Crystal ball gazing — Roger McCarthy on the future of snowsports 

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"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."

- Iconoclast Frank Zappa

I love summers at Whistler. Road cycling and mountain biking, sailing and paddling, climbing, hiking, swimming, running — this place offers a veritable cornucopia of outdoor-activities. And there's no reason to think we can't grow the business even more. Our lakes, our trails, our own exuberance about playing outside: these are all qualities that make Sea-to-Sky such a compelling destination in summertime.

Ah, but there's the rub. For Whistler is but one compelling summer spot in a long list of very attractive sunny-place getaways. And it's not even ranked near the top.

Which, as we all know, is not the case during snow-season. Winter is when this place really comes into its own. When it separates itself from its mountain-resort competitors by the sheer magnitude of its physical surroundings. Whistler, in wintertime, is the ne plus ultra of the North American snowsport experience. It's the biggest. The baddest. The bucket-list leader. That's why people travel from so far and stay for so long... and spend so much money when they're here.

Seems that when it comes to sliding on snow in wintertime, size (of mountain, of snowfall, of length of season) does matter after all...

Alas, size alone can't reverse the decline in the global snowsport market. Baby boomers are increasingly dropping out and millenials haven't fully committed; conventional ski schools are next to useless at turning beginners into enthusiasts; and most mountain operators are still stuck in a 1990s business model. Politics, economics, demographics — they're all pointing in the wrong direction. Oh yeah, and climate change is looming over us like a big, wet (and warm) blanket.

And yet. And yet. Whistler keeps defying the odds. And people keep coming to play on our slopes. Especially when those slopes are covered in that thick white carpet we fondly refer to as Coast Mountain pud. Which begs the question: Are we merely riding the final wave of our past glories? Or is there something here at Whistler — something special and unique — that might hold the seeds to sustained success?

Which really got me thinking. Especially after hearing the howls of indignation from locals over Whistler's "invasion" by urban hordes during the Victoria Day weekend. Hmm. Suddenly the solution seemed so obvious to me. Why had no one else in town figured it out?

We already know how big the yield-disparity is between summer and winter visitor (huge!). We also know how well-heeled (and how willing to part with their shekels) those winter guests are compared to their warm-weather counterparts. To me, the answer is simple. We need to extend our snowplay season.

Say what? Hear me out. What if Tourism Whistler (and WB's marketing mavens) focused all their efforts on celebrating and promoting "sliding-on-snow" for the next few years? What if that became the resort's first-priority message? What if we took up the challenge of tweaking the global snowsport story and making it relevant for a 21st century audience again? Not just Whistler's story. Or WB's story. Or the story of our hotel rooms and bars and restaurants. But the whole grand shebang.

I'm talking deviation from the norm here. Radical departure from conventional communications methods. I'm talking singing the multitudinous virtues of sliding-on-snow from every rooftop and parapet available. Loudly. Passionately. In summer. In winter. In fall and/or spring. I'm talking empowering Whistler's keenest riders to become spokespeople for the snowplay cause as well. Not to mention harnessing the power of social media to get the word out too.

Crazy, right? Like a fox...


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