Whistler, my old stomping grounds

I love to travel. I will travel anywhere, anytime. And when I do, I try to find the "real" part of the destination. Yes, I will do some touristy things but I find that I need to discover the local flavour. Of course that is much more difficult with the various chains of restaurants and shops and coffee places and theme parks. Unless you are careful, you could be anywhere - it all looks and feels and sounds the same.

So for me, travel is all about finding what is unique to a place. And after a weekend of snowboarding in Whistler, I wanted to show you my Whistler, my old stomping grounds.

Ask someone about the first things that come to mind when they think of "Whistler" and it'll probably be the 2010 Winter Olympics or the shopping or the foreign tourists. But the Whistler that I know, the one that I STILL see when I drive the 1 1/2 hours north, is the one BEFORE the hoards descended. Before the out-of-towners discovered it. Before you could shop at the Gap and eat at McDonalds.

The Whistler when there were only two grocery stores - the one in the Village and Nesters off the highway. The one where during university you could rent a four bedroom chalet with friends for the season for $200 a month each. 

I imagine that it must be similar for those who live in NYC - not the size of course! But similar in that there is the NYC that you live in and the NYC that is for the tourists. There is a Whistler for the locals and a Whistler for the tourists. 

Here is my "local" Whistler. The Whistler that guys like these would recognize - guys who have been coming here for 30 or more years. The ones that would have taught me to ski when I was starting out.

(I went all Walker Evans to take these photos. He was a photographer in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's who took secret photos of NYC passersby.)

And here are some of the places that these guys would know, places that are still there. Places that I first went to when there was only one main village square. Places that I still go to. Places that aren't a chain or a franchise, places that you might just walk right on by if you didn't know better.

If you need a yummy deli lunch, Ingrids is THE place to go. Small and not at all fancy but good food. Open for breakfast at 7am too. Moguls was the FIRST place that served lattes and the like. No Starbucks back then. And McCoo's for gear. Apres ski, Citta was the place to be seen having your beer and nachos while you went over the mountain map discussing which runs you skied and why.

There are two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, and the runs are some of the longest in North America. Full speed it'll take you about 45 minutes to ski from top to bottom. This year it also has the best snow in North America - a base of about 17' so far. It is easy to get around to either mountain from the Village and there is a huge variety of runs for every level of skier and snowboarder. 

It is a wonderful place and I feel so very lucky to be living so close. I also feel lucky that we are a skiing/boarding family. And I'd marry my new snowboard if I wasn't already married, I love it THAT much.

So if you ski or board, make some time for a visit to Whistler. And see the old Whistler in amongst the fashionable new Whistler - it's the real deal.

What are some of your favourite insider/local places where you live?