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Indeed, many would consider the creation of Blackcomb Mountain as the true beginnings of the Whistler Brand.
It was only when Joe Houssian's Intrawest entered the picture in 1986 that Smythe's focus changed. While the idea of providing great service to his guests was still his passion, the young resort head was seduced by the opportunity of creating a ski "empire" where he could test and showcase all his new ideas. Teaming up with the Vancouver developer was a match made in heaven, Smythe claimed back then. In retrospect, it now looks more like a deal made with the...
But I digress.
So what now? The real estate economy is over. At least in the near term: the valley has finally reached build-out and there's really nowhere else to continue the "boom." So where does the Whistler community turn for its shekels? How do we support all the framers and carpenters and electricians and plumbers and general contractors and real estate agents living here now that their main form of income is drying up?
Easy. Forget building new homes for now. Forget the uphill transportation business even. Instead, consider the human and natural resources element of the mountain resort experience. For better or worse, folks, we're in the value-added business now... and those resorts that figure out first how to champion that quality to customers will thrive. As for the others? All you have to do is travel to upstate New York to see what the booming spa resort towns of the late 19 th century became when people suddenly changed their holidaying habits. It's not pretty.
Know what I mean? It's not good enough anymore to boast about our big vertical or our fancy lifts or our abundant snow. That, as Smythe would put it, is just the base line. Besides, when a second-tier resort like Revelstoke can promote itself as having "the longest vertical in North America," it's time to hang your reputation on something else. Which begs a few questions. What is it that makes Whistler unique? What makes the experience here distinctive from other places?
For me, it's always been obvious (and it's what Alta States tries to celebrate every week). It's our inimitable mix of geography and people that make Whistler such a progressive, fun and attractive community. And yet, it's virtually the last thing Tourism Whistler or W/B - or even the municipality - focus their efforts on promoting.