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Surviving the shoulder season

Seven steps to fighting the doldrums and courting chaos

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It is possible that Whistler is in for a labour crunch. In fall 2011, the lack of low-paid labour was evident for local business. Whistler's trends echoed those of the province's own findings, published in the B.C Labour Market Outlook 2010-2020, a joint initiative between BC Stats and the Ministry of Finance (Pique Sept 1, 2011).

Despite seeing fewer numbers in the early quarter of 2012, most troubling is that 25 per cent of food bank users have been in Whistler for three or more years, suggesting what might be a trend toward overall precarity — meaning less job security for previously resilient positions —in Whistler's seasonal economy. This is not surprising, given that Statistics Canada says that many eligible workers, especially youth, are no longer seeking work due to a lack of job growth, reflected in a fall of the overall participation rate to 66.5 per cent in February, the lowest since 2002. Derek Holt, an economist with Scotia Capital, predicts that the rate of job creation in 2012 will be half that of 2011, at 11,000 jobs per month across the country. How these greater, national trends will affect the resort bubble of Whistler will perhaps be most acutely felt over the next few months, as the food bank and other Whistler Community Support Services feel the pressure of the offseason. We won't really know, however, until the fall. If national trends play out here, then we might see fewer users at the food bank not because businesses are doing better, but because there are fewer transient workers coming to Whistler. These are the deeper concerns of the offseason.

But for the psyche that is wrapped in Whistler's long winter, May is a sigh of relief. Huddled figures running from bar to bar become strangely familiar. Friends from months past seep out of the woodwork like bloated worms on the sidewalk. Everyone who has made it through the dark, cold months has grown lumpy in the waist, though lean in the legs. Greetings are exchanged, summer plans made, and the great local tradition begins of eating, drinking, and taking in all the attractions Whistler has to offer — at quietly reduced prices. Welcome to Surviving the Shoulder Season.

Step One: Admit You're Bored

With options dwindling for the adrenaline junkies, boredom reigns. Traditionally, back before social media permeated every single waking (and sleeping) moment of the valley's denizens, local ski bums would devise new smokeable contraptions and then proceed to watch all seven seasons of Star Trek: TNG and/or the original series, available for free on these near-obsolete shiny disc things (known as "DVDs") that are, incredibly, still available today at the Whistler Library. Indeed, show up with proof of local residence, and you will find yourself in possession of a neat and new library card, which you may utilize to your heart's delight, partaking in the ancient socialist pastime of renting and returning free media. You can even take out tomes of words that are printed on dead trees called books. Just watch those fines — for unlike a download, you actually have to give it back. This dropping-off-thing works well for actually meeting people in the flesh — give it a go, and explore what it means to "get lost in the stacks."

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