An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: The festive onslaught is nigh!

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I’m sure it’s happening everywhere. I know when I breezed back through the Arndale and Eastbourne as much as a couple of months ago, the festive season signage, decorations and music were already being piped through the mall. That said, it’s well and truly amped up here in Whistler now!

Many, many folk are coming to Whistler, to our back yard in this little piece of ‘God’s kitchen’, to have that ‘White Christmas – Winter Wonderland’ experience. You know the one we all see in the movies and magazines. Picture sitting in that horse drawn sleigh, all wrapped up against the elements, being guided as you slide around the valley, handed your cup of hot chocolate and perhaps finish the experience by being taken to a beautiful fondue dinner. Perhaps your idea of a snow covered haven is a little different. Maybe all you want to do is ski with your family by day, take the kids (and big kids) for a play on the big rubber tubes in the ‘Tube Park’ as you hurriedly slide and bounce your way down a carved out course. Perhaps you just want to be surrounded by the beautiful white stuff through all your experiences, have a big family festive meal in a glorious restaurant all decorated to the ‘nines’ and that ‘traditional’ festive ambience as you’re sufficiently spoiled and waited on hand and foot?! Works for me!

Whatever, the desire, the draw or allure that conjures up that magical experience, hundreds crave it. I suspect that a large majority of those who will actually be here throughout Xmas will be our antipodean cousins. Most will have an extended vacation, allowing them to really relax, sit back and soak up everything for all it’s worth. It won’t come cheap of course! From a ‘locales’ perspective, living around these parts tends to have a lot to do with ‘who you know’. Having that ‘hook-up’, that someone who can ‘get you in for free’, or provide you with a free service goes a long way in balancing the cost of living around here, not to mention the goodwill and generosity of others. Unfortunately, most vacationers won’t have that luxury and will need to pay full price to experience all that magic around here.

To be fair, the local municipality has been trying to build this family experience for years and I guess never has it been so prevalent at this ‘oh so special’ time of year when everyone comes together! Aside form the usual array of activities on offer (dog sledding, the afore mentioned horse drawn sleigh rides, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, mountain top fondue dinners, to name but a few..), there are a good many other plans laid out. The kids have the local conference centre all to themselves as they play on the bouncy castles, foosball, air hockey, mini putting course, video games, etc. This of course, allows many a parent to escape and experience their own little piece of fun without having to worry about the little ones.

Take New Years Eve – this special occasion is a big deal around the Whistler village. Their themed event is dubbed ‘First night’. The village stroll area is populated with various entertainment acts and is completely alcohol free. It is policed heavily, but oh so subtly to ensure that it is a very safe fun family environment as we all patiently wait for the countdown and scheduled fireworks display. Of course, none of this should really come as a surprise that everyone’s catered for. This is a resort town after all, which ultimately thrives and survives on the travellers money and everyone is welcome!

So as everyone and everything goes into ‘overdrive’ this weekend as the majority of travellers arrive in resort, the town is going to feel a little more cosy, perhaps bulging at its corners as everyone and their wife (and kids…) descends on little old Whistler. The hotel beds will markedly fill up, restaurants will be pushed to their limits, there may even be the tiniest of line ups in the occasional ski lift line for these couple of weeks coming up. Personally I can’t wait! Sure, people will occasionally let out a little whine about how busy it is and how difficult it is moving around the village, but this is our lifeline. In fact, isn’t this exactly how some of us felt in the build up to the Olympics?!

Everyone who comes is super stoked to be here and although it may take some busy, stressed out individuals a day or two to let their defences down and unwind, the sheer pleasure and joy of being here is written all over their faces. Others enthusiasm is infectious. How can we fail to get caught up in it?! We all get to tell each other about how good it is on the ski hills, what adventures we or they have just had, what party their attending, where to go for après, etc, etc. We don’t sell our resort to anyone once they’re here with us; we simply revel in it with them! Tough, eh?!

So the next few days are left to us to milk the 6000+ acres of snow covered terrain (yep, that’s a hell of a lot!), before the numbers around here swell and it becomes a little less easy to zip around the hills in our lunch break. Some us, yes myself included, need to seriously apply ourselves to actually shopping (what a drag!) and buying our loved ones that little gift they’ve perhaps very subtly been pointing us toward. We may have to plan our schedules with some vigour to fit everything and everyone in as we continue to spin the wheels around here whilst everyone else comes to play and we simply go about our lives, celebrate, relax and play.

Santa may well have to take Rudolph and co a little higher to reach us each year up here in the ‘Coastal mountains’, but mark my words, he will come. I know because he has an appointment at the conference centre on the 18th and 19th!