Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

Street wise



Here's the thing: I would find it impossible to explain to a pizza-delivery person that the house they sought was on Ashleigh McIvor Drive between Lauren Woolstencroft Way and Jon Montgomery Stroll without bursting into laughter. And not just because it's an alphaghetti mouthful. Other than local golden girl Ashleigh, whose win in the first-ever Olympic Skicross publicized a reputation long since cemented in World Cup and X Games competition, there's every chance our young pizza slinger wouldn't grok the other two. Woolstencroft, deservedly I might explain, is the winningest female alpine Paralympian ever, and Montgomery — who I'd admit to Googling — apparently won some sled race a few years back. No, not snowmobiles.

This potential lack of resonance raises questions concerning Whistler's street names — in most cases suggested by developers, and ultimately approved by council. In the past, mayors have been known to get involved if they didn't like a proposed name, and citizens sometimes weigh in at the front end hoping to add a little acid jazz to the usual folk/country monotony.

Irascible Pique columnist G.D. Maxwell, for instance, famously proposed street names for Nicklaus North; sadly, his brilliant portmanteaux — 350-yard Drive and Right Hook — found little favour with the obviously humourless cadre in charge. Inspiration likewise failed when Max submitted a suite of Wizard of Oz-related suggestions in the street-naming contest held for the Rainbow development. His personal faves were Wicked Witch Way and Not Kansas Anymore Court, but he might have done better referencing the cultural memes Man Behind the Curtain or Your Mangy Dog, Too!, both of which seem especially appropriate.

Speaking of canines, holding a contest explains why that hood's street names offer a dog's breakfast of history (Rope Tow Drive, Ski Jump Rise), the painfully obvious (Black Bear Ridge, Big Sky Terrace), and ersatz heroes, as the opening paragraph suggests. But here's where things fall apart.

Heartwarming as it is to see a highway sign announcing "Crazy Canuck Drive ahead," expectations for those of us who were contemporaries of this group are quickly dashed. Recent Olympians aside (legitimately crazy and plenty Canuck), one makes the turn to find nothing more evocative of that heady era than a dead-end laneway known as Read Alley. But lest you think this ode short-shrift for one of Canada's alpine greats, consider Steve Podborski, a much higher achiever without a street (though Pod Place would be a nice, succinct alliteration).

In general Whistler street names offer the usual collections of peaks and water bodies (hard to avoid), pioneer placements (inevitable), fellow ski resorts (strange), past Olympic venues (meh), and local flora and fauna (always popular). Personally I'd prefer more paeans to the people and events that put this place on the map. When you travel often to worldwide snow outposts, the names that echo back most frequently should you mention you're from Whistler are the same ones that resonate loudest with non-geriatric locals.

To start, no ski magazine of record would have paid the least attention to Whistler if it weren't for Trevor Petersen and Eric Pehota, yet where are these very famous appellations? Even contemporary heroes like Hugo Harrisson, Sarah Burke, Mark Abma, Dana Flahr, Ian McIntosh, Kye Petersen and Sean Pettit evoke Whistler's mythical name far more forcefully than anyone honoured in the past. Ditto on the snowboard side with a list too long to list. (Ross Rebagliati has a park, sure, but who wouldn't prefer Rue Rebagliati?) What about the glacier camps that spat out, and then employed, the best freeskiers and snowboarders on the planet? Camp of Champs Crescent and Momentum Place sound good to me. And while we're all Crazy Canucking, what about recognizing the real game-changers of the past 15 years with a Mike Douglas Drive or Twin-tip Terrace? Don't even get me started on photographers and filmmakers.

Yes, I realize this could easily get out of hand, and my friend Max has rightly cautioned about naming things after still-living people whose subsequent behaviour might make you eat your street signs (Lance Armstrong comes to mind), but you can't hedge hero bets just because someone might be beset by human foibles.

Thus considered, joining Ashleigh McIvor Drive, we have proper urban honoraria in Dave Murray Place and Rob Boyd Way. The latter is our best homage, not only honouring a true native son, but a convenient double-entendre referencing both an achievement that burns bright in collective memory, and a personality's longstanding contributions to the community it calls home. We need more of that. And if it seems too political to choose names, well, there are plenty of other things that scream Whistler: Pipe Dreams Circle seems like an excellent double- or even triple-entendre, and a lot more subtle than Heavy Hitting Hall.

As Max has repeatedly noted, however, any town that has an Easy Street must, once upon a time at least, have had a sense of humour. I'd like to plumb that spirit with an ode to Whistler's favourite sport — self congratulations — with a street-name suggestion of my own: Circle Jerk Circle. You can bet every pizza dude would know where that was.