Opinion » Alta States

Alta States

Celebrating the human factor



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According to Caroline, Whistler’s current problems need to be seen in an historical context. “I think we got carried away with our own success,” she says. “Six or seven years ago, when the resort was really rocking, most of the people in the community were too busy to care.” Things were good, money was coming in. Why worry? So the people running Whistler were left with no choice but to make decisions with very little public input. “And then things tightened up,” she says. “The resort business slowed down and visits dropped. But the decision makers ran the town — and spent taxpayers’ money — like we were still on top of the world. And with the coming of the Olympics with its tight deadlines and such, even if public input was desirable — there was no time or opportunity for it…”

The result, she says, is a situation she likes to call the “one-way mirror ceiling.” When asked to expound on this term, she laughs. “We can look up and see the decisions being made,” she says, “but no matter how hard we try we cannot touch or influence them. For whatever reason, the decision makers choose not to see us…”

The result? “There’s a whole bunch of people in this community who are desperate to get Whistler back on track, but they are unable to break through the ceiling and get involved unless they are part of this very tight insider group. And that,” she says emphatically, “has to change if Whistler is to become the great resort community that everyone knows it can become.”

Like so many residents, Caroline Lamont’s path to Whistler was more serendipitous than planned. “I was staying with a friend in Invermere during a cross-country trip,” she recounts, “and we were looking through the want ads in the Vancouver Sun when I saw a posting from Whistler. They were looking for a planning analyst for the municipality. And on a whim, I decided to apply.”

The year was 1989. And Caroline, an urban planning grad from Ryerson University in Toronto, was intrigued. “I liked the idea that I’d be doing a lot of different things in this job while skiing or running during my lunch hour,” she says. But when she got the position, she realized that “doing a lot of things” at a place like Whistler meant being assigned to such projects as planning for a heliport. “My work experience prior to that had been dealing with skyscraper development for a Toronto law firm,” she laughs. “And at the time, I thought ‘what does a city girl know about mountain heliports?’ But that was the fun part. There was such a can-do attitude here during those years that no one felt intimidated by new challenges…”