Opinion » Alta States

Random acts of imagination — getting jiggy with Whistler's status quo



"A very popular error: Having the courage of one's convictions; rather, it is a matter of having the courage to 'attack' one's own convictions."

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche

Success is a maddeningly fleeting concept. Maybe that's why humans have used its rise and fall as story-fodder for so long. And on this one, the bards all agree. What boldness and imagination can create, greed and complacency can just as easily destroy. So why does that message so often go unheeded?

Still it's worth repeating: When creativity succumbs to the whip of authority, when initiative is crushed by the command for obedience, well, that's when most great projects start falling apart. But don't take my word for it. Just look around the valley.

Whistler is at a crossroads today. Once a shining beacon for the can-do spirit — a burning, inspiring flame of irreverent inventiveness — the little-social-experiment-that-could is now in danger of suffocating under its own bureaucratic self-righteousness. New ideas — I mean, really new and innovative ideas — are few and far between these days. "That's not the way we do things around here," is the favoured mantra among decision-makers in this valley... unless, of course, there's a big brand-name entity involved. And then things get really smooth. But I digress...

Sadly, it's even worse at Whistler Blackcomb. I mean, the resort's recently updated Master Plan reveals a shockingly anachronistic strategy for the future. More lifts, lots more people, way more urban busy-ness: is that really what we need in this place? I mean, why not pave the whole damn thing and turn it into a parking lot? Oops, sorry, that's already in the plans...

So hang me for a rebel. Dismiss me for a fool. But the status quo, as far as I'm concerned, has gotten way too static for our own good. I think it's time for Whistlerites to slay some sacred cows. And to do that, we have to ask each other some pretty basic questions. Who are we? What do we stand for? Where are we heading? And why? I mean... Have you asked yourself any of these questions lately? Do you even care?

I think you do. And I think you even have ideas of your own you'd like to share. Which is exactly what this place needs. More ideas! Doesn't matter how outlandish, or crazy or unrealistic they may be... Whistler needs some fresh thinking. We need new brains! We need fearlessness and humour and cheekiness and whimsy and...

In an effort to kick-start this process, I've come up with a couple of harebrained ideas of my own. The first was inspired by a friend's innocent (but inspired) comment. The other is simply the product of my own fevered imagination. Whatever. They're yours to have fun with.

Vive Le Creekside Libre

On a recent trip to Italy's Dolomites, my friend Phoebe Phoenix was seduced by the beauty of her high-country surroundings. It was an eye-opening experience, she said. And it wasn't just the mountains that impressed her; it was also the pride people took in their local history. Didn't matter the size of the community, she told me, each one had its own unique tales to tell. "They might be right next door to each other," Phoebe explained "but each village had its own vibe; each one had its own distinct style. And that was so cool."

And then she said something that really got my little gray cells bouncing. "You know, in the Dolomites a place like Creekside would be a village in its own right." She stopped talking. Thought about what she'd just said. Laughed. "Can you imagine? That would be so much fun!"

Hmm... Yes, in fact, I can imagine. The 21st century, you see, hasn't been particularly kind to Creekside. Back in the early '90s, when Intrawest execs were given carte blanche by the council of the day to rape and pillage... er, re-develop Whistler Mountain's iconic base area, they didn't give a lot of thought to the "livability" of the area. I guess that doesn't count for much when you're trying to squeeze every shekel of profit you can out of a project.

Still, the results were pretty dismal. Almost 20 years have passed since that cringe-inducing development and Creekside still hasn't recovered its chutzpah. I mean, there's more empty commercial space there than in downtown Ocean Falls. And the surrounding neighbourhood hasn't fared all that well either. It 's not quite yet a ghetto, you know, but it's definitely close. So what to do?

I think Phoebe is on to something here. What if Creekside did secede from the RMOW? What if it became its own, independent little village with its own elected council and staff and its own modest agenda? Wouldn't it be exciting to see what Creekside could finally grow into? Free from the depredations of the greedy town-centre lobby. Free from the stultifying bureaucracy of the RMOW brass. Free, finally, to seek its long-thwarted destiny.

I mean I can really see it. Can't you? "Welcome to Whistler Creekside," says the sign. "Where Mountain Spirit Thrives." Maybe it's done up in Rasta colours. Maybe not. Whatever... It doesn't have to be all that radical you know... as long as it distances itself from the industrial-strength shopping mall down the road.

I know, I know. Silly, unworkable concept. Still, we can only dream...

The Go Festival Needs Whistler Mountain

Springtime and Whistler Mountain. For some of us lifers, those two things go together like gin and tonic, Bogey and Bacall, April and taxes... well you know what I mean. Long before Blackcomb was born, years before Whistler's North side was even envisioned, late-spring skiing in Coastal B.C. meant one thing and one thing only: playing on the shady slopes that drop off Whistler Peak and wind their way to Creekside and the valley floor.

And what a time that was! Lazy hikes to Little Whistler, picnics on the summit of Flute, long afternoon sun-pit sessions in the alpine where guys and gals could divest themselves of their winter accoutrements and extend their tans below the neckline — Vuarnet Daze anybody? — and finally, after a rock-and-roll descent down Franz's Run to the valley, sharing a beer with other raccoon-eyed aficionados on the sprawling deck outside L'Après.

It wasn't fancy, it certainly wasn't very sophisticated, but it was real. And it was ours, all ours... part of the nascent mountain culture that was just emerging at that time. You see, skiing Whistler Mountain in April and May back then wasn't really about skiing (though we certainly enjoyed the turns). It was more about celebrating mountain life; sharing a common bond; doing something outlandish, and special and sexy and fun. And people came from all over the world to play with us.

Fast forward forty years or so. Given the fierce economic imperative now driving most decisions at Whistler-Blackcomb, little thought is ever lost on examining why things got done the way they did in "the old days." It's pedal-to-the-metal at all times over there. Meaning? If a new initiative doesn't fit within the current financial model, then simply change the format so it does fit your needs.

Take the new Go Festival, for example, to me, the thing doesn't make any historical sense. Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm all about creating new events in the valley — as long as they're relevant. But this one begs a fundamental (and very vital) question. As in: How the hell can we launch a genuine, '"mountain-inspired" May Long Weekend Festival if Whistler Mountain is already closed for the season?

I mean, it goes against every late-spring tradition we have in this valley! It's a travesty. A mockery. A betrayal of all we hold dear.

Sure — that slushbowl they call Blackcomb will still be open for business. But what genius picked that place for late-season skiing? It sucks! Whistler Mountain's terrain, conversely, is ideal for spring snowplay... particularly on its sun-shaded Creekside runs. It's a total no-brainer: keep our ole dowager open 'till May!

I know there's no money in it. I know it totally screws up WB's summer management plans. I also know there's little chance they're going to succumb to my plea. Still, I figure if I keep bringing it up, if I keep reminding them of the valley's history, well, then maybe one of these days somebody's going to listen. Hope floats!

So there you have it dear reader: a couple of off-the-wall suggestions to get you into the mood. Now it's your turn. What kooky, unreasonable, impractical (but daringly creative) initiative do you have in mind for the Whistler Valley? And be inventive; let your imagination run free. Our future depends on it.

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