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Alta states

From squat to Akasha – Life with the Munsters

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It’s a beautiful late September day. We‘re sitting on the Munsters’ deck at their home on Balsam Way, on the very same Tapley’s Farm lot they bought in 1980 when a posse of long-haired Whistlerites decided to take ownership of their housing woes (yes, there were housing issues even back then) and do something about it. The result was the creation of the legendary Mountain Development Corporation (MDC) — and the first iteration of affordable resident housing at Whistler.

“The way the lots were divided up was pretty simple,” explains Andy. “We had a party (as we often did in those days) and everybody who had paid up put their names into one hat, and the lot numbers went into the other….”

Bonnie jumps in: “Once your name and lot assignment was called, you had the rest of the evening to decide whether you wanted to keep that lot or try and persuade somebody else to switch with you.” More laughter. “It was quite a party.”

As it turns out, the Munsters were perfectly happy with the outcome. And though their house has seen numerous add-ons over the years, they maintain they’re just as pleased with their lot today as they were 28 years ago when they first walked across the swampy ground next to the BC Rail line to check out their new acquisition.

“You know, the MDC initiative was quite a revolutionary move for this community,” Bonnie tells me. “Think about it — here were all these young people willing to address their housing problems without turning to government for help. Realtors, lawyers, ski bums, artists — everybody got involved. Meanwhile, the municipality got a heck of a lot from us in return. In fact, it could be argued that our little project became a model for many of Whistler’s subsequent developments. We gave seven usable acres of our land to the municipality for employee housing, turned over the wetlands as a dedicated preserve, taught them that every neighbourhood should have a park and even got the roots of the Valley Trail going….”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves again. For to really understand the Munsters’ story, you have to reach back even further in time.

Like most young skiers growing up in Quebec in the early 1970s, Andy Munster dreamed of only one thing: moving west and skiing big mountains. “In those days, it was all about Aspen,” he tells me. “So that’s where I planned on going. But two weeks prior to my departure, a friend of mine suggested I should check out Whistler.” Andy never made it to Aspen…

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