Features & Images » Feature Story

“That Seventies Show

Whistler residents and visitors share their memories of a wilder and crazier time in the valley – and their perspectives on Whistler’s rapid change



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Burrows and his wife left Whistler in 2000; they wanted to move to a more “normal” community. He is saddened that so many Whistler workers reside in Pemberton and Squamish, and laments the fact that there is still no seniors’ housing in Whistler.

“A well-rounded community needs to have a broad range of ages,” Burrows argued. “If a community is mainly old, like Palm Springs or Parksville, that is not normal. If it is mainly young, like Whistler, that is not normal either. Around the time we left, I said Whistler is a world-class destination and is a great place to visit. But it is slipping badly as a community to live in. There are not a lot of old people in Whistler. With the exodus of older people, you lose the culture and the history. An older person wants moderation. If you want to live an average life, Whistler isn’t the place.”

“The issue of affordable housing for seniors was first brought up in 1993,” he continued. “I remember having this conversation with Ted Nebbelling about the need for seniors’ housing, just like there was a need to house the firefighters, the teachers and the nurses affordably. I thought that old folks fall into the same category. He was not in favour of it. He said, ‘Whistler is not an old folks town.’”

Like many people who have lived in Whistler for more than a decade or two, Burrows is astounded by the pace of development.

“The scale of development here is so steep – what happens in 15 years in Whistler would take fifty years in an urban environment. And it would take 200 years in Europe.

“Whistler has been an experiment,” Burrows continued.

What part of the experiment has been successful?

“Establishing the RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler) in 1975 and using tourists’ dollars to fund infrastructure like sewers, the water system, the street lighting and bridges. This could never have been done by the Whistler taxpayers.”

What hasn’t Whistler done well?

Burrows points again to the affordability question.

“We still get the two Whistler newspapers delivered every week,” he said. “The same issues are being discussed — garbage problems, sewer issues, bears – and affordability. If you have to drive an hour to get to work and put a smile on your face and treat the customers like God, are you going to want to do that if you’ve had a heck of a time just getting to work? All resort towns have had to learn this: Aspen, Banff, and Whistler. Revelstoke is realizing this now with the sharp increase in land value. The resort business is a double-edged sword.”