Maxed out 

Upstaging the Games

Time and again, the thing that surprises me about construction projects, renovations, almost any activity whose end game is the creation of something, is how crappy things look right up to the point of completion. It’s a larger version of the Zenlike question: When does a man who needs a shave become a man with a beard?

Both God and the devil are in the details and the last 5 per cent of any project is 100 per cent detail.

That’s partly why I can’t get too lathered up about the tilted derrick sticking out of the side of Blackcomb Mountain. When the clouds finally lifted late last week, I got my first glimpse of it. Admittedly, I’d been looking in the wrong place. I’d naturally assumed, from the passion of the letters decrying it, the writers were talking about some behemoth concrete structure — the base station. I kept straining my eyes in the direction of the Rendezvous to see what the fuss was about and assumed the remnants of stringy fog were hiding the eyesore. When my gaze wandered far enough south, there it was.

Okay, it’s ugly. It’s not as ugly as the Olympic billboards still dotting the highway — c’mon guys, they’re mounted on wooden posts — and it’s not as ugly as the monolithic wall that faces you at Creekside when you drive south. It’s not as ugly as the McMansion being built above Alpha Lake right next to the other McMansion, often in the past mistaken for a boutique hotel but now beginning to look rather shantyesque compared to its new neighbour. And it’s not a blight on an otherwise pristine, natural landscape, unless clearcut ski runs now pass as nature.

There are a lot of reasons to cluck in disapproval at the Peak to Peak Gondola — as dorky as that name is, I’ll bet it’s imbued with the patina of nostalgia and sophistication once the sucker gets slapped with a corporate moniker. Chief among them is the very self-centred shame of spending in excess of 50 million smackers on something that won’t increase skiable terrain by 0.0929 square metres (1 square foot). But complaining that it furthers the Disneyfication of Whistler is a bit like standing at the end of a pier, waving one’s arms frantically at a ship slipping below the curvature of the earth and screaming, “Don’t go.” Besides, it’s not nearly as annoying as the sound of small planes flying overhead a couple of dozen times a day.

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