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On Easter Sunday the Vatican goes on-line, launching its own web page. After several hundred years in which Rome has been the distant, spiritual centre of the world for millions of Catholics and his holiness the Pope has been a sacred but unreachable figure, as of Sunday anyone with a modem will be able to go surfing with John Paul. Mountains have also been considered by some to be distant, spiritual places; visible but not really within reach. The impediments may be distance, time, money or any number of things. But just as the Vatican’s web page is bringing the Catholic church closer to the people, the mountains — or at least some aspects of mountain life — are coming closer to the every-day life of millions of people. I don’t mean to offend Catholics with this comparison; there is a spiritual component to the mountains but there is also a superficiality to many of our mountain pursuits. But just as the Internet can change perceptions of the Catholic church, perceptions of the mountains are changing. This comes as good news for those in the mountain resort industry, like Whistler. Mountains are now cool, you only have to look around to see it. Across this country Kokanee beer is now being promoted as "B.C.’s mountain beer" in the "Get off the couch" TV commercials. Mountain sports, including ski racing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and "extreme" skiing and boarding are getting more television coverage than ever before. There is international name recognition of mountains, as Whistler Brewing can tell you. Jack Turner, the guest speaker at next month’s Industry Dinner during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, is working with record companies on cross promotions involving snowboarding and mountain activities. Non-sporting magazines such as Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair are using snowboarding images as the street-smart culture of the inner city is increasingly linked to the snowboarding culture. Clothing companies such as Banana Republic — which doesn’t make ski or snowboard clothing — are copying snowboarding styles. Short, easily manoeuvrable sliding devices such as Bigfoot and Snowblades are introducing more and more people to the idea that sliding around on snow can be fun. Even that staid old sport of skiing has had a bit of a resurgence with the emergence of shaped skis. All this is generally good for places like Whistler. Overall awareness of the mountains is on the rise, and even if most of our motives for encouraging this awareness are selfish, in the sense that it may help business around here, there is likely still a benefit on a higher level. The Vatican web page may not convert many to Catholicism, but even a virtual visit to the Vatican will further understanding and appreciation of the spirituality of the Catholic church. So too with mountains.

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