June 08, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story


Life after Whistler

A view of the valley from Salmon Arm

Former Whistler residents take more than their belongings with them when they move on to other towns – they take memories of possibly the wildest, most fun years in their lives. They also often take with them the frustration of being priced out of a town they had mentally claimed as home. For better or worse, Whistler tends to carve an indelible mark on those who live here – especially those who were part of its evolution from a dream to an international resort.

By Robyn Cubie

A week's break in the sleepy hollow of Salmon Arm was supposed to be spent bobbing about on one of the huge houseboats the Shuswap lakes are famous for. While many happy hours were spent contemplating life from the hot-tub on the top deck of our miniature floating motel, there was still time to track down three former residents of this area: Paul Burrows, Jackson Robertson and Bob Priest, who respectively worked in the political, social and business arenas of Whistler and Pemberton.

It happens that Salmon Arm has become a popular destination for ex-Whistlerites Pembertonians. There seem to be three basic reasons for this: retirement, the milder climate and, most importantly, the lower cost of living.

And just as Salmon Arm likes to honour a certain migratory bird with its Grebe Festival each May, so too do folk from the Sea to Sky corridor flock to Salmon Arm for their own special get-togethers. Take this month for example. Former Pemberton residents are meeting for a potluck lunch on June 17, and organizers expect up to 50 people to attend. Whisterites with the right connections can also get an invite.

But the first former Whistler resident I met up with didn’t move to Salmon Arm for any of the above reasons. Former manager of Tapley's Pub, Jackson Robertson, was reputed to have declared Salmon Arm "The Valley Of Gorgeous Women" prior to leaving Whistler in the fall of 1990 with his new wife by his side. She, incidentally, came from Salmon Arm.

I met Robertson in Salmon Arm’s Victorian pub, which is definitely more Pemberton than Whistler in terms of atmosphere, with its big pool tables, low lighting and small groups of chatting locals. The prices were most definitely not Whistler either – $2.50 a pint on that particular Monday night. Drinks were ordered and we get straight to business.

"So why do they call you Action Jackson?" I ask. He grins and replies carefully.

"Well that depends on what you're talking about."

Robertson is typical of many a Whistler "local" in that he first came to the resort on a ski holiday and ended up staying.

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