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Whistler’s changing face – are we doing enough?



"Evolve or die..."

- Charles Darwin


Summer is finally here. I know. I know. Doesn't look like it. Last winter's snow is still licking the edges of the lower slopes. Powder can still be found on high north faces. And the frigid morning temperatures in the valley of late make me think of late October rather than of late June.

But summer-like or not, this is one season where Whistlerites will be tested to their utmost.

Meaning? This is the beginning of the rest of our lives. The Olympics are behind us, challenging global weather and economic trends are ahead of us, and the engine that has always driven this community - frenetic real estate development - is slowly winding down.

So what do we do? We innovate. We re-invent ourselves. We diversify. We become the all-season mountain town that we've always wanted to become.

Let's be realistic. There isn't a mountain resort in the world - not in France, not in Austria not even in the US - who wouldn't trade their summer physical plant for ours. And I'm not poopin' ya. Four lakes on the valley floor. The ocean less than a half hour's drive away. A panoply of mountain peaks at our fingertips. A network of bike trails that is the envy of the planet's two-wheeled set. Garibaldi Provincial Park right at our doorstep. Oh yeah, and tons and tons of empty hotel rooms just begging to be filled. Heck, we live in a summer vacation wonderland.

And yet we've barely begun to exploit our riches. But all that is quickly changing. Seems like people are finally getting a sense of urgency around here. Whistler Blackcomb, for one, has had its senior staff burning the midnight oil in recent months in a concerted bid to turn its summer amenities into shekels.

"Our greatest natural asset," Arthur De Jong told me last week, "is our alpine terrain. And we're finally unveiling it with all its summer trappings." He smiles. "And that gets me really excited. Devoid of its benign carpet of snow, the summer alpine delivers a whole new kind of mountain experience. And it's one that I think our guests will truly appreciate."

The architect for much of the alpine trail development at Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, de Jong is adamant that the high-mountain experience needs to be presented in a coherent fashion. He explains: "Two years ago we allowed ATV tours on the mountain. But we decided to shut that down because we didn't think it meshed well with the experience we wanted to offer our guests up there."