Opinion » Alta States

An ode to Creekside — the last repository of old school Whistler culture



"I understand the business argument for closing Whistler Mountain early. But it still rubs me the wrong way... I mean, how can they do that? It's like turning your back on forty years of local history."

- Award-winning filmmaker Angie Nolan

I woke up on Sunday to a raging blizzard. The wind was howling, the snow was coming down in incessant waves of white and the trees above my house all sported that flash-frozen look again. Frankly, my newly-acquired porch furniture looked forlorn in the late-winter storm.

It was the last lift-served day of the season on Whistler Mountain. How could that be? I felt like crying. So much snow still. So many great runs left on the hill. Sure, Blackcomb would still be open. But that wasn't home for me.

I mean, I'd be happy if the WB wizards just kept the Creekside gondola open. Let us skin up the mountain from there. Or even if they ran the (ugh) Peak 2 Peak so we could ski home from Blackcomb at the end of the day. Put a few nostalgic tracks on our favourite trails on the way down.

I know. I know. I'm not being realistic. Given the company's business targets (and its stock-owning clients' goals), keeping Creekside open for a handful of eccentrics, kooks and madmen makes zero financial sense to WB's bean-counters.

But on a cultural level? Ah, now there's a compelling argument. While Blackcomb Mountain has virtually no late-season ski/riding tradition in it's developmental history, its cross-valley sibling put itself on the world map in its formative years by remaining open later than anybody else in the ski business.

In the 1960s, '70s, and '80s 'doing' Whistler Mountain in April and May became almost a rite of passage for serious skiers and pros across North America. Gelandesprungs, hot-dog skiing contests, speedskiing races, mountain-top barbeques, crazy psychedelic sessions on the Peak — it was all part of the mix. But the biggest ingredient was FUN. It was almost tribal. I mean, skiing in April and May was new to everyone back then... and it was very, very sexy.

But now? Not so much. I mean, "fun" is a hard concept to monetize. No? Besides, it seems these days like the WB big wigs can't wait to get rid of skiers so that they can finally get down to the serious work of altering our mountain terrain again (consider the destruction they're about to visit on Harmony's Little Whistler).

Forget culture. Or history. Or even indulging the long-term season passholders a wee bit. It's all about the bottom line now. Corporate memory is very short-term.

Damn! I'm getting ahead of myself again.

Ich bin ein Creeksider. And proud of it. I live in one of Whistler's last ski-bum ghettos. A place of revolving tenancies, cars on their last pass, and shabby apartments with sports gear flowing out the windows and doors and slowly spreading across the sagging porches.