Back in 2011, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson — well, a reasonable facsimile of the deceased writer — addressed the crowd at Whistler's Official Community Plan open house. In a rambling, scotch-fuelled diatribe he touched on largely disconnected but now seemingly relevant topics. Here's part of that scrambled oratory:
Who is Whistler? That's an Aristotelian question. Do you need to be a local to understand? How long does that take — five years? Thirty? Until you get Chlamydia? Some of you look like you've been here since the Pleistocene. Living here could make you a local, but you can't know the who unless you know the what... and your what is a terrifying stew of natural beauty, where the only real locals are frogs, bears, beavers — and 10 million trees.
Trees, goddammit. Skiing, biking, floating, or tripping through them like a moss-hardened fairy is what this place is about... well, maybe not the trees near the helipad... in the name of life and limb and all that's safe, apparently, you cut those bastards out like some pine-scented cancer. Sure it took two years but sweet jeezuz people, you've had bigger challenges. Remember: you turned clearcuts and a garbage dump into a mountain resort without destroying the rest of the postcard. That's what visionaries do. Obviously one man's trash is another man's asphalt plant, but the point is, this place is no accident. It took careful thinking... and maybe an acid-fuelled drafting-table session: block prevailing winds, maintain views, create pedestrian "flow"... and next thing you know you're gnashing your teeth with some strange girl in a bathroom that took 15 minutes to find, screaming about how sunlight matters.
Still, in one generation you've gone from a muddy parking lot to a village teeming with... well, god knows what. There's always been a strange mix here. Wombats and wallabies, wolves and wolverines. Beasts of the night. But it didn't get this way without a plan... and dear god, people, you need a plan now more than ever.
Everyone has a voice in a town where a newspaper called the Question needed an Answer, but to have a plan, you've gotta put the wolves and the wombats in the same room. Let the savages duke it out. The reason you're all here, I presume — since there's no free liquor — is to ensure this plan doesn't lead to a shitty future. But there are Limits to Growth, people. What happens when you reach capacity — like this room, or the bars... all brimming with lizards! T&A isn't the best bargaining tool in most places, but here it gets the dialogue going. Speaking of which — whatever happened to that place called The Boot?
The world knows what you are. They got an idea in 2010 — though it was tough with screaming drunks from Germany and Calgary drowning you out. But surely the exalted Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Chamber of Commerce exchequers, or nitrous-oxide inhaling Tourism Whistler can explain who Whistler is... Or maybe not — trying to put character into an equation or a chart is insanity. Cool colours though...
Whistler may look like a one-industry town, but it doesn't smell like it if you live here. Your goldmine has more than one commodity. Sure the current economy is purpose-built around this bourgeois notion of tourism. But even a hedonistic plebeian, entitled oligarch, or average blue-collar ant needs to value things other than the down comforter called business. Like diversity — arts and culture, man. Events and festivals. Nature. There's no real room for smokestacks, though I'll bet a 40-pounder of Wild Turkey someone has thought about a skiing factory — an assembly line of hapless gemeine Volk forced onto a conveyor belt the second they drive into town. But that sounds more like a jaundice-promoting anti-plan. Who in their right mind wants that? You need a renaissance — the change-in-thinking kind, not a manifesto for maximizing profit and minimizing authenticity.
I read this Official Community Plan thing and it's dry as toast, but here's one clause you better start planning for today: "Residential accommodation is a key focus... Whistler's current supply of resident restricted housing is sufficient for the next 5-10 years..." Well. What if it is only five years? At least you have the luxury of beating politicians about the head with bats to solve it. Mountain people are resourceful, resilient, creative, unbalanced. And sometimes naked. Naked is identity. This town used to get naked often — and publicly. I suppose now you bastards prefer some motivational metaphor about how the toil of growing from Squatterville to resort royalty has been a hell of a climb, with great views, amazing snow, fine folks. That's a cheap device I'm not above using — but apparently chloroform works just as well.
Everyone here is worried about the future. But look off into the distance — what do you see? The edifices of mountain culture blown away by the Big Bad Wolf? Never! Who is Whistler, indeed? As it's always been. Pure, unadulterated, fun. And trees. Jeezuz, people, your lives are songs shouted from mountaintops. Don't let the bastards get you down. Use your voices. And for god's sake... someone get me a drink!"
Leslie Anthony is a Whistler-based author, editor, biologist and bon vivant who has never met a mountain he didn't like.