Kicking the "cult" out of cultural tourism 

click to flip through (9) PHOTO: TOURISM WHISTLER, STEVE ROGERS - Live painting display during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

From ads inviting you to workshops on the new cultural plan to snippets of headlines and overheard conversations, Whistlerites are hearing more and more about cultural tourism and how it can reinvigorate the community and the local economy. But don't think for a minute this is some fuzzy "out-there" notion to be relegated to a cultural "cult" of artists, museums and the like.

The cultural tourism Whistler has in mind is dynamic, palpable. It has everything to do with the simple idea of the place itself — and you. Why you came here, why you love this crazy place and state of mind called Whistler.

This week we'll grab this thing called place-based cultural tourism by the tail, or at least one of its many legs, and try to understand it. What does it look and feel like? Why is it important? Next week, we'll explore how you breathe life into this special kind of tourism so it doesn't become just a report sitting on some dusty shelf.

If you haven't been to the Tourism Whistler website lately — why, you may well ask, would you if you live here? — check it out.

A very cool little video is attached to one of the braver new components of the site, The Whistlers Insiders, which is run by the perfect candidate, writer and filmmaker Feet Banks, who has pretty much lived in Whistler all his life and has a nice cheeky streak to him.

The three-or-so-minute video is all about the experiences of a couple of guys who lived what a lot of people would call a dream come true. They got to hang out in Whistler for a month. For free. As in all expenses paid.

One, "Lucky Luke", otherwise known as Luke Dillon back home in England, was the winner in the Whistler Sabbatical Project, a contest run earlier this year by Tourism Whistler. All you had to do was write a 250-word essay about what a sabbatical in Whistler would mean to you. The other fellow featured is his sidekick, Tim Davis, the friend he chose to bring with him, also known as "Tag-along Tim".

From a white-knuckle bobsled run and tumbling — with appropriate whoops — through seven feet of fresh snow on the slopes to go-go dancing in hot pink wigs to the thumping electronic music of the club scene and helping chef James Walt "dish up" at Araxi, Luke and Tim jump into Whistler feet first.

Throughout, they deliver a running commentary of straight-up remarks that would be the envy of any tourism destination that has aspirations like Whistler's. You'll have to add in their charming English accents yourself, but here's a sampling, not necessarily contiguous:

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