Some people think that Whistler is ruined. That greed took over the story and smothered the adventurous spirit that once made this valley such an outstanding place to live. "Too much too fast," they say. "Too urban, too corporate, too star-bedazzled now." The little-mountain-town-that-could, they argue, has morphed into a bloated exurb of Vancouver. No humour, no soul, no place for eccentrics and outlaws anymore: just another crass tourist town to tick off your list. Next...
But talk to longtime local Kashi Richardson, and a whole other narrative emerges. "From my perspective," she says, "the Whistler community is just as vibrant and supportive as it's ever been. This might just be anecdotal, you know, but I'm hearing about lots of young families moving back to Whistler. And that's so exciting. This town still has a youthful vibe, a sense of fun ... it's a place that kids still want to visit ... a place where multi generations can have a great time playing together. Just look at our Loonie Races and skiing and snowboarding and hiking and..."
She stops. Takes a breath. Fixes me with sea-blue eyes that have seen Whistler negotiate nearly half a century of growth and change. They say a lot those eyes. Patient, kind, calm — framed by deep laugh lines enhanced by years in the sun and wind and rain — they gaze out at the world with uncommon clarity. So I make sure to listen closely.
"This was — this is — an amazing place to raise children," she continues. "And now, I think probably because of all the resident-housing that's come available in recent years, a lot of young couples who might once have opted for Pemberton or Squamish are finding homes here." A long pause. "And when all is said and done, that may be our biggest Olympic legacy." She stops again. Laughs. "And the 'oldtimers' are hanging around too! At one of my recent yoga classes we calculated something like 350 years of combined Whistler life among the participants. "
Hold on. Before we deal with yoga-teacher Kashi, it behoves us to catch up on her back-story. Don't you think?
She was born in Nova Scotia. Moved to Vancouver when she was nine. "I think I was eleven when I first skied Whistler," she begins. "That was 1965, before the mountain was open to the public. And as I remember it, it wasn't a lot of fun. " She laughs. Like most Lower Mainland kids, she and her older sister and brothers had learned to ski at Mt. Seymour. But this new mountain offered a whole new level of difficulty. "It was December as I recall," she continues. "And the only lift running was the gondola. So that meant we got to ski from mid-station down to the garbage dump on the north side of the mountain — where Whistler Village is now."