Alta States 

Myrtle then and now


"Live dangerously!"

- Socrates

It truly is fantastic how just one encounter can totally change your life. Know what I mean? For most of us who became connected to Whistler, one encounter was usually all it took. One person. One meeting. One totally magical experience...

In my case, it was simply a matter of following my dad's advice. "When you get to Whistler," he'd told his teenage son, "make sure you say hello to my old friend Jim McConkey." I was to bring him greetings from Quebec, my father had instructed. Let him know that his old snoweater friends were all alive and well back east.

So that's what I did. Sure I was nervous. The guy was bigger than life. I mean, he was Diamond Jim - the global ski star they'd recruited to boost the young resort's profile. But I was 19 and full of piss and vinegar. So I just walked up to the white-haired old guy, stuck out my hand and introduced myself. Little did I realize at the time just how momentous that meeting would become in my life arc.

Meaning? Two days later I was standing at the ski school bell at Creekside next to the Finn and Fuji and Guy and Trudy and Bob Dufour and...

Didn't matter that I hadn't planned on moving to Whistler full time. Or that I hadn't even graduated from university yet. I was now a bona fide Whistler Mountain ski instructor. I even had the new, sexy red jacket - French-made and totally inappropriate for Wet Coast conditions - to prove my heightened status. As for my new mentor, the legendary Diamond Jim himself, he would initiate me to the sorcery of big mountain skiing with all the verve and passion that he was renowned for.

Geez, that was nearly 40 years ago. How time flies...

But that's just one story. Whistler is full of them. Still, it's the original "Myrtle and Alex" tale that really fascinates me. And given the 100th anniversary of the Philips' first visit here, I can't help but reflect on the circumstances that would convince a young American woman to exchange the relative comforts of Vancouver's booming downtown eastside for the unremitting wildness of a remote mountain lake lost in B.C.'s rainy backcountry.

Can you even imagine what Whistler looked like 100 years ago? Before the train tracks were built, before the highway was pushed through. Before the miners had driven their shafts deep into the hills' fabric. Before the loggers had come in and stripped the valley of its majestic old growth forests. Before developers had moved in and erected their version of the West Edmonton mall along the meadows of this rugged Coast Mountain pass.

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