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R SEASON LDE OU H
ghting the doldrums and courting chaos n steps to fi Seve c. v a n V e e n
Story and photos by
ING THE RV I V SU
40 | May 3, 2012 | www.piquenewsmagazine.com
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“The steelhead is from Lois Lake, the duck is from Yarrow farms, and the mushrooms are from Ponderosa,” says Araxi Chef James Walt,
as we eye the locally-sourced, ﬁve-course menu. It is 2 p.m., the rain is pounding down outside, and the Village is damp and quiet. Inside Araxi, James and his crew are preparing for yet another busy night serving mainly locals, many of whom are taking advantage of the 30th anniversary, $30 menu. The price is right for the cash-starved. For the last ﬁfteen years, Araxi’s has been sourcing its ingredients locally, notes James. “In ’97, the farmers were struggling. . . now, they’re bursting at the seams,” he says, citing Pemberton growers North Arm Farms, Rootdown Organics, and Across the Creek as “supplying 100 per cent of our salads” and other produce, to not only Araxi but nearly all eateries in the Valley. I turn back to the menu. BC Albacore Tuna Tataki, says one dish. That sounds delicious. And it’s basically six bucks. Yet while I and others enjoy Araxi’s ﬁne dining service — a quick glance around reveals at least a dozen locals recognizable by face, clad in the attire of a Canadian tuxedo — others struggle to make ends meet during the off-season’s snailpace. tiny rentals and staff-housing encampments for the incoming ﬂood of rubber tire enthusiasts. Apartments abound. It’s also a time of stretching budgets to the limit. Many businesses offer off-season specials worth taking advantage of; for others, the shoulder season means loss of employment. The results are tangible: the Whistler Food Bank has seen an increase in visits from 1,800 in 2010 to over 2,900 last year. The Food Bank ended the year $22, 000 in the red, with most of the food budget spent in the ﬁrst three months of the 2011 ﬁscal year, explains Lorna Van Straaten, executive director of Whistler Community Services. Though numbers have begun dropping in early 2012, the Food Bank is calling for increased support from the community in food, money, and volunteers. “Since the  recession hit, the Food Bank has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people accessing our services, says Sara Jennings, Food Bank Coordinator. When businesses struggle, residents also struggle as there are less jobs to go around, and people’s hours are cut. The busiest periods for the Food Bank are the shoulder seasons, spring and fall as there is less work in the resort. However, for the ﬁrst time in four years, the numbers have started to go down at the Food Bank. This is most likely due to the increase in business in Whistler this year. As businesses do better the food bank sees fewer people.”
The Hunger Games: provisions for provisional labour
Whatever our intrepid weather gurus say — and they have promised much this season — chances are the merry month of May will be wet and dreary down to the last drop. May is the heart of the shoulder season. Diehard parkrats and manic backcountry skiers take to the alpine, with corn snow and superhero slush enticing the rest of us when the sun ﬁghts its way through the overcast grey. The month of Taurus and Gemini is when Whistler’s ski shops swap out their planks for bikes, storing away the iron and wax for chain lube and torque wrenches. The starsign of this bullish month gives way to the double-identity schizophrenia of late May, when sun once again promises to grab ahold of June by the nards and shake it loose into summer. The shoulder season is offside for the winter game, the big break between the two inﬂuxes of sports addicts. The transient snowkids and powderhounds, if they haven’t already left, now ﬂee Whistler, leaving their
Feeding the need—of the lowly-paid and precarious labourer
The shoulder season is a strange study in contrasts. While ﬁne dining and off-season deals might be on the radar for some, others struggle to gulp down a regular meal. The struggles of the offseason mirror the increasing gap between rich and poor in our society as a whole, which in 2011 hit a record thirty-year high, according to a December report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to Van Straaten, Whistler’s lowestincome families and those with addictions and mental health issues are the long-term users of the Food Bank. However, most users need the service only one to ﬁve times to get
“through a short rough patch,” says Jennings. About half of the overall users are newcomers to Whistler, with the majority (67 per cent) being males between the ages of 20 to 29. Only about a quarter are unemployed, and seeking work; a third are underemployed, putting them in an ever-growing category of what economists call “precarious labour.” “Transients tend to have the lowest paid jobs and have their hours cut ﬁrst,” says Jennings. “However, we also do see a lot of people coming to Whistler without the resources to meet their needs while they look for employment.” This of course raises larger questions: what level of “resources” — which is to say, cold hard cash — are now necessary for the ski bum to weather a season in Whistler? Is it still feasible to depend upon lowest paid, transient labour as the frontline workforce at a world-class ski resort? Can Whistler expect transient workers to sink thousands of dollars to live here, only to receive minimum wage in a position fraught with precarity — and possibly ending with a trip to the Food Bank? It is possible that Whistler is in for a labour crunch. In Fall 2011, the lack of low-paid labour was evident for local business. Whistler’s trends echoed those of the province’s own ﬁndings, published in the B.C Labour Market Outlook 2010-2020, a joint initiative between BC Stats and the Ministry of Finance (Pique Sept 1, 2011). Despite seeing fewer numbers in the early quarter of 2012, most troubling is that 25 per cent of food bank users have been in Whistler for three or more years, suggesting what might be a trend toward overall precarity — meaning less job security for previously resilient positions —in Whistler’s seasonal economy. This is not surprising, given that Stats Canada says that many eligible workers, especially youth, are no longer seeking work due to a lack of job growth, reﬂected in a fall of the overall participation rate to 66.5 per cent in February, the lowest since 2002. Derek Holt, an economist with Scotia Capital, predicts that the rate of job creation in 2012 will be half that of 2011, at 11, 000 jobs per month across the country. How these greater, national trends will affect the resort bubble of Whistler will perhaps be most acutely felt over the next few months, as the Food Bank and other Whistler Community Support Services feel the pressure of the offseason. We won’t really know, however, until the fall. If national trends play out here, then we might see fewer users at the Food Bank not because businesses are doing better, but because there are fewer transient workers coming to Whistler. These are the deeper concerns of the offseason. But for the psyche that is wrapped in Whistler’s long winter, May is a sigh of relief. Huddled ﬁgures running from bar to bar become strangely familiar.
www.piquenewsmagazine.com | May 3, 2012 | 41
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Friends from months past seep out of the woodwork like bloated worms on the sidewalk. Everyone who has made it through the dark, cold months has grown lumpy in the waist, though lean in the legs. Greetings are exchanged, summer plans made, and the great local tradition begins of eating, drinking, and taking in all the attractions Whistler has to offer — at quietly reduced prices. Welcome to Surviving the Shoulder Season.
free media. You can even take out tomes of words that are printed on dead trees called books. Just watch those ﬁnes — for unlike a download, you actually have to give it back. This dropping-off-thing works well for actually meeting people in the ﬂesh — give it a go, and explore what it means to “get lost in the stacks.”
Step One: Admit You’re Bored
With options dwindling for the adrenaline aline junkies, boredom reigns. Traditionally, nally, back before social media permeated every single waking (and sleeping) moment of nt the Valley’s denizens, local ski bums would ould devise new smokeable contraptions and then proceed to watch all seven seasons of ns Star Trek: TNG and/or the Original Series, eries, available for free on these near-obsolete olete shiny disc things (known as “DVDs”) that are, incredibly, still available today at the t Whistler Library. Indeed, show up with proof of local residence, and you will ﬁnd yourself in possession of a neat and new Library Card, which you may utilize to your heart’s delight, partaking in the ancient cient socialist pastime of renting and returning ning
But there are other things to do besides hole up and study the secondary characters of Star Wars (remember Admiral Akbar?) so that you can trounce your friends at the George Lucas edition of Trivial Pursuit… though, come to think of it, it’s not a bad idea, and occasionally copies surface down at the Re-Use It Centre, conveniently located down in Function Junction’s recycle and garbage depot. This time of year, the Centre is chockfull of end-of-season rejects, including the occasional neon Bogner one-piece that will have you perfectly attired for Gaper Day on Blackcomb, as well as hundreds of VHS tapes, which…. oh hell, nobody has a VHS player anymore. So let’s face it: you’re bored.
Step Two: Becoming-Tourist in Your Own Town
It’s time to take the strategy to what philosophers call the ontological level: you need to change your state of being to ﬁght off the boredom. Luckily this overdeveloped Valley is
Have you signed your life insurance waivers?
packed with alternative activities, many with an ecotourism focus, and they’ve all been engineered to entertain you whatever the weather. Heck, the Bike Park opens May 18th. But until then, options abound, from Cougar Mountain’s Wildplay Zoom ziplines and Monkido courses—where you climb around above the ground like a monkey through suspended obstacle courses—to getting out on foot and exploring the melting snows of Garibaldi Park. No one has lived well in Whistler until they’ve stripped themselves down to their skivvies and ﬂung themselves off a bridge with Whistler Bungee — an experience that I can proudly attest to as absolutely terrifying. Leaping headlong toward the cold river below makes an ideal ﬁrst date for the newbie you’ve just picked up at the Longhorn. Or, if your date appears a tad more sedate (think Buffalo Bill’s), grab that proof of local coolness (i.e., you gotta live here) and claim that 20 per cent discount at Ziptrek. Ziptrek is like some elvish fantasy for you Lord of the Rings fans, or a slightly more perverse furry dream for those of you who dig Ewok battlescenes. Even getting to the ziplines puts some perspective on the size of the hemlocks and other Really Big Trees in this coastal temperate rainforest— ecological concepts that I actually learnt thanks to the edutaining dialogue from Dan, one of two guides for the escapade.* With platforms and bridges suspended a good ﬁfty feet or more among lichendraped canopies, the sheer strength of the rainforest is as impressive as what you’re about to do, which boils down to clipping your corps(e) to a coiled steel zipline and hurtling through open air, wind whipping at your face, as you squeal with delight, the river rushing below. A few adults appeared tied up in knots of anxiety — from what I could tell, thanks to the facial recognition software on my iPhone that scans for signs of nervous tics, these aging boomers were entertaining nightmares of the entire assemblage
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42 | May 3, 2012 | www.piquenewsmagazine.com
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Luke: silent you keep. Talking spoils the trip-out. Duck out to the fringes of the hot tub, and let the ears envelope the soothing sounds of water. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, as ultimately relaxing as the acoustic reverberation Pique disclaimer: the pique does not condone of ceaseless, ﬂowing, smoking big fatties and drinking martinis at the spa. H20. Sweating in the dry in fact, if you do, they will undoubtedly drag you sauna is what follows. out by the earlobes—though quietly, of course. Throw some water on the wood-burning stove and collapse on the Four Seasons has a eucalyptus steam room, and there be local membership the baked wood benches. Breath deep deals at Hidden Lodge day spa in Glacier until dry, and then sweat again. Go Lodge. The offseason be a good time to outside, shrivel the bits in glacially-cold water, and repeat. Again and again, until soak in some peace and quiet. The entire point of a hot/cold spa is you see visions of Xanadu. Hours later, to push the contradiction between the I found myself in a meditation room, temperature inside your body and outside body steaming, gazing with wonder at to the point where you enter into a blissed- those little birds which ﬂock around each out, dazed state of consciousness, otherwise spring, chasing each other with abandon… obtainable only through psychedelic cute little birds… there they go… indeed, means or studious devotion to Hegelian what the heck am I doing here? Am I on transcendental dialectics (the latter not assignment? Who am I writing for? Be prepared. recommended for the bookworm weak). Hint—become a WORCA member As I experienced hot ﬂashes and cold sweats, I saw strange, geometric patterns (Whistler’s singletrack mountain bike dance across the treetops while the New association, which kicks off its ﬁrst Age music that cascades alongside the Toonie this May 3rd) and partake of Spa mesmerizing, cold waterfalls began to sound really, really deep. For warm-blooded mammals, duration need not be extreme in any one environment — it’s more about repetition than it is about extension (to put it in a Hegelese phrase designed to make you sound smart at dinner parties). After a cycle or When your male two of the Russian-style steam pattern baldness has bath, you should already be forgetting your next 42 To-Do you looking like Balki, get it chopped. Tasks. Remember, young Scandinave with all the grubby riders at the end of the summer in one orgiastic spandex send-off.
Step Four: Get Your Hair Cut and Get Naked
If the headmop has become so unruly that you cannot distinguish between the mirror and the mint edition, life-size poster of Chewbacca kept on the wall for reference purposes, then my wo/man, it is time to get your hair cut (at least if you want to keep that job: more on that below). There are several places to hit up in this lovely locale, from Pique’s Best of Whistler choices, Farfalla, The Loft, and Good Hair Day to a simple barber’s shave at Black Comb Barber Shoppe. I play no favourites, save to mention that local stylists often operate out of private studios, such as that run by Amanda Steel, whose British grace includes thorough inspections by her cats of your new cut. Once chopped, consider posing for some boudoir photography by Kyle Graham. Why Not? Kyle organizes Playful Photo Parties, where everyone gets shot solo (or not) while hanging out and comparing lingerie. Kyle is no stranger to posing in the buff, having sat as a life drawing model for classes organized by Whistler Arts Council. Modelling nude, says Kyle, is an “incredibly liberating experience,” and one that “boosted conﬁdence.”
breaking loose, sending bodies splashing down into the waters below. To this end, may I suggest going on a tour with small children; at least on mine, our token Little Smiling Girl claimed First on every single zip, much to the confused look of concern/ admiration from her parents. If no children are available, a small guinea pig or sack of potatoes is useful as a test subject, for just as the comfort sets in, the ziplines become longer and steeper, dropping more sharply, until the guides have you hanging upside-down, arms open, legs splayed, embracing the full blood-rushing experience of letting it all hang out. * Or at least I think his name was Dan. This journalist apologizes for failing to take notes whilst dangling from ziplines.
Step Three: Bathe in Public
If you haven’t bathed all winter, you are a bear and/or a hipster who cannot peel too-tight pants off your scrawny leg limbs. Read no further: you be ﬁt only for squatter camps and tundra wookies. But if you scrub and shave with some regularity, there is no ﬁner escape than the exquisitely manicured Spa Scandinave, which offers a Local’s May Pass for 99 clams. Besides the age-old tradition of late-season hot tub poaching, the Vida Wellness Spa at the Fairmont has private cabana rentals while
This could be you! (in a boudoir bikini). Kyle Graham Photo
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“I ﬁnd stepping out of your comfort zone is an incredibly positive thing,” says Kyle, who credits his time spent behind the lens for piquing his interest in boudoir. “I like to show people that, who they really are [is] actually pretty beautiful. . . I want to express the idea [of] who we are naturally, with these ‘blemishes’ [as] unique, and tell a tale sorta’ to speak.” Drop by the Love Nest for the frills. Remember, pictures are worth at least two txts. With the savings on a menu that, if it were to be priced properly, would touch $79, this is an exceptional time to dress up swank and claim the playboy title—which is to say, talk to Araxi’s sommelier and restaurant director, Neil Henderson, and try his suggested wine pairings from Samantha Rahn’s cellar selection. This might give a clue as to why Araxi scooped Best in Whistler from Vancouver Magazine “Executive Chef James Watt showing off the fresh herbs at Araxi---basil, anyone?” for nearly the twelfth year running (Silver went to the Bearfoot; Bronze to Aura at equal strides the soft yet pungent aroma Nita Lake Lodge).* Which brings us to the ultimate “For my own philosophy, “ says of the savoury meat. My partner-in-crime, offseason activity: shooting a horror ﬁlm. Neil, comfortably clad in a grey sweater however, had the steelhead; for her, she “Blood — fake blood — is all about before donning his spiffy suit for the received a glass of liquid gold, the velvety, trying different recipes until you get dinner session, “I match intensities of the absolutely dangerous Treanna, Santa Lucia what you need,” emails Feet Banks, dishes. When I look at the menu, I look Highlands (2008), a Californian white that erstwhile film columnist, perennial at components of the menu that stand performed like an extraordinarily high-end Spanish emcee, and one of the founding out and pull dishes in one direction or Scotch, leaving the palette with a perfectly members of Heavy Hitting Films. “Do you another, be it a spice or a sweetness, an clean, near non-alcoholic ﬁnish. For desert, want it thick and drippy, or something that acidity, that will affect the wine the most. check the Elephant Island Framboise will spray from a severed artery like a lawn It’s not always the protein, it’s not always (2010), a raspberry wine that pairs ideally sprinkler? Thick is best made from corn the tenderloin or the ﬁsh — it could be the with the thin and long Almond and syrup, red food colouring, and a darkening sauce, or a component of the sauce that Raspberry Cake. Here, one can alternate agent like coffee grounds. Darkened V8 between bites and sips, succulent yet tart. makes the biggest difference.” works for sprayable blood (make sure to * Save for 2009—which went to the back-light it for best visuals on camera). Settling into the tall espresso tasse of the Smoked Roma Tomato Soup, Neil’s Bearfoot. The problem with homemade blood is suggested pairing of the Montes Alpha almost all of it stains clothes. You can buy Chardonnay (2009), a Chilean white, professional quality blood powder from heightened the smoky ﬂavour of the soup’s shops in Vancouver for about 250 bucks goat-cheese crostini. This was new. a kilo.” By the time the main rolled around, I Indeed. Then there’s the issue of whowas happy not to be singing pirate songs in Frankly, there’s nothing I like to do better wants-to-be-sprayed-with-blood, i.e., the coatcheck. But here two wines stood out when stuffed full of ﬁne foods then saw ﬁnding “actors.” as truly exceptional, and I began to grasp people to bits, spray blood over their “Vancouver is full of methed-out freaks the Honest Truth of wine and food: like dismembered body parts, and wallow who want to be in your movie and think chocolate, it can be better than (some) sex. in their intestines. Apparently, so do a it will be awesome to call you up at 4:30 Being a meathead, I went for the whole lot of you folks — as in, Lots am to talk about your call-out,” warns venison (which is deer — though according 3 and 4, packed, wall-to-wall, judging Feet (and it is a good warning: I concur). to Wikipedia, it can also be antelope, by the massive turnout of 1,100 plus “Personally I like to work with people or wild boar). For this red dish, I was bodies at the 10th anniversary of the Heavy I know and like. The best ﬁlms seem to handed LaStella “Fortissimo” (2008), an Hitting B-Grade Horror Film Festival last come from groups of friends having fun Okanagan heavy-hitter that matched with Halloween. together, not some poor fucker trying to
Step Five: Eat Something Snazzy
May is the month of Dine-In Whistler, with a staggering 29 restaurants offering a variety of prix ﬁxe menus between $19 and $49. For the most part, this is nearly cheaper than buying healthy, fresh food here in Whistler, and with high-end kitchens such as the Bearfoot Bistro and the Rimrock offering $49 all-inclusive selections, this is the time to gorge with gastronomic delight without completely emptying out the pocketbook. Many restaurants in Whistler are now offering ‘80s pricing (Kypriaki Norte) or 50 per cent off specials (Mongolie Grill) — indeed, do check the Pique pages for listings. Getting through the seasonal slump is indeed easier if you can eat all you want at Nagomi Sushi for $30, or add to the legendary status of Sushi Village’s tatami rooms with a $19 throw-down. This year, Araxi is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary here in Whistler — that’s right, the cornerstone ﬁne dining of Village Square has been kicking it since they built the stroll in 1982. I was four; I remember it well. To the credit of Executive Chef James Walt sophisticated tastes, Araxi is offering a ﬁve-course menu for the aforementioned dirty-thirty special. He plans to change it up every two weeks, sourcing mainly organic ingredients from local farmers in the Seato-Sky corridor and the Paciﬁc NorthWest. Many of his dishes, he notes, conform to a 100-mile diet (the only ingredient that cannot be found locally is salt).
Step Six: Spray Blood, Eat Guts, and Cannibalize
44 | May 3, 2012 | www.piquenewsmagazine.com
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wrangle a bunch of anonymous freaks just because he really wants a bestiality/glass-bottom boat in his movie. So the best bet is to be extremely nice to your cute friends. Good luck.” of experienced employees returning for another season. If unemployment haunts your game — and the numbers show that, even if food bank numbers are currently down, the offseason will be a tough one for many of us in terms of job growth and, most importantly, income growth then there s always mass revolt, Québec-student-style. Whistler politics always rears its head during the shoulder season; we all put on the Nice Face when the world is watching, and then, like the return of the repressed, act out our convictions and beliefs in local dramas once the spotlight is shut off. Rubbing my crystal balls (I got two for sale from the New Age store in town), I predict that old growth logging, the continuing operation of the asphalt plant, and the outrageously disorganized bus system — what happened to the principle of a single north/south connecting bus, I ask?! — will deﬁne this summer’s community activism. I’d like to add to this list in the name of low-paid labour, and suggest those living here on minimum wage make their voices heard to our new Council: Whistler needs a long-term strategy to overcome lowestincome poverty in this town. ■
Step Seven (of the Sins): Foment Revolution
Now that the consumer options have been exhausted (along with your bank account), it’s time to ask for that raise. Been here an entire season? Staying on? Heck, been here multiple seasons and still making the same wage? It might be worth asking the Whistler Chamber of Commerce for advice. Why not? The WCC supports the idea of providing incentives to returning employees. A novel, radical idea, I know, but one that seems to have some credence even among the capitalists, especially given what might be an increased labour slump in lowpaid positions. Just recently, Chamber members received a report from Heather Kennedy, Manager of Marketing and Communications for the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC). It’s a mouthful, but listen to what she has to say — as well as suggesting that the most efﬁcient way to ﬁnd new employees is to keep the ones you’ve already got (imagine that!) and to rehire the old ones (no training involved!), Kennedy emphasizes offering “extra incentives to returning employees” (her bold, not mine). And she writes, “Whether it’s a higher wage, a promotion, non-monetary bonuses, or training for a supervisory role, they will feel encouraged to come back.” So go ahead and ask for that raise or bonus or free lunch or dishwasher supervisor position or whatever — the Whistler Chamber of Commerce said it was OK to do so. Whistler Blackcomb, of note, has initiated an online renewal process that seeks to streamline the process of rehiring, and one would expect, increase the number
Amanda Steel / firstname.lastname@example.org Araxi / araxi.com Black Comb Barber’s Shoppe / theblackcombbarber.com Farfallahair.com Goodhairday.ca Fairmont / fairmont.com/whistler Four Seasons / fourseasons.com/whistler Heavy Hitting B-Grade Horror Film Festival / heavyhitting.com Hidden Lodge Spa / whistlerhiddenspa.com Pemberton Farmers / pembertonfarmers.com Playful Photo Parties / playfulphotoparties.com Spa Scandinave / spascandinave.com Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) / whistlerwag.com Whistler Bungee / whistlerbungee.com Whistler Food Bank / mywcss.org Wildplay / wildplay.com WORCA / worca.com Ziptrek / ziptrek.com
www.piquenewsmagazine.com | May 3, 2012 | 45
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