May 1 marks the beginning of a seasonal phenomenon in Whistler, as a glamourous, bustling ski resort of about 14,000 workers and uncountable visitors is humbly reduced to perhaps half that number, with tourists replaced by tumble weeds. The shoulder season.
My first such experience was five years ago. Wide-eyed and fresh from Onterrible, I became part of a group of 10 tightly knit friends, of which only three were Canadians. Mother Nature wasnt particularly kind that winter, but still I recall a blur of snowy mornings and intoxicated apres afternoons. However, when the haze lifted five months later, 10 friends had turned to three, and I found myself with a lot of solitary afternoons watching the spring crocuses and construction crews.
On one hand, there was a sense of relief and recuperation after too many months of working hard and playing harder. But at the same time, I wondered if I was going to make the rent next month as I had just become the latest waitress to be handed her seasonal walking papers.
On a brighter note, this would leave me more time to spend with my three friends. But what would we do? Obviously, we had no money to throw around. Every establishment in town reduces its hours anyway, with some bars and restaurants closing completely rather than risking a loss. Instead, I settled down in front of the television for a few months, contemplating a town that revolves around non-residents.
"I just take it easy and watch TV," agrees Gord McArthur, a local of five years. "Ive been liking it so far this year though because of the weather. Were getting snow on top of the hill and everyone is gone. So the locals can go play in the snow without lifts lines and without silly confrontations with tourists."
"I have some co-workers who have just left, but I wasnt very close to them," says waitress Jenny Carmichael. "Its really tiring making friends every six months. I kinda stick to my circle of friends that live here permanently."
It seems not everyone is disappointed to see the caravans of Australians headed south on Highway 99. NOT that we dislike or dont appreciate our co-workers and friends from Down Under, or from the various other parts of the world. In fact, the end of April is usually just one big going away party as our seasonal friends prepare to depart. But there does seem to be a sense of relief in having a few more open spaces and more the recognizable faces of year-round residents.
But what if youre on the other end of the cycle? A working holiday-er who now continues on their journey or returns from whence they came whether they want to leave or not.