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Alta states

Charlie Doyle: The art of staying true to yourself



He’ll never change. Artist, athlete, iconoclast, rebel — Charlie Doyle is the stuff that Whistler dreams are made of. Actually, that’s not quite true. With Doyle, it’s more reality than dreams. Why? Because ever since he made this valley his home, the 59-year-old Doyle has rarely hesitated to roll up his sleeves when there’s been heavy lifting to be done in the community. Indeed, although he’d probably be the first to dismiss it, Charlie is fast becoming an icon in this great unfolding dramedy we call The Whistler Story .

But it’s not like he’s gotten rich from it or anything. A man of modest needs, Doyle still lives with his family on the hillside lot he bought on Easy Street nearly three decades ago. Owns a small — if very tasteful — sign-making company that he runs out of his home there. Not so exceptional so far, is it? Which is what makes him such an interesting character. For take an archival snapshot of any period in Whistler’s history since 1972, and there he’ll be, just like the eponymous Waldo. But unlike the cartoon fly-on-the-wall character, Doyle will usually be right in the thick of it.

Hippy squats in the 1970s? There’s a photo of a bearded, long-haired Doyle presenting squatters’ demands to the Land Office of the provincial government in a successful stand-off with local politicians. Resident housing in the 1980s? Look: there’s Charlie again, part of the small Whistler group forging new solutions for locals’ housing needs at Tapley’s Farm. Mountain tourism in the ’90s? Wouldn’t you know it — there’s Doyle once more, a founding (and still-active) member of WORCA, the valley’s groundbreaking mountain bike association. How about Whistler’s Olympic hopes in 2000? OK. You got me there. But wasn’t it Charlie’s son Eryn who created all that media fuss with his “I’m Packing The Bud” bumper sticker spoof of VANOC’s oh-so-earnest “I’m Backing The Bid” version?

But I digress…

Charlie Doyle is a Whistler legend. No question. And his contributions to this community are legion. Mostly however, his contributions have remained below the mainstream radar. Why? Because he represents a tribe of Whistler residents who would still rather enjoy their mountain lifestyle than make oodles of money from it. And in this era of “excess is success”, that point-of-view is hardly the dominant one among Whistler power brokers.

But be careful what you wish for, warns Doyle. For that “excess is success” model is leading the community down a potentially dangerous path. “There seems to be a belief among certain Whistlerites that you can build yourself out of your problems,” he explains. “But that’s just not the case. Just look at us. We’ve created this ever-hungry monster that needs to be fed all the time - at the expense of a way of life that drew most of us here in the first place. I mean, does the machine feed us or are we doomed to keeping the machine fed?”