Opinion » Alta States

Alta States

When is ‘marketing’ outright lying?

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Now, if they’d written something like: “From Intrawest, creators of that bland cookie-cutter development at Whistler’s Creekside’” or even “From Intrawest, creators of that overbuilt faux-Quebec-City Potemkin village at Mont Tremblant,” I’d have no problem with their claims. But that’s not what they wrote.

Let’s take a step back in time for a moment and look at what really happened.

Whistler Mountain was created in 1966 by a group of Vancouver skiing enthusiasts that included such seminal figures as Wilhelmsen, Stephan Ples, Ivan Quinn, Glen McPherson and a host of others. In 1980, Blackcomb Mountain was born from a deal made between Aspen Corporation and the Federal Development Bank of Canada. Meanwhile people like Al Raine and Garry Watson and John Hetherington and Pat Carleton were hard at work making sure there was a pedestrian-only, people-friendly village linking the two mountains.

Intrawest didn’t make it to Whistler until 1986 — long after the growing pains (and one of the province’s nastiest recessions) had passed. The company’s timing was exquisite. For the economic tide had turned in B.C. Suddenly everyone wanted recreational property on the West Coast. And Intrawest was only too happy to supply them with something to buy at Whistler. While there’s no question that Intrawest prospered greatly from their investment in this place, critics now wonder if the company’s 20-year obsession with short-term profits benefited the community as much as its marketers like to think it did.

OK. OK. So Intrawest made a lot of money for the valley’s legion of realtors. And properties are definitely worth a lot more today than they were back in 1986. But that begs the question: Unless you plan on leaving Whistler, where are you going to live after you sell your million-dollar home?

But I digress…

As for Mont Tremblant, Intrawest’s claim is even more outlandish. For nearly 50 years, Joe Ryan’s Quebec creation was the darling of the East Coast establishment. People came from as far away as New York, Philadelphia and Chicago to share in the winter joie-de-vivre that had become such an intrinsic part of the Mont Tremblant story. How popular was the place? Consider that the great American storyteller Lowell Thomas was a huge fan and actually made a number of radio broadcasts from the lobby of the Mont Tremblant Lodge…