Opinion » Alta States

Alta states

Beyond 2010: Preparing for the other side of the Olympic tunnel



Innovation. Bold thinking. Challenging the status quo. These are the conceptual pillars upon which Whistler was built. And it worked. In less than four decades, Whistler has managed to create a niche for itself very near the top of the mountain resort pantheon. But as groovy as we’ve become over the years — as much as we love patting each other on the back for becoming such important players on the global stage — it’s vital that we remind ourselves from time-to-time how fundamental these principles are to our future success. Particularly now…

As our two-week Olympic party quickly approaches, like a Tsunami on an unsuspecting fisherman, most Whistlerites are finally coming to realize just how much of a workload hosting such a global media orgy entails. From construction workers to municipal administrators, from Whistler-Blackcomb staff to the teachers in the local schools, everyone in town seems to be functioning at full-tilt boogie these days. And that’s a good thing. Up to a point…

For the greatest danger now lies in getting caught in such narrow tunnel vision as to forget that we’ll soon become responsible again for managing our own destiny. I can’t help but worry. With everyone scurrying around trying to fulfil the needs of the IOC and its Games-related concerns — or to quickly jump on the bandwagon for extra Olympic goodies — no one in power at Whistler seems to be looking beyond those two very busy weeks in February anymore. Think I’m exaggerating again? Let me tell you a little story to illustrate my point.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from a Swiss acquaintance of mine. He needed help, he said. Just couldn’t get though to the right people, he admitted. Tell me more, I answered. In response, the long-time event promoter gave me an account of his interaction with a cabal of Whistler decision-makers that blew my mind…

Here’s a bit of background. The founder and current director of the Verbier Xtreme — a very successful big-mountain freeride contest in Switzerland modelled on big-wave surfing events — Nicolas Hale-Wood has one of the most creative minds in the event business today. After all, this is the same guy who single-handedly created the Swiss Surf Team and then convinced Victorinox to sponsor his squad by showing up at their corporate office with surfboards already painted as Swiss army knives. “We certainly weren’t the best surfers at that year’s World Championships,” he told me. “But we were the most colourful — and definitely got the most attention…”