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Shifts in attitudes could save Whistler

Landmark meeting draws out 40 community members

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Whistler needs an attitude change if it is to get back on top again.

That was the message from Anurag Gupta, a facilitator with Landmark Education, who maintains Whistler can be a hot spot again within two years.

"It’s about having the essence of Whistler fully alive," he told community members on Monday night. "Either you’re willing to do the work or you’re not."

Though there were just 46 people at the meeting, they were ready and willing to accept the challenge, which if it works, could bring back the Whistler of old, the place with a thriving economy and a certain unmistakable buzz. Their goal is to make the 2007-08 season in Whistler "off the charts."

That was the whole genesis for this meeting, the third in a series of grassroots forums designed to get Whistler back on track.

The main difference, however, between Monday’s meeting and the last one in early March was a drop off in attendance by more than half. The March meeting drew 113 community members, including the mayor, the administrator, the president of Tourism Whistler, and almost all the councillors, which highlights the concern among the community about Whistler’s future.

Organizer Dave Halliwell can’t account for the lower turnout this week but he doesn’t think the movement has lost any momentum because of it.

"Not after tonight, no," he said after the two and half hour meeting. "I think the people that are here are really into taking action around this so I think what we’ve come up with is really great. I think the people that are here are committed to having it happen and that’s what’s going to move it forward."

But, warned Gupta, the task at hand is not an easy one.

"It will require taking things on," he told the group. "I don’t have anything comfortable to offer anybody."

After two meetings crafting a mission statement, the tough work has now begun.

The gist of the mission statement is about creating an amazing, unique experience for people so that when they are in Whistler they will have an unprecedented feeling of joy, happiness, vitality and fulfillment. If that starts to happen people will come back to the resort, not because of the snow or the mountains, but because of their experience here.

The key is in Whistler’s attitude said Gupta. A change in attitude can have a powerful effect. It’s just that simple.

"You’ve got to start living it yourself," he said. "The groundswell has to start with a ripple."

That message was a little broad for some audience members who were looking for concrete steps and actions to take.

"What are the next steps, that’s what I’m ready for?" asked Scott Pass.

The following day he explained that while he completely supports the message the group is taking to the community, he was looking for more guidance.

"I’d like some more help and direction on what’s a really effective way of doing it," said Pass.

The answer starts by looking within and changing yourself, said Gupta. The next step is to begin to engage the rest of the community in the process until you have enough people who have bought into it. That involves sitting down and telling people about the mission. Once there is a critical mass then the group can begin to come up with actions that will fulfill the mission.

"It takes some courage to get new ground," said Gupta.

The theory behind the movement comes from Landmark Education, an organization offering workshops designed to effect positive changes in people’s lives.

There are critics of the organization and that could be one of the reasons why the turnout on Monday was lower than the last meeting.

But some of the people there said Landmark changed their lives.

"I just finished another workshop with these people… and it rocked my world," Scott Kittleson told the audience.

By the end of the meeting audience members began to say how they would spread the mission. One person will talk to the schools, another to the chefs, another to the landscaping community, yet another to Tourism Whistler and council.

"This is how it starts, everybody," said Gupta.

And that’s why Halliwell was confident after Monday night that the process would work, even though it’s a lofty goal to achieve with just 40 people.

"Obviously having people experience this – an unprecedented joy, vitality, adventure, freedom when they come to Whistler – when we start putting that into action and put it forward to all the different people that we’ve talked about putting that forward to, I think that’s going to make a difference," said Halliwell.

The group is planning to set up a blog so that they can keep track of their progress. The next meeting will be held in one month’s time.

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