Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

The future imperfect



By G.D. Maxwell

I’m glad I’m not Whistler Blackcomb. Or is it Whistler-Blackcomb? Or Whistler/Blackcomb? It’s not the name confusion thing that makes me glad I’m not… whatever, although it does underscore the pitfalls of both mergers and marriages in an age when people can’t make up their minds to go with one name or the other but still have enough sense to not undertake a rebranding exercise that leaves them with a name of uncertain origin that sounds suspiciously like a rogue biology experiment gone bad.

I’m glad I’m not those guys – gender inclusive – because they’re scratching their collective brains right now trying to figure out THE FUTURE OF SKIING. Of course, it’s not the future of skiing , it’s the future of…. It’s the future of…. See, here’s one of the basic problems with the exercise. What do you call what happens on Whistler and Blackcomb and all the other highly developed mountains where people come to play?

Snow sports? Wow, there’s a moniker that has all the appeal of gum disease. Skibbing? Too cute by a kilometre. Mountain culture? I can feel the fungus growing beneath my high-tech, no-smell long underwear. Skiing and riding or skiing and boarding? Too exclusive in a rapidly changing landscape and too much of a mouthful to say, unless you’re a writer who gets paid by the word.

In his story in last week’s Pique , Andrew Mitchell, who’s wise beyond his years, uses the word ‘skiing’ when left to his own devices. He refers to " skier visits", "…see how skiers were distributed…", " ski industry." Andrew’s not a guy to be trifled with and clearly has either made up his mind, hasn’t given the subject much thought, or doesn’t get paid by the word. I suspect his predisposition to be succinct and clear – hallmarks of a good journalist – guide him in this matter.

By contrast, Arthur DeJong, who is also wise beyond his years, is all over the map and clearly struggling with what I consider to be the threshold question. In his defense, Arthur’s title is Manager of Mountain Planning and Environmental Resources, a title that fills up one entire side of a standard business card and ends in "Cont’d, PTO". Arthur’s struggle is my struggle. I feel his pain.

To describe the business he’s in, Arthur chooses terms like "mountain resort industry" or "industry" when he wants to be brief, and "skiing and riding" to tag the basic activity. He uses "mountain enthusiasts", "users" and "guests" to, well, to underscore the fact that even the smartest thinkers in the biz aren’t really sure what to call the people who, collectively, take part in it.