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As far as Canadian ski culture goes, Tremblant was very nearly our Ur resort. From the pioneering Red Birds Ski Club to skiing legend Ernie McCullough, from the Wheeler brothers to Jackrabbit Johannsen, and from Curé Deslauriers to Peter Duncan, Mont Tremblant has been the source of some of the greatest tales in Canadian skiing history.
Things went sour for Quebec’s economy in the early 1980s too. And Tremblant suffered greatly from the exodus of Anglo visitors. By the time Intrawest came sniffing around in 1991, the place was a shadow of its former self. Again, the company’s timing was impeccable. They bought Tremblant for a pittance, made an incredible deal with the provincial government and transformed the place into a neo-urban monstrosity that bears little resemblance to the mountain vision Ryan brought to the northern Laurentians in 1938.
To be fair, the Tremblant transformation was also a huge financial success for the company. But as many people have noted recently, the pace of development has just about crushed the soul out of the place…
Which brings us back full circle to the ad in the Globe and Intrawest’s claim of having “created” Whistler and Mont Tremblant.
For the record, Intrawest has never created anything from scratch. Unlike their ground-breaking predecessors who gambled huge (and often lost big) to cut out ski areas from the Canadian bush, the Intrawest modus operandi has always been to let others assume the risks. And they’ve benefited greatly from that strategy. But “creators” they aren’t…
Am I over-reacting? Am I getting all excited about nothing? Should I take a Valium and just accept the fact that modern-day marketing is all about telling people lies?
I don’t think so. For to me, there is a vast difference between mountain culture and real estate sales. Intrawest probably has one of the most clever (and aggressive) marketing and sales team in the business. And they’ve proven their effectiveness time and again. But when it comes to nurturing a place’s unique identity — when it comes to protecting the magic of an exceptional destination — they don’t have a clue.
And that’s what really bugs me.
At a time when Whistlerites are increasingly becoming aware of the community’s leadership role in the province and trying to chart a path to a sustainable and responsible future, it’s critical that we remain true to our history. Now is certainly not the time to get lazy and allow a real estate developer to take credit for all the hard work done over the years by people like Wilhelmsen and Raine and Watson and so many others.