June 04, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Old growth 

Tapping into our elders’ wisdom to keep the ski industry and Whistler community alive

Page 6 of 7

Deeks’ insight also extends to ski school operations. "The young ski instructors don’t appreciate the needs of the older skier," explains Deeks.

This season, to combat the testosterone-fuelled mentality of many ski group lessons, Deeks and several friends formed the SST – the Senior Ski Team. The group skied with the same instructor every week – an instructor who understood that the group had certain needs to be catered to.

"We make pit stops on a more regular basis. Just 15 minutes, to catch your breath and because nature makes its own demands. We’re not trying to beat each other into the ground. We all filled out a self-assessment questionnaire, on where we felt we were, and what we felt we needed. The instructor geared it to that, after making his visual assessment of us. It’s been tremendous, and the progress of everyone has been tremendous. The key to it is that it’s not a drop-in. You don’t just roll people into the group. And it needs to be price-sensitive, not $600 a day per person."

To gain an edge over the Colorado resorts, Deeks points out an overlooked selling feature. "The top of Whistler mountain is only 7,500 feet. In Colorado, the village is at 7,500 feet. That can be a physical challenge for many people. That’s why the clubs like the Florida ski club and the Miami Ski Club come here. The physical exertion of high altitude is not here."

Even off the mountain, Whistler’s old-growth have some insights that could be harnessed by local businesses.

"When you’re young, you don’t mind shouting over the band or the background music. But as you get older, you want to be able to chat. That’s why many seniors just don’t go to these places anymore. They’ll find a place where they can see the menu, see what’s on the plate, be able to chat with each other. That’s not peculiar to Whistler."

Which might just mean that the 5 p.m. winter buffet could make a killing!

As Whistler struggles to plan for the future, to finalize the CSP, envision the Olympics, argue the bed-cap and in-fill, flesh out its cultural facilities, to enhance and manage its brand, our most valuable resource might be the grey hairs.

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