"How tough can life be when you live on Easy Street next to the River of Golden Dreams and your kids' kindergarten teachers have names like Ms. Friend and Ms. Hart?"
Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski on living at Whistler
The future looked bright. Summit lifts were in position, big-name hotels were in place and the buzz was quickly spreading. Whistler was a happening town. By 1990, it was almost official. The Baby Huey of Canadian ski resorts was finally coming into its own...
It hadn't been easy. And there'd been some sizeable speed bumps along the way. Still, most of Whistler's big issues had been addressed successfully. When once it was almost mandatory for Whistler officials to travel south to see how the Colorado guys managed their business, now the reverse was happening. Increasingly, the resort was playing host to American managers looking to get their heads around this industry game-changer.
Critical mass is a funny thing - particularly when it comes to tourism. It often seems impossibly out of reach - until you hit it. And then it seems impossibly fragile. Stray under or above the magical ratio of guests-to-residents and the experience subtly changes. Know what I mean? Whistler's current malaise perfectly illustrates how quickly a resort town's affairs can go sideways.
It was exactly the reverse a generation ago. For whatever reason - economics, planning, serendipity - the early 1990's was a time of great optimism at Whistler. The Canadian dollar was low, Americans were feisty and rich, and everything "West Coast" was hip. As for lifestyle, conditions couldn't have been better for local residents. As one wag put it at the time: "We have the infrastructure of a big-time global resort and the midweek visitor-numbers of a much smaller place. The result: Whistlerites are spoiled, spoiled, spoiled."
Is it any wonder then that skiing parents from across the country were beginning to identify this place as a viable community to raise young kids? "I'd always fantasized about moving to Whistler," admits former World Cup star, Steve Podborski. "After all, I spent some magical summers in my youth skiing up on the glacier with the Griffin Camps. But living here full-time? It always seemed a bit too whimsical for me... but that all changed when I became a dad."
It's hard to appreciate today just how much Podborski and his Crazy Canuck teammates were game-changers on the World Cup circuit themselves. Under funded, under-coached and under-appreciated, the young Canadians stormed into the Euro-centric atmosphere of international ski racing in the early 1970's and proceeded to tear its assumption to bits.