Nine-hundred-and-seventy-five weeks ago, the first issue of Pique Newsmagazine was published. A day late and several dollars short of budget.
The date on the cover of that first issue says Nov. 25, 1994, but it wasn't seen by anyone until Nov. 26. We missed our very first print deadline.
"Pique will keep you up to date on what's happening in council chambers, with development issues and events in the community, but we will also feature in-depth analysis of larger issues, decisions and personalities that affect Whistler," the first Opening Remarks stated optimistically. "Our intention is to go beyond straight reporting of events and bring you the issues in context."
Development was the issue in 1994. And it was part of the reason we — Kevin Damaskie, Dave Rigler, Kathy Barnett and I — felt it was a good time to launch Pique. Whistler was booming. There was a lineup of businesses waiting for commercial space in the original village and people were prepared to pay substantial key money to get in. The provincial government was selling off parcels in Village North faster than anyone expected. The new Marketplace was open but work on Town Plaza and the Tyndall Stone Lodge wouldn't start until the following spring. Whistler's first Starbucks was opening in Whistler Village Centre, below a Hard Rock Café.
On the mountains, Excalibur and Excelerator were the new lifts on Blackcomb, while Harmony Express was the new quad on Whistler, where Doug Forseth was the new president of Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation.
Pique was actually the third paper in Whistler back then. The Question was the established leader. The Town Crier had started publishing a few months before Pique. Some of the things we thought we could offer, and that would distinguish us from the other papers that were experiencing a high turnover of staff, was an understanding of Whistler's history; providing context; reflecting, engaging and supporting the community we were a part of; constantly trying to define what Whistler is, was and could be.
It's about people. And one of the issues central to keeping people in Whistler and the town functioning was employee housing, or as it's now known, resident-restricted housing. I would guess that more words have been mashed together in Pique in attempts to understand, explain, urge, cajole and scold readers about employee housing than any other subject.
That employee housing has become a non-issue in post-Olympic Whistler is a tribute to successive councils, municipal staff, concerned citizens and more than a few developers. Not all were convinced from the start but at the end of the day most were part of the solution.
Pique didn't build any employee housing but I think we can take some credit for keeping the issue front and centre, particularly in the midst of the development frenzy of the '90s. If you were working for someone in Whistler then (other than Blackcomb), affordable accommodation was an oxymoron. Many landlords were renting their "suites" by the night to visitors. Whistlerites who wanted to own a home looked to Pemberton or towns further afield.
Part of our small contribution was to list long-term accommodation ads — i.e. seasonal accommodation — for free. It didn't change the world, and it seems quaint now in a classified landscape dominated by Craigslist, but it was an attempt to help.