As the Christmas season kicks into high gear book stores become inundated with glossy coffee table books, but theres a new one on Whistler that offers a lot more than just stunning photography.
In Whistler: Against All Odds award-winning writer Michel Beaudry focuses on the people of Whistler. The 228-page book will look at home on a coffee table, thanks to some spectacular photography by Paul Morrison, Greg Griffith, Blake Jorgensen, Eric Berger, Bonny Makarewicz, Bruce Rowles and other local shutterbugs. But as Beaudry said from Vancouver this week: "To me, what sets a mountain town apart is the people. When all the interesting people leave, then well find out that Whistlers not that special."
The focus on people is evident by the contents page, where the 10 chapters are titled: Myrtle Philip, Franz Wilhelmsen, Jim McConkey, Hugh Smythe, Al Raine and Nancy Greene, Vincent Massey, Cathy Jewett, Rob Boyd, Christian Begin, and Britt Janyk.
Beaudry drives home the importance of Whistlers people in his introduction: "For unlike so many of its U.S. counterparts Vail or Squaw or Mammoth come to mind the Whistler story is not about one mans vision brought to fruition. Rather, it is the story of the coming together of many visions. Its the tale of all the people who worked together tirelessly to develop a new mountain that worked both as a community and as a resort. People who said Why not? instead of Why?"
Beaudry says structuring the book text around 10 characters wasnt easy.
"Everyone I talked to had 10 characters, but they each had 10 different characters.
"Each character represents a different section of the community, and each chapter is about more than just the character."
The characters also represent a period in Whistlers evolution, Beaudry says.
"Rob Boyd didnt just win a World Cup race in Whistler, it was the timing of the win, in 1989. Whistler said were world class, just like Rob. A World Cup win by a Canadian in Whistler wouldnt have the same impact today," Beaudry says.
He chose the people featured in the book because in some ways it "freezes this moment in time." The characters tell the story of Whistlers growth from a summer fishing lodge to what may be the apex of its popularity as a mountain resort community at the start of the 21 st century.
A long-time student, fan and part-time resident of Whistler, Beaudry came to Whistler in 1974 and joined Jim McConkeys Ski School. He has seen first-hand much of the evolution of Whistler, and hes seen how many other mountain resorts around the world have peaked and then gone downhill.
"Its an interesting time (for Whistler)," he says. "Its like our teen years are over; were now adults. People come with high expectations.
"This year, 2002, Whistler has sort of reached a crescendo in its culture. If only rich people can live in Whistler youre not going to have the culture you have today. Christian, Cathy, those people couldnt afford to live in Aspen or Vail. We havent given it away yet, but were moving closer."
The book works on several levels. The photographs are perhaps the most spectacular collection of images of the area ever published. There are also some rarely-seen historic photos.
The cutlines for the photographs are another level of story telling, many of them containing anecdotes and stories, beyond just describing the images.
And the narrative was designed so that a reader can pick up the book and read any chapter, rather than starting from page one and reading through to the end.
Ironically for a book celebrating a Canadian success story, the publisher is American Mountain Sports Press of Boulder, Colorado.
Whistler: Against All Odds will be available locally early in December.