Change is upon us. And it’s happening faster than most people realize. Politics. Demographics. Technology. Communications. They’re all having profound impacts on how mountain tourism is evolving. “But few people around here really get it,” says 76-year-old Peter Alder. “And that makes me worried for Whistler.” He stops for a moment. Shakes his head in frustration. “If we don’t pull our heads out of the sand soon and take responsibility for our own future,” he tells me, “we’re all doomed.”
Criticism is easy. Coming up with solutions is much harder. So what does Peter suggest? “I would very much like to see if we, as citizens of Whistler, couldn’t buy a part of these mountains,” he says with a straight face.
What? The town should purchase a share of Whistler-Blackcomb? The elegance of his proposition floors me…
“Why not,” he says. “We already have all the mechanisms in place. And it’s part of our story. After all, the Resort Municipality Act of 1975 was legislated for this very kind of eventuality. Besides — don’t you think it would be a great wake-up call among our citizenry?”
Welcome to the wild and colourful world of Peter Alder. Welcome to a world where contentious ideas and provocative opinions reign. “You can dismiss this as the ravings of an old man,” he says with a glint in his eye. “I don’t care anymore. Somebody has to stand up and tell it like it is.”
There is still the unmistakable burr of the Swiss mountains in Peter Alder’s speech. And there probably always will. After more than half a century in B.C., the globetrotting ski resort consultant embodies that rare combination of European weltschmerz and New World entrepreneurship that is so refreshing in this world of the politically correct. He’s sharp. He’s cynically funny. And he doesn’t suffer fools. “We’re hiding behind the Olympic banner,” he says with a dismissive wave of his hand. “And that’s not going to save us. I mean — do you think the IOC or VANOC really have Whistler’s best interest at heart? C’mon. We’ve got to look way further down the road than that…”
When it comes to Whistler and the future, Peter doesn’t mince words. “We have no leaders. We have no vision,” he says with a despairing sigh. “I look at our fancy 2020 document and I say: ‘Good God! This is not where the world is going’.”
He takes another deep breath: “Look,” he says, “if you draw a road-map for somebody — and you want to get them where they are going — you have to depict your surroundings as realistically as possible. That’s the problem with the 2020 thing. It’s a make-believe document.” He laughs. “Don’t get me wrong. There are some great thoughts in it. It’s just not real…”