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Whistler story is about people



As the Christmas season kicks into high gear book stores become inundated with glossy coffee table books, but there’s 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 we’ll find out that Whistler’s 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 Whistler’s 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 man’s vision brought to fruition. Rather, it is the story of the coming together of many visions. It’s 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 wasn’t 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 Whistler’s evolution, Beaudry says.

"Rob Boyd didn’t just win a World Cup race in Whistler, it was the timing of the win, in 1989. Whistler said ‘we’re world class, just like Rob.’ A World Cup win by a Canadian in Whistler wouldn’t 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 Whistler’s 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 McConkey’s Ski School. He has seen first-hand much of the evolution of Whistler, and he’s seen how many other mountain resorts around the world have peaked and then gone downhill.

"It’s an interesting time (for Whistler)," he says. "It’s like our teen years are over; we’re 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 you’re not going to have the culture you have today. Christian, Cathy, those people couldn’t afford to live in Aspen or Vail. We haven’t given it away yet, but we’re 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.