"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift."
- Albert Einstein
Don't you just love that Einstein quote? It explains Whistler's current economic malaise so well. Meaning? We've forgotten to honour the sacred gift the gods gave us back at the dawn of time... the very thing that makes us such creative and imaginative beings.
Okay, raise your hand those of you who moved to Whistler to get rich. Unless I'm terribly mistaken, "getting rich" was not the principal motivating factor for the majority of current Sea-to-Sky residents. Sure, we all need income to support our lifestyles. But moving to Whistler was never about making millions of dollars. It was about opting out of the urban rat race and investing in a way of life that celebrated health and well-being (however you want to define those terms) rather than wealth and status.
Forget rational arguments for a moment. It's the heart that drove most long-term residents here. Don't you think? Once upon a time, you moved to Whistler because you loved the place. There was no choice. Your heart spoke. And you listened.
So what happened? Why are there so many angry people at Whistler right now? Why does it feel like the community is fast approaching the tipping point beyond which it won't be able to call itself a mountain town anymore?
"I'm afraid Whistler is losing some of its mojo," says longtime resident Jayson Faulkner. "We are struggling to define who we are and what we want to be."
The co-founder and owner of The Escape Route pauses for a breath. Lets out a long sigh. "What we have here is a mountain product dramatically different than anywhere else in the world," he says. Another weighty pause. "Whistler has a unique identity - an enticing blend of people and place. But some in the community seemed to have lost sight of that in recent years. Now it's more about being all things to all people."
There aren't many owner-operated retail stores in Whistler anymore. Commercial rental rates are sky-high, returns on investment are questionable and the dawn-to-dusk time investment is just too demanding for most small entrepreneurs to entertain.
So when a mountaineering-cum-sport-shop like The Escape Route endures for two decades, it behoves us to listen to its owner. "I think what we've done at Whistler with resident housing is amazing," says Faulkner. "But what I've never been able to understand is why we're not doing the same thing for local businesses."