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Mini-documentary series explores future of ski resorts

Climate change and backcountry use among the issues WB explores in video


There were a few occasions during filming of Whistler Blackcomb's new four-part documentary series titled The Big Picture that hit home for filmmaker Mike Douglas.

One instance was when he and his crew set up at the backcountry gate at the top of Blackcomb and watched as only about half of the users arrived with proper safety gear.

"It was shocking," said Douglas, owner of Switchback Entertainment. "People go by the gate and if they have their avalanche transceiver on, the circle turns green, and if they don't, it stays as the red X. Are these people insane? It shows you that with education there's definitely much more awareness, there's still a long way to go."

The next instance was when the crew was going for the perfect people-in-the-village shot.

"You're trying to show off Whistler village as this idyllic place and it's this piece of magic and you notice how many people walk around staring at their phones," he said. "And it's crazy to think of how many times we've had a beautiful shot and the light was just right and there's some person blindly walking through the scene glued to their iPhone."

Each of the four mini-documentaries asks a question: Is our thirst for adventure threatening our environment?; What if kids stopped playing outside?; Is the pull of the backcountry pushing our limits?; Survive or thrive: What's the future of ski resorts?

Douglas said the four issues are what people are talking about. Some of the footage features the trademark scene-stealing skiers and boarders against the perfect backdrop of snow, sun and sky. But Douglas said the filming had to take into account the questions being asked, and the talking-head syndrome that needs a specific pace in order to be effective.

"There's a lot of talking — you can't just hit three or four points. You have to talk to people who are experts, you need to give them time to speak and cover the issues," he said. "So we went for this slow-motion esthetic that allows you to listen. I find that if you put a whole bunch of fast action behind someone saying something meaningful it doesn't really sink in."

Douglas has called Whistler home for several decades, and said locals recognize that issues need to be addressed, but that there is no easy answer to what ski resorts face.

"What we're trying to say is: Let's get talking about it so we can find solutions collectively," he said. "It's not going to be pretty, it's going to be messy: Change is messy. We're going to make mistakes."

The documentary series will be released Sept. 27 on