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Maxed out

Canadian rules tourism

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On the cusp of both a full moon and the calendar end of ski season, Whistler has doffed its guise as ski resort and enthusiastically embraced its alter ego as Mountain Resort. Oh, there’ll still be people up on Horstman Glacier skiing and boarding, sporting raccoon tans and schlepping gear through town with their pants ’round their knees, but they’ll be outliers, standouts in a sea of humanity pursuing the dreams of summer.

Summer’s here and the time is right for… for… whatever.

The focus of summertime activity is, unless you’re one of those unfortunate, single-minded, obsessive addicts who, when asked, “Whaddya do all summer?” says, “Golf!”, blurred, dulled, lost in the miasma of all the possibilities warm weather and long days bring. Summer’s not just like winter with more sunlight. Summer’s different.

And so are the people who come to Whistler in the Other Season, formerly known as the Off-Season.

Winter tourists, though coming from around the world, tend to be fairly homogenous. Something upwards of 99 per cent of them — convention floaters excepted — come to ski or snowboard. They’re passionate, perhaps even single-minded, obsessive addicts. They speak the language of skiing regardless of whatever other language they may speak. The hardest decision they have to make each day is Whistler or Blackcomb. After that, it’s all downhill.

The number one thing to do here in winter is slide downhill. There is no number two. There are other things to do, sleds to ride, treks to zip, shoes to snow, rants to rest, but they’re either sideshows or ancillary activities that need to get done to get on with the main event.

Because we all slide downhill, we live the illusion of one big happy family. There are cultural differences. Europeans do tend to ignore lift lines, Brits tip lightly if at all, but we are cultural soulmates.

It takes summertime to remind us just how different, yes, even strange, the customs of the outside world may be. Summertime in tourist land is, if nothing else, a cultural gruel of people very different from you and me. Okay, me. But at least I’m honest about it and get out of town lest I cause some disturbance.

Summer is when we, the collective, service industry “we”, need to be at our sharpest, our most obsequious, our most servile. There are two reasons for that. Lack of focus on the one hand, and heightened expectations on the other. This one-two punch is amplified by the two additional factors. The first is volume: more tourists come to do whatever they’ve come to do here in summer than in winter. The second is we encounter them more frequently because they tend to wander away from the compound, er, village more than winter tourists; they bleed into every corner of town and there is no escaping them.

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