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Alta States

Jan SImpson - coming full circle



Her dad kept telling her what a cool scene it was. Totally hip. Totally new. It was really going to put Vancouver on the map, he said. You should come. And then he'd tease her about his passengers. "All these tanned, fit, good-looking guys," he'd tell her. "And all of them smiling and joking and having a good time."

Sure it was a long bus ride. Eight hours there and back - minimum! But it was worth it. Beautiful mountains. Incredible forests. And the snow - you wouldn't believe how much of the white stuff there was up there. So different from the rain-soaked streets of East Vancouver at this time of the year...

She was definitely intrigued. It was the winter of 1966. City life was boring. Her secretarial job was safe and predictable. For 18-year-old Jan Simpson, a recent graduate at Britannia High School, the same ol' reality just didn't cut it anymore.

"So on a whim, I took him up on his offer," says Simpson. And then almost dreamily: "It completely changed my life..."

You see, her dad worked for Squamish Coach Lines and drove the regular run from Vancouver to the new ski area everyone was talking about - Garibaldi at Whistler. She didn't know a thing about skiing. Could probably count the number of days she'd spent in the mountains on one hand. No matter. Her dad's stories had piqued her curiosity. She was going north.

And that was all it took. Nearly 45 years have passed since Simpson took that first trip up Highway 99. Still a resident at Whistler - and still as much in love with the place as she was as a teenager - Jan has a first-person acquaintance with the story of Whistler. Ski bunny and ski bum, hippy girl, road-worker, drink-slinger, single mum, groundbreaking realtor - and now grandmother, volunteer and yoga instructor - she has virtually lived every stage of this community's evolution.

She's a font of Whistler tales and legends. Knows all the secrets; knows where all the skeletons lurk - even if she has the good grace to keep most of them hidden. Still, for a story-collector like me, she's gold. And I pump her shamelessly for anecdotes.

"In the beginning," says Jan, and laughs immediately. Takes a breath. Starts again. "That's so long ago," she says. Laughs a little more. "In the beginning: well, the bus trip from Vancouver to Whistler, with several stops along the way - to pick up passengers, for bathroom/snack breaks, for scenic stops at Shannon Falls and again at Brandywine Falls - that took about four hours. We left the Vancouver terminal around 6 a.m., arriving in Alta Lake at the Garibaldi Lift Company parking lot around 10."