Last week I took part in the Whistler Chamber of Commerce Spirit Program, and in exchange for three and a half hours of my time I received close to $450 off the price of my ski pass thats better than $120 an hour and I appreciated every cent of it.
I consider myself a polite and generally helpful person, and I am acutely aware of the importance of tourism to the resort and to my own job. The spirit course drove that point (already taken) home in a number of different ways. Believe me, I get it.
Its an awesome responsibility being a walking, talking information booth, and I left the course with the feeling that the success or failure of the resort was resting on my shoulders. If Im a jerk or somehow unhelpful to a resort visitor, that tourist will go home and tell 10 friends, then theyll tell 10 friends, and so on and so on until Whistler Village is as deserted as the 12:37 Goofy Parade at Euro-Disney.
Although most people would crumble under that kind of intense pressure, I feel up to the task. Not because of all the training I received at the Spirit Course, but because the course also gave me all the reassurance I needed to justify my existence in Whistler a psychological profile of the average tourist.
According to Tourism Whistler studies, the average Whistler visitor is "stressed out". He or she has a difficult job, is under a lot of work and family pressures, and has difficulty "winding down". This is because the average visitor is "time poor" always in a rush, stuck in a line, or caught up in gridlock somewhere. They also take shorter vacations, a week here and a long weekend there instead of the usual two week chunk. Its sad, but few people are secure enough in their jobs these days to take enough time to really kick back and relax.
Ive seen road rage and pushing matches in the Marketplace parking lot, so I know this is true.
Ive also been sworn at by a guy in an SUV for not being able to push his three-ton vehicle out of a snowbank on Blueberry Hill. Ive heard people lip off at one another in the lift lines, and watched angry people storm out of our local restaurants because it was taking too long to get a table. Ive been pushed out of the way by visitors trying to get the attention of the bartender before me. Ive been yelled at for blocking a brochure rack with my bike when the same people were actually blocking me in.
When it gets busy here, I always feel like Im in someones way.
And as I walk through the village it seems I am bound to answer another question every 10 paces. "The taxi loop is that way." "The Keg is over there." "Sorry, youre looking for the Upper Village and no, I dont know where you can go to buy some pot."
One afternoon I bumped into a friend I hadnt seen for a while in the Village Square and we stopped to chat. After answering a few casual questions posed by passers-by, a line actually formed in front of us and we spent the next 15 minutes answering questions. As soon as we could manage it, we went our separate ways.
Im glad to be in Whistler and always happy to help if you can find me. Ill be lying low until the madness is over.