Whistler regularly finishes on top of industry rankings for resorts in ski and snowboard publications, and tourism publications seem to like us as well. But when an opportunity presented itself for the people of Whistler to vote for ourselves and celebrate our hometown, we collectively took a pass.
Iím referring of course to Powder Magazineís second annual Ski Town Throwdown, a bracket-style showdown where mountain town dwellers show their love for their locale until just two towns are left to compete for the title of the best ski town in North America. Nelson/Rossland won the title year, wrangling the most votes with an aggressive campaign on Facebook.
Itís silly social media filler thatís completely unscientific and ultimately meaningless, and yet thereís no denying that it matters. Powder Magazine has a huge reach and readership, and winning this contest would have given Whistler a lot of positive exposure at a time of year when people start planning and booking their annual ski vacations. Looking at the impact on Nelson/Rossland last season, itís also a pretty good exercise in building some local pride among the people who live in these towns.
In the first year, Whistler went out to Whitefish, Montana, in the first round. This year we were knocked out by Eaglecrest, a small resort in Alaska that could literally fit inside one of Whistlerís bowls. All we had to do to advance to the next round was get more people to click on a link in Facebook than Eaglecrest did, and we failed.
We can take some solace in the fact that the whole contest is slightly flawed. Itís unclear whether youíre voting for the town or the resort ó some of the resorts on the list donít even have a town associated with them, for example, and some towns are combined for some reason (Rossland and Nelson arenít exactly next door neighbours). This year the first round also pitted Whistler Blackcomb against a small, charming ski resort that most Whistler locals would have nothing but love for, and we would have looked like playground bullies if we set out to crush them in any determined, organized way. Win or lose, we would have looked bad.
But if we donít make it past that first round then we will never have the chance to rank ourselves against any of the bigger resorts that we actually are in competition with. People might not have wanted to stick it to Eaglecrest, but would people be as apathetic if it was Whistler versus Aspen or Vail in the first round?
Some people commented on my Facebook plea that we already know weíre number one, so whatís the point in voting? My answer is that if we already know weíre number one, then whatís the problem with actually saying so once a year when the Ski Town Throwdown comes around? Valentineís Day may be a so-called ďHallmark Holiday,Ē but if you canít make the effort to show your significant other how much you love them once a year then you have bigger problems than an aversion to the colour pink. You climb the mountain because itís there.
I was under the impression that people actually like living here ó the mountain biking, the lakes, the alpine hikes, the skiing and snowboarding, all the amazing festivals, the growing arts and culture scene, the fact weíve created employee housing to ensure that about 80 per cent of workers can actually afford to live here, and so on. We are clearly the number one ski town in the world in a lot of important ways that matter most to the people that live here.
As long as Powder Magazine continues to run the Ski Town Throwdown then we should all be willing to show our pride and click the damn button. It seriously takes all of 30 seconds to give Whistler its due.