“You go to war with the army you have… not the army you wish you had.” Donny Rumsfeld said that, or something close enough to forgive what may be an inaccurate use of quotation marks.
“You build a town with the people you have…
not the people you wish you had.” I said that. I feel much more secure in using
quotation marks when I cite myself even though my memory’s so faulty I
generally forget what I’m talking about let alone what I said.
And someone else, quite possibly a writer of
greeting cards, said, “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to
remember your original plan was to drain the swamp.”
Bet you’re curious to know where this is
going, aren’t you? Me too.
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a group
of guys got together and decided it’d be a really cool thing to host the
Olympics™. Being Canadian, they naturally focused on the winter Olympics™, not
that there’s anything wrong with the ever so brief Canadian summers. I mean if
you can subject athletes to the cruel summertime brew of heat, humidity and
highly visible air of places like Mexico City, Beijing or St. Louis, the
possibility of needing medical treatment for goosebumps in Vancouver seems
fairly benign. But winter it was.
Lost in the mythology of the development of
Whistler Mountain is any real detailed knowledge of the individual motivations
these guys brought to the task. The allure of the Olympics™ shone a bit
brighter then, not having been completely riddled by the rust of corruption,
professionalism and geopolitical oneupsmanship, and I’m sure bagging a big
ticket item like that was appealing. Certainly there was a desire to develop a
ski area close to Vancouver. More likely than not, there were some dreams of
But regardless of the personal motivations,
there was a unity of purpose behind that initial push to develop the ski area.
That unity was aided by the small size of the group of people involved and the
blank canvas on which they laboured.
It was moved along by strong-willed people who
worked to a vision — build a ski area — that was a necessary
component of that Olympic™ goal. Franz Wilhelmsen knew, instinctively, what a
mountain ought to ski like and laid out Whistler Mountain to fit the picture in
his mind. Hugh Smythe knew how a ski resort ought to operate and shaped the
operations of Blackcomb Mountain to fit that new paradigm. Paul Mathews and
Gary Raymond understood skiing was but a subset of mountain living and mountain
living meant building places to live, if only one weekend at a time. Al Raine,
among others, understood it took a village to add the focus necessary to cement
the disparate bits into an experience.