I did eventually arrive in Whistler, though. It wasn't quite what I expected. Driving down the highway, the intersections themselves are almost completely devoid of features. All you can see are trees, and a sign telling which part of Whistler lies beyond the grove. It's like driving through an apartment hallway, trying to find the door that leads to a gas station, rather than the door that leads to a restaurant. But, after a little bit of trial and error, I eventually found a cheap hotel. And when I found out that the cheapest hotel in Whistler was $199 a night in the off-season... well, that's where my other opinions on Whistler started to solidify.
Whistler is not a town, nor is it a village. It is a "Resort Municipality." What does that mean? It means that when a collection of ski chalets gets too big, they're obligated to set up a few schools for the employee's children. And then after that, a few people might want to build their houses there, but if they don't look like miniature chalets unto themselves, it's not going to happen. The residential areas of Whistler are street after street of beautiful homes with wooden balconies and trim and support beams. As the son of a woodworker, it's how all houses are supposed to look, and if there were fewer than 3,000 of them, I would have been tempted to admire each one individually. But en masse, it becomes a bit wearying. (And besides, it gets hard to navigate those residential areas, seeing as how Whistlerians seem to own approx. 5.7 vehicles per driveway.)
By this point, when I found "Whistler Village", I was already a bit cynical of the whole place. Sure enough, the Village (the collection of shops and hotels near the ski lifts) was like the West Edmonton Mall crossed with a spruce tree. Souvenirs and baubles, sweets and boutiques, all designed to look like the Wildcat Café back in Yellowknife, but with a few extra million dollars. And once again, it was pervasive.
But - and I stress this - that doesn't mean it wasn't pretty. And as I wandered through their "reading garden", winding along a pavestone path while breathing in that B.C. forest air, I realised that this Village, and the whole resort municipality, was like a palace court.
A palace court has multiple purposes:
-It impresses the visitors, and shows off the strengths of the country.
-It's where the monarch's decrees are sorted out to reach his people.
-It's where the people assemble to reach the monarch.
-It's where the servants live.
A palace court's architecture is designed to reflect the will of the king and/or queen. It's designed to convey the message that their will shapes the land, theirs is the face that speaks for the land, and the destiny chosen for them is the one chosen for the land, as well.
Now, with all due respect to Queen Elizabeth II, I'm also a fan of democracy, so these ideas seem kind of stifling and elitist to me. Much like Whistler itself. But then, I realised who the King of this Palace really is:
The mountain itself.
And you know, just like that, Whistler became a pretty awesome place. I can't wait to go back!