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Home » AFF Blog 2008 » Tami Knight: Blawg #5, Dirtbags and Mountain Towns

Tami Knight: Blawg #5, Dirtbags and Mountain Towns

Mountain towns are the point on Sunday, 20 January. In a special 2 p.m.
screening at the Center for the Arts, ($5 suggested donation; all proceeds
go to SurfAid International) Jonathan Schecter, founder of 1 Percent for the
Tetons, will MC a special afternoon of mountain town films that explore the
intersection of a community at play and development.

I’ve never been to Jackson Hole. I’ve never been to Wyoming. Good ol’
GoogleEarth finds me the towns of Teton Village, Moose, Kelly, Wilson and
Jackson. It’s like the names of redneck triplets, their pet ungulate and the
Village of Tits. I need to qualify that last comment I suppose. In the
province of Quebec, “Titons” ( say it with a fffffffrrrrensshhh h’acsent )
means tits. Okay so you’ve heard that before. Yeah, yeah, yeah and snicker
guffaw haha.

Before you get huffy-puffy about my jokes about names of places around the
Tetons, Canada has goofy place names too. Medicine Hat, Moosejaw, Salmon Arm
and, last time I checked salmon don’t have arms. Hey, I’ve discovered Beaver
Creek near Teton Village. Excellent! How can there be problems with Jackson
Hole when you have beaver near boobs?

Okay, I’m screaming with laffter for no real reason and, moreover, sadly,
names aside, I do understand the Resort Town Thing. My hometown is a two-
and- a- quarter- and- trying -to- get- shorter- drive- to- Whistler. And, in
two years and about one month this area hosts the fucking Winter Olympic

Whistler was first populated with white folks in the 1880’s; the Lil’wat and
Squamish First Nations had been in the area since Creation. My folks started
going to the area in the 1940’s when I was still an egg. Most memorable from
my first trip to Whistler, around 1966,was the Squamish Chief. My brother
and I asked if we could butt-slide the low-angle rock sprawling from the
base of the Chief. Mum assured us you needed climbing hardware to climb
those rocks and indeed you could butt-slide it but you’d only do it once.

When I started skiing at Whistler in the early ’70’s, it had evolved from
the 1880’s but only somewhat. Despite some of the folks in Whistler having
money, there was still a rustic culture of rugged dirtbaggishness. People
were there to ski or to head into the mountains – it was during these years
that John Clarke was pioneering multi-week excursions into the deep
wilderness of the lower Coast Range. In the mid-70’s the paved road at
“Whistler” included a Husky Station and attendant store where you could buy
chains or Cheerios, and a handful of chairlifts with highly original names
like “Green Chair” and “Red Chair”. Whistler had fucking great snow, a
garbage dump full of bears, and zero reputation.

That sorta snow and that sorta terrain wazzn’t gonna remain secret forever.
While it might be admirable to say the development reflected a wish to share
this skiing largesse with a greater community, I believe avarice was the jet
fuel B powering the juggernaut. Culture? That’s somethin’ in yogurt. The
rush to develop Whistler wasn’t about sharin’ the love, it was about shakin’
down a fat fat profit.

The big money was now there to hobnob in the Year Round Destination Resort.
Dirtbag culture did endure among the proles – those who didn’t want to go
back to school or work for Dad. They made videos of their exploits. Future
plans included a grow-op, work for G3, Arc’Teryx, or Mountain Coop. More
likely all four. Evolution lost many of those folks in the last decade to
the Kootenays. Whistler is just too expensive to live and the closest towns,
Squamish and Pemberton also have ridiculous housing prices.

In the delis and hotels you are just as likely to hear South Asian languages
spoken as you are English, Quebecois, or ‘Strine. New Canadians who don’t
mind min-wage jobs and cramped housing are the new labour. They don’t ski,
board, hike, climb, golf, or even own a bike.

But maybe their children will. My hope for Whistler is it does develop a
middle-class of people who settle into the area for generations to come and,
as they grow roots there, vibrant culture will follow. But, with the big
coming O in two years, I don’t hold out hope for Whistler to evolve real
culture in anything other then yogurts you can buy at the IGA.