December 26, 1997 Features & Images » Feature Story

feature 452 

An echo boomer in King Arthur’s court Intrawest goes after the spirit of youth in the mountains By Stewart Glen Photos by Erik Graham/CMP Original drawings by Paul Waller Star light, star bright first star I see tonight I wish I may I wish I might I wish I was nine years old tonight ...nothing. Mirror mirror on the wall I wish I was nine years old and four feet tall King Arthur's been working all the long fall and all the other kids are gonna have a ball ...nothing. Can anybody help me? I am trying to recapture a long gone era, a time of innocence, the fountain of youth. Why, you ask? Simply, Intrawest wants my business — if I was nine. It seems that Intrawest has realized that the echo boomers are the wave of the future, and that a smart ski resort should be looking at ways of attracting the little people. I must have been living in a cave for the last little while because I had never heard the term "echo boomer." Echo boomers are the children of the baby boomers, that wilful bunch of post WW2 tykes who have dictated every popular trend for the last 40 years. When these boomers grew up they met one another and started having two to three little boomers of there own. Hence the echo boom. If you were born between 1980 and 1996, you are an echo boomer and, whether you know it or not, you are being targeted by every demographer, ad man and marketing bull west of Madison Avenue. Although it sounds somewhat daunting, this new generation should be the recipient of a great deal of boffo goods, not the least of which is the attention Intrawest is about to lavish on the nine year olds et al. Ergo, I want to be nine again. I want once more to bask in the glorious innocence of pre-pubescence and reap the rewards, the birthright of my generation. If I was nine, I would tell my parents all about the new 14.5 acre theme park Arthur DeJong, Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager for Blackcomb, has constructed in the woods beside the Catskinner chair. "If we do not capture the spirit of youth in the mountains, we will fail as an industry," quoth King Arthur. It's no wonder he's been thinking a lot about "the little people" as he refers to the next generation. To that end, he has assembled an awesome team of artists and land shapers to create this latest innovation in ski hill technology. If I was nine, I would tell my parents all about the radical new swoop-de-doop runs that back-hoe artist extraordinaire (Digger) Dean Amann has created for me and all my pals to slip and slide on. Digger, according to King Arthur, worked for three months straight to get the three runs ready for an early season opening. Apparently, he only took one day off in those three months and "I almost fired him," jokes Arthur. According to his co-workers, Amann is the Gretzky of the back-hoe. There isn't anything he can't do, there isn't anywhere he can't go. If I was nine, I would tell my parents all about the tunnels that Brad Schmucker, Chad Wood and the rest of the crack crew from Mountain Building Maintenance created for us to ski through or over. If I was nine, I would tell my parents about the Harry's Sea to Sky Railway Trail, The Black Forest and Merlin's Trail that have three really neat wooden statues carved by local sculptor Pat Meagher. He carved a Merlin, a Harry Horstman and a railway engineer. Future plans include pre-recorded messages that will have the statues welcoming visitors to the trail or providing skiers with key secret information about the park. If I was nine, I would tell my parents all about the safety mats that protect me and my pals from nasty run ins with trees. What is so super-cool about these mats is that they are adorned with dragons and bears and Merlin and all kinds of other really neat stuff that local painter and sculptor Paul Waller has created to give the forest environment a magical, mystical feeling. In particular, Paul has created The Valley of The Dragons for us to ride through. This gnarly run will have laser trips that will initiate all sorts of dragon bellows and roars. If I was nine, I would tell my parents about the hollow tree that might have a hibernating bear in it (or might not), and about the beautiful information sign painted by local legend Isobel MacLaurin. If I was nine, I would tell my parents about the warming hut that was built by Ken Pope and about how Mike Allen has made all the trails clear of any snag trees. The entire concept, created entirely by locals, is only in its first stage, and to hear the creators of this enigmatic entertainment enclave speak, it's only going to get better. If I was nine, I would tell my parents that the entire park will be regularly staffed by qualified personnel so that our safety is always cared for. I would tell my parents that this project's primary concern has been its effect on the environment. That’s King Arthur’s area of expertise. He’s been working on making the mountains friendlier places for the bears to live and protecting the natural environment. The construction of the park should dissipate the blowdown problem experienced by standard ski hill construction. Best of all, I would tell my parents about the huge castle that this creative mountain team built in the middle of this park... if I was nine. It has two slides and lots of secret rooms and it would be the raddest place for a snowball fight and I would beg and plead and cry and throw temper tantrums and promise to be good and promise to keep my room clean and promise not to hit my sister anymore (even though she's a ratface). Blackcomb’s park is way more rad than Vail’s Fort Whippersnapper. Vail’s theme park is only four acres while Blackcomb's park is nearly four times the size. I would tell them that Blackcomb has spent like a kazillion dollars and has planned to spend another three kazillion on a new facility at the base of the park that will cater exclusively to me and my pals and, yes, my stinky sister, too. I would tell them that Intrawest plans to redefine the mountain experience by creating theme parks in all eight resorts. In a rather animated interview with principal creative artist, Paul Waller, I had the opportunity to glimpse the future. Paul wants to build an expert snowboard park featuring the remains of some long dead giant dragon. The ribs of the dragon would be oval rails, turning the halfpipe into a 7/8ths pipe, tempting the heartiest rider to attempt a vertical 360. Another idea resting in the fertile mind of the artist is to build a crash site for a UFO, complete with alien carcasses, somewhere high up on Whistler. Radical, innovative ideas, sure, but are they feasible? Arthur claims that anything is possible, but the direction that the resort builders will move in will be dictated by the little people. By closely observing the kids, Arthur and his team will determine future themes. Just as their boomer parents were targets, the little people will be targets for a lot of marketing and consumer-oriented firms for years to come. One effort to reach the little people is Intrawest’s Arthurian theme park in the woods. And if I was nine, I would do anything within my power to get my parents to take me, my big brother and his gross girlfriend, my best friend and even my creepy little sister to the park.

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