Life in Whistler at the start of the pandemic

March, 2020

Pretty eerie to say the least…. Streets are empty, the vast majority of businesses closed, and the groceries aisles are a little bare. You can park like a vagabond, switching your engine off pretty much anywhere without fear of a ticket (they ticket A LOT here). Our many nightlife venues are almost unrecognizable without the pull and pulse of music, especially in the absence of the eager hosts standing outside to tell you there’s an hour wait for a table. My morning coffee stop, local watering hole for darts and a pint, and even my dentist – that just a couple of weeks ago removed my all wisdom teeth (ow) – have all closed up shop. 

Our beloved mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, still rise dramatically from the bosom of the Village, teasing us with their snow covered and perfectly powdered, barren runs. Empty chairs dangle lifelessly from their metal wires. It’s still cold, cold enough to ski for sure, and we are in the midst of a deluge of hail as I type this. There are no crowds, no wafting smell of fried onions from Zogg’s, and no distant wump-wump of the Longhorn’s sound system. It is a bittersweet change of pace. Feeling a little like an Orwellian dystopia, you can walk through our (now desolate) town picturing tumbleweed blowing across the concrete. Of course, there is no tumbleweed, just the odd raccoon looking confused in the midst of his new found freedom.

In a town built for, and entirely sustained by, international tourism, this new reality of social distancing is catastrophic. The situation for Whistlerites turned on its head very quickly. It went from ‘why would they close the mountain?’ to ‘I think we should go home’ a mere twenty-four hours later. Some waited an extra week, but when the reality set in that many would not be able to get home if they waited much longer, they too fled town.

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