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Alta States

Dan Ellis: Bucking the odds

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“It’s true,” he says. “When I look around the village, I realize how much our little corner of Whistler has kept its integrity. It’s a great location to be in. In some ways, it’s the focal point of Whistler. Thousands of people stream through this square every day. This is the place where Whistlerites gather to celebrate momentous events. In fact, this could be the liveliest square in town.”

But it has its drawbacks. And Ellis doesn’t hesitate to mention them. “In recent years, it’s gotten a little seedy around here,” he admits. “Drug dealers and homeless kids have increasingly taken up residence in our little neighbourhood. I mean, when Vice Magazine promotes Village Square as the place to score drugs in Whistler, you know you have a problem.” He stops speaking. Draws a long, frustrated breath. “I’d love to clean it up,” he says. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that we have the collective will to do that yet…”

The youngest of four boys (all born within three-and-a-half years!), Dan spent his youth in Squamish playing sports and “terrorizing the neighbourhood,” he says with a laugh. “Since I was the youngest, I had to work hard to keep up with my brothers. It was a real challenge. But Squamish was a great place to grow up in those years. Adventure was waiting around every corner…”

Although the boys were all busy with various sports, winter, says Dan, was reserved for skiing. “We were hooked on Whistler Mountain,” he explains. “Every winter weekend was totally dedicated to skiing.” He smiles. “Do you remember the old Olive Chair? I can still picture lineups there spilling down the stairs past McConkey’s shop and all the way into the parking lot.”

Along with his brothers — “and our mischievous gang of Squamish friends,” he says — Dan explored every inch of Whistler Mountain real estate on his skis. “If you went up the T-bar on any given weekend,” he says, “chances are that those tracks you saw heading up the Ridge towards Little Whistler were ours (this was in the days before the Peak Chair). We loved to ski powder, we loved to ski untracked runs.” A big smile. “Mostly what I remember of those years was fear and exhilaration.”

Sadly, Dan admits he doesn’t have as much time as he’d like to indulge his skiing needs. Like most small shop owners, he finds there’s just not a lot of spare time left after all the work has been addressed. “But I hope that’s going to change soon,” he says. “I’m looking forward to getting my kids on the mountain too. I think they’re ready…”