Safeguarding dead season 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALYSSA NOEL
  • Photo by Alyssa Noel

I've only lived in Whistler for two-and-a-half years.

It's been long enough to get a feel for the rhythm of this town, but it also means I've only known Whistler as the successful, bursting-at-the-seams resort it is today.

Sure, I've heard the stories about what Whistler was like in its heyday, but I have no way of comparing today's busyness to the laid back mountain town that existed in the '80s and '90s, or even the world-class resort that experienced a post-Olympic slump after 2010.

It's no secret that there's been a coordinated push for years to boost visitor levels in the shoulder seasons in an effort to safeguard Whistler's status as a four-season, money-making machine.

It makes complete sense. Whistler already has enough going for it in the summer and winter, so why not bump up the visitors in between so local employees and businesses can make a living wage year-round?

As far as I can tell, that strategy has worked. With events like the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and GO Fest, I've yet to notice spring being significantly less busy in town.

But fall seems to be a slightly different story.

The weekends are still just as packed and there's never a shortage of crowds turning up for the Turkey Sale or Cornucopia, but the period in between Labour Day and opening weekend marks the precious few weeks of the year when you can run an errand in the village without having to fistfight someone for a spot in the day lots or getting stuck behind a pack of (rightfully) awestruck visitors sauntering down the stroll.

I don't mean to be one more person complaining about tourists: A) It's already a too-popular pastime in this town, despite the fact that most of our jobs depend on their business; B) who can blame them for wanting to come visit; and C) let's be honest, the amenities and events created to draw tourists are part of what makes Whistler such an incredible place to live in the first place.

But that doesn't mean having a break from the crowds is a bad thing. Even if dead season is the most appropriate name for it, to me Whistler in the fall just feels more like a normal small town—one where I get to afford to enjoy those amenities for once. (Looking at you, Rimrock.)

Dead season is like a deep breath in between the hecticness. For a lot of people, it means you can book a trip without worrying you won't get the time off work, or about missing an epic snowstorm.

You might make a little less than you would in February, but it's the time of year when you can get a table at your favourite restaurant without a reservation or hike one of the more popular trails without it turning into a queue. It's also the time of year when you can use a day off to sleep in, clean your apartment and binge-watch Netflix without feeling guilty that you're missing out on an adventure. It's the little things.

I don't know why—especially because it seems like half the town takes that being-able-to-book-a-trip part of fall to the next level and dips to California or Bali for two to three months—but dead season always seems like the time when the community's soul shines a little brighter, too. Maybe it's the ski and snowboard film premieres and the jittery sense of anticipation for winter, maybe it's seeing the town through the wide-eyes of the brand-new Aussies who've just arrived for a season, or maybe it's just the fact that you can actually see the friends who do stick around for fall because they aren't working six days a week.

One major issue throughout the recent municipal election was Whistler's busyness. We're successful, but it's clear locals are tired of suffering the side effects of that success.

It seems like most of Whistler's leaders are now leaning towards sustaining Whistler's growth rather than continuing to push the envelope. I selfishly hope that plan also includes sustaining dead season.

I'm all for safeguarding the economy of a town completely dependent on tourism, just as I'm grateful for the tourism-driven amenities I get to enjoy as a resident. But I think the best part of Whistler is its community, and I think a community like ours needs a break, at least once in a while, to continue thriving.

So let's safeguard dead season, too.

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