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The 2007 Alpie Awards

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In celebration of national Parks Day on July 21 st , the Whistler Naturalists present the first annual Alpies (named for our alpine parks, not the dog food).

Best Extreme Make-Over : Western anemone confuses alpine hikers each year with its almost instant transformation from a demure white flower at the edge of receding snowbanks to a shock-haired seedhead. You be the judge of whether the makeover is an improvement.

Best Impersonation of a Couch Potato : We’ve all had roommates or even spouses who melt into their couches, seemingly for weeks at a time. They’ve got nothing on marmots who hibernate each winter for seven or more months straight. After working so hard to pack on the fat during the brief alpine summer, who could blame them? (The marmots, that is.)

Best Corporate Merger . If you think the last Whistler-Blackcomb merger of 1997 was big, you should have been here for the first one. According to Jack Souther, Blackcomb was once a mass of hot rock deep in the earth’s crust, while Whistler formed somewhere in what’s now the Pacific Ocean. Some 60 million years ago , tectonic movement brought the two together.

Evidence of the first merger includes the different rocks found on Blackcomb (granitic) and Whistler ( marine sedimentar y and volcanic) , and the fault along Fitzsimmons Creek Valley. Rumour has it some crotchety mountain staff on both sides regret plate tectonics couldn’t work in reverse .

Best Impersonation of a Green Vegetable : Tree ID not your strength? Here’s a quick way to identify one species. Next time you’re riding a chairlift near treeline, look for a tree whose outline looks remarkably similar to a giant broccoli. It will be a whitebark pine, one of 17 different tree species in Whistler. (Not that you’d know from the real-estate ads that recycle the phrase “Nestled among majestic pines…” The trees surrounding most Whistler real estate may be majestic, but they’re seldom pines.)

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