Labour Day. To most Snoweaters, the last weekend of the summer always offers something of a bittersweet flavour. True, the long warm days of July and August have passed — and so too have the activities they engender. But with the coming of cold nights and chilly mornings, the promise of frost and the first tidings of the oncoming winter, skiers and riders around the world can’t help but start counting the days until the mountain lifts start running again and snow covers their favourite runs.
And nowhere is that more true than at Whistler — or at least that was the way it was in the past. For nearly 40 years, local businessmen would sigh with relief at the arrival of Labour Day. “We eked through an another summer,” they would say. “Now we can start preparing for the money season.” While young hounds would begin their frantic search for new gear, the valley’s pioneering entrepreneurs would once again assure their bank managers that they could make it to Christmas without missing too many payments.
But even here, the changing face of Whistler — and the growing clout of its summer business — has very nearly flipped the old model on its head. Or so it seems…
While the final reports will take some weeks to tabulate still, it is widely acknowledged that this summer will probably turn out to be Whistler’s most successful to date. Rumours are even circulating that the town recorded its busiest day in history this past July.
Mountain biking and the Crankworx festival have certainly played a huge role in putting Whistler on the international summer tourist map. And the coming of the Olympics has clearly brought out the curious. So too has the town’s plethora of restaurants and shops and ridiculously affordable accommodation. Still, it makes me wonder how long the resort’s summer success will continue — especially if Whistler is keen on retaining its mountain town flavour.
Let me explain. There is no question that the Sea to Sky corridor has become one of the great mountain biking destinations on the planet. With its groundbreaking trail-and-access work, Whistler-Blackcomb has also taken a leadership role in the cycling industry — and regularly exports its expertise to other interested resorts around the world.
And other resorts are certainly interested. From Tignes to Cortina, by way of Aspen and Mont Ste Anne, countless ski resorts in Europe and North America are quickly adapting the Whistler model to their own slopes. And given the fact that none of the white stuff is required for success, a lot of hitherto moribund ski hills could easily be resurrected as very desirable mountain bike playgrounds.