Okay, let’s talk. The festival’s winding down, the season’s winding down – and hasn’t it been marvelously normal, which is to say spectacular – and it’s time to get down to work on some of the nagging problems we’ve been putting off while we either ski or hope they go away.
But really, people, enough is enough. Some of you are walking around with nothing attached to the ends of your wrists from all the hand wringing you’ve been doing. And some of you have been tsk-tsking so much your friends must think you’ve developed a stutter. Stop it. Stop it now. It isn’t doing any good and we’re really getting worked up about forces (a) we have very little control over and (b) largely the result of our own overreaching and hubris.
And for all of you who are moaning and whining about how much better Whistler used to be back in the happy go-go days… piss off. You’re insulting me; you’re insulting my friends; you’re insulting my town. Most of the people I know and work with are bustin’ their butts to make this place not just work but make it the best damn place imaginable for you to come play, stay, eat, party and generally carry on like the high roller you pretend to be while you’re here. You’re looking through a rose-tinted rearview mirror at a past that never really existed. Getcher eyes back on the future and stop wallowing in a planted memory of a phony nostalgiaville.
Since nobody seems willing to say it I guess the task falls on me. The basic, Economics 101 laws of supply and demand work, people. Whistler’s too big. We’ve got too many hotel – excuse me, privately-owned condo – rooms. We’ve got too many retail outlets selling insufficiently differentiated merchandise. We’ve got too many retail outlets selling boring merchandise. We’ve got too many retail outlets selling stuff not enough people want to buy. We’ve got too many rapacious, carpetbagger, absentee commercial landlords who don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to this town as long as their investment portfolio returns its target ROI. We’ve got too many rapacious, non-absentee, long-time local commercial landlords who seem to think lining their already well-lined pockets is what the game’s all about, everyone else’s future be damned. And, unfortunately, we’ve got too many people in too many of those businesses who are going to go belly up before this thing resolves itself. I feel your pain; many of you are friends.
But the grim reality is this: the destination visitors aren’t going to be coming back in the bold numbers we saw them flock to Whistler in the 1990s. In fact, more likely than not what we saw this season – a strong response from the local and regional market to lower prices – is going to be, like the weather, normal. And like Bruce says, the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.