I remember my first day in Whistler like it was yesterday. It was December 2004 when I stepped off the Greyhound at the Visitor's Centre. I didn't know a soul in town and I had no idea where I was going. Burdened with an overloaded backpack and ski bag, I shuffled towards the closest person to ask for directions to Whistler Blackcomb Staff Housing. Lo and behold, I was greeted with an Aussie accent. I immediately felt less homesick.
I soon settled into my compact (yet affordable!) unit at Glacier Lane where my roomies were all Australians guys. I knew I was in Canada but I started to wonder where all the Canadians were hiding.
Once I started work at Whistler Blackcomb Ski School, I began to meet the rest of Whistler's congregation: Ontarians, Quebecois, Brits, Kiwis. People from Argentina and Chile, Germany and Spain. Whistler is a pluralistic community, but no other outlanders seemed to have the strength in numbers that the Aussies have. Or at least, no one else was as easy to spot around town.
My first season in 2004/2005 turned out to have the worst snow fall in 30 years. Parts of the resort didn't even open that year, but I skied every day nonetheless. At that time I had one season to experience Whistler and nothing could curb my zeal, not even weeks of non-stop rain. It would not be until spring that the snow would finally make its late entrance.
When January came along I began feel the anticipation from the Aussie community in Whistler. Everyone was booking Jan. 26 off work, many also blocked off Jan. 27th to give themselves another full day for recovery. The party starts early on Australia Day, I was told, and it doesn't stop until the clock has safely ticked over into the next day. I jumped on the bandwagon and partied my little Aussie heart out. I spent that rainy January day forgetting the sorrows of a powderless season. I drank beer, painted my face and enjoyed the camaraderie of my countrymen.
The annual celebration of Australia day is once again upon us here in Whistler. For as long as many locals can remember, January 26 has been a day where you either join the party or avoid the Village at all costs. The Village Stroll turns into an Aussie free-for-all with flags draped over half naked bodies and loud, off-key singing emanating from colourfully-clad groups of drunken jingoes. If you are Australian and it's your first year in Whistler, then get ready for the most memorable Australia Day experience of your life.
The boisterous behaviour of young Australians on January 26 in Whistler Village now seems like a tradition in itself, but what does Australia Day actually represent?