wasn't all that easy. "I hadn't been back to school since the mid '60's," she moans. "And with two kids (already five and seven) at home, it was really hard." She sighs. "But I got through it. And thank God I did!"

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