Gratitude for…the ski hill? (it’s not what you think)

It has been a terrific early season of skiing at our local haunt, Whitewater Ski Resort (FYI: it’s not really a resort since it doesn’t have any onsite accommodations, but perhaps this is just a detail.). The snow has been steady with (by historical standards) somewhat balmy temperatures (courtesy of global warming) with there not being the need to pull out the old balaclava. And the lift lines have been all but non-existent.

As a season pass holder for nearly a decade, I owe a great of gratitude to WH2O (its aptly named moniker). Chiefly among them: it has helped all three of my kids become very formidable and confident skiers; it has given our family a place to while away the dreary winter months in the Kootenays (if there’s fog in the valley there are bluebird skies with sunshine galore up on the mountain); the most amazing ski lodge food in North America (I guarantee); and the beautiful, light, champagne powder (averaging over 1000 cm a year) where at one time snorkels were a go-to piece of equipment for those seeking fresh tracks after 50 centimetres of overnight snowfall.

Whitewater Silverking Chairlift. Photo courtesy of Phil Best.

But what continues to impresses me about the ski hill is that despite its continued growth and development (many folks have thoughts on that prickly issue), increasing popularity among both domestic and international ski tourists, and high praise spotlight coverage in ski international magazines and national publications, there is no public wifi or cell service of any kind at the lodge level (at the lower end of the road leading up the hill cell service is possible).

That’s right. NO public wifi.

I mean, sure the main lodge (which recently underwent a renovation) is (still) extremely loud and crowded on weekends from January to March. And yes I, among many season pass holders, complain and whine about the lack of space to even hang up a jacket, almost on a weekly basis. The very long and narrow parking lots are a nightmare to organize, navigate, and maintain. I always believed that the parking attendants could really make more effective and efficient use of the allotted vehicular spaces (I feel that I can be frank about this because I was one of those who risked their lives in the chaos for two seasons.). But I digress…

Back to the public wifi (or lack thereof) thingy. I know that regulated wifi exists for staff access. I mean, how can you NOT have wifi in a place that employs a daily staff of over 70 people? And for the paying public? Nada. So why am I so grateful at this abomination of technological inadequacy? For starters, teenagers (including our eldest) are not huddled in the corner of the lodge watching the latest list of memes. They are well…skiing. And, get this, talking. Laughing. Sharing moments from ski runs earlier in the day. Or perhaps the latest ‘yard sale‘ that they experienced. Adults are conversing about local politics, or ski wax, or whatever middle age people my age talk about when not being sucked into their phones. These are probably similar conversations that people had in the original ski lodge over forty years ago. Shit. That’s kinda cool.

And I have NEVER heard anyone utter the wish to have the public wifi manifest in reality. Sure there are some that would love to do Facebook live stuff or immediately post their Instagram story…but alas they are still the few.  I might be naive in thinking that it will never happen. It probably will. Sure, the day will come. The technological reckoning is on the horizon.

And yep. It’s loud (and crowded) in the Whitewater main lodge (it often takes five minutes to locate our ski bag at the end of the day), forcing many to guzzle their favourite hot beverage in order to get back outside to the much-appreciated open space. First-time tourists to Whitewater will often stand just inside the only set of double doors surveying the chaos and noise within the lodge. But still, it is a beautiful thing. The noise…that is.

In a society driven to distraction by our devices, the sound of society is something that is becoming rare and sacred. I hope that Whitewater will hold out for as long as it possibly can. Somehow, the unique culture of that place will witness a quick and definitive demise once the wifi key becomes public domain. And then…there’s no turning back.


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