Whistler’s portrayal as a party town doesn’t tell the whole story

Earlier this month Vice wrote a story called “Forty-Eight Hours Partying with American Frat Boys in a Canadian Ski Town.”

The “ski town” was Whistler and, in particular, Whistler on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

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For those who don’t know, Vice started out as a Montreal-based magazine that covered arts, culture and some news, but it’s since morphed into a massive media company with TV, documentary and online streams. While they produce interesting documentaries and, often, compelling news and arts stories, they also write a variety of raunchy (or edgy, depending on your point of view) stories about various kinds of sex and drugs — most evident if you follow them on Instagram.  

To that end, you can imagine the angle of a story on Whistler during MLK weekend. The piece — which was written by an American who lives in Toronto — was entertaining and contained enough stats and quotes from officials to make it legitimate. Arguably it takes aim more directly at the young Americans who infiltrate the resort like clockwork every MLK weekend, but it also paints Whistler as a party town where illicit drugs are passed around like breath mints and the party continues all week long.

For many young, seasonal residents, that might be the case. But Vice’s “Whistler parties hard” stories are becoming an annual occurrence. Collectively, it’s both tiresome and inaccurate in that it ignores the fact that there is also a regular, if somewhat adrenaline-fuelled, community living regular lives here too.

In both 2015 and 2016 the publication also wrote about Australia Day in Whistler and how ridiculous the town’s large Aussie contingent gets.

Again, they’re not wrong. But by repeating this message over and over again it paints us as a snowy Las Vegas.

Is it harmless? Mostly. Annoying? Definitely. That’s because it paints over the community that long-term residents have worked hard to build over the town’s 50-year history.

If you’re on the sex-and-drugs beat, you can find plenty of fodder in Whistler. But you’ll also find talented athletes, dedicated backcountry enthusiasts who are in bed before 10 p.m. and up before sunrise, hard-working families who are just making ends meet in order to raise kids here and even seniors who have called this place home for decades.

On top of that, over-the-top coverage of out-of-control partying might make for an entertaining read, but it doesn’t address some of the problems that go hand-in-hand, like overdoses, sexual assault and addiction.

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