Opinion » Alta States

Making a difference – Whistlerites who shone in 2011

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"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts..."

- William Shakespeare

What a year. Featuring one of the most prolific winters in a long history of great winters — with more snow, more powder and more attention than we deserved — 2011 also saw Whistler entrepreneurs of all stripe struggling to make ends meet. It was a fun year. It was a tough year. It was a high year. It was a sobering year. And nobody, I think, got exactly what they wanted. But we learned a barrelful!

For the resort's marketing mavens, this past year marked a return to the trench warfare of regional business. Gone were the high-flying spenders of the 1990s. Disappeared was the cheap Canadian dollar. Lost were the big talkers from Intrawest and the IOC and Vanoc and everyone else who wanted a piece of this valley once upon a time.

Suddenly convincing people to come here and spend their hard-earned shekels on a mountain holiday was a daunting challenge. But we got better at it.

For the first time in a long time we woke up to the fact that no one else but us was responsible for making this place successful. And what a breath of fresh air that was. If Whistler was going to survive and thrive, we realized that positive results could only come from our own hard work and determination. And that made us all grow up.

Consider the last election. In the four decades that I've been around this place, I've never seen the kind of anger, hope, enthusiasm, disdain, disgust, faith, optimism, engagement and passion that I saw during the fall campaign. And it got ugly. Really ugly. Friendships were tested. Loyalties were questioned. I even witnessed some nasty fisticuffing on election day. But in the end, we all got what we deserve.

Which brings me around to this week's theme. History has shown us over and over that it's during the really hard times that the really good people shine. And Whistler is no exception. While some residents were whining about the fates, others just put their head down and got on with the job. The following is my list of ten Whistlerites who made a difference this year. They're the heroes of 2011.

Doug McFarlane: It doesn't matter what's going on outside — storm or sunshine, powder or rain — WB mountain manager Doug McFarlane shows up for work every day with the same quiet, confident smile painted on his face. And every day he applies the same quiet, confident energy to his job. There's no artifice with this guy. No drama. In fact, he makes his job look easy. So easy that one might be forgiven for missing the fact that his job is one of the toughest in the valley. I mean, imagine being the guy responsible for getting the Whistler Blackcomb behemoth up and running each and every day of the winter. And when things go sideways, guess who gets the call? But all that pressure doesn't seem to faze the still-boyish looking ops veteran one bit. Lucky for us. And lucky for WB. Whistler wouldn't be the same without him.

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