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Opinion: it’s not always easy to make friends in Whistler

It can be even harder to keep them
A group of university-aged tourists walking inside a hotel with suitcases.

When I first moved to Whistler in November of 2022, many were excited on my behalf. Friends and family wished me luck, while all kinds of new acquaintances welcomed me to what they described as more or less the Canadian Dream. Picturesque mountains, gorgeous forests, stunning lakes and an energetic community full of adventurous spirit…in their eyes, I had found some type of mecca where the good times always roll. 

I was hesitant at first, knowing that I’m not the type of snowsport and mountain bike warrior who usually shows up for an adrenaline rush. Fortunately, I managed to settle in and tick some important boxes in the subsequent months. 

Job security? Check. Housing? Check. A reliable routine and growing familiarity with my new surroundings? Check. (I even went skiing).

Friends? To be determined. 

Certain level-headed realists have told me about how transient Whistler’s populace is. Far too many of the novel people you’ll meet will only be here for so long—a few months, a year at most. Then they inevitably move on, heading back to the European, Latin American or Commonwealth nations from whence they’d come. 

My first round of social turnover happened last summer, when a handful of folks I’d met at church headed out within the same month-long span. There was “J,” a sports fan after my own heart, “N,” a globe-trotting Kiwi who lived in a van, and “S,” an affable Coloradan who was always so easy to talk to. Had they remained, I believe they could have formed the core of a great friend group, but it was not to be. 

I’d been warned that this would happen, so I carried on. 

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that my pal Andy was moving back to Australia for up to two or three years. 

This one hurt. The other day, I was driving home and I nearly cried in my car. I’m man enough to admit that. 

Coming and going

Why did this news hit differently? Well, for starters I didn’t expect Andy to leave. He’s a married man in his forties who has the ideal temperament to live in Whistler, and he enjoys it very much. Yet things can always change, as I’m reminded of now. 

Second, Andy isn’t just a friend. He’s effectively a second coach at our kickboxing gym, and he’s darn good at mentoring newbies like myself. He makes drills and sparring fun, while also pushing us to maintain an appropriate level of discipline. Our little combat sports community won’t be the same without him. 

Most of all, I remember a particularly frustrating night at the gym. I’d just allowed my sparring partner to tune me up for three minutes straight, all the while thinking, “Why don’t I get this? Why is my footwork wrong? Why do I suck so much?” 

Andy sat me down and reminded me of a very important truth. 

“Kickboxing is like life,” he said (though I’m paraphrasing). “Sometimes you’re going to get hit, and what matters is how you respond.” 

The last few months of my life have been up and down, to say the least, and I spent a lot of time wallowing in self-pity. Andy was one of several individuals who helped me discard that mindset, and I’ll always remember his words to me. 

These are the kinds of people we all need, and it feels cruel when God or circumstance takes them away from us. 

Look, I’m not trying to be ungrateful. Whistler is indeed a beautiful place, and my job at Pique lets me talk to Olympians for crying out loud. My volunteer work mentoring youth through the local church gives me meaning as well, and I don’t plan on leaving in the foreseeable future. No situation is perfect. 

I still have some friends here and I undoubtedly appreciate them, but it’s not fun knowing that any of them could depart at any moment. 

Whistler can be a lonely place. Beneath the attractive veneer of powder days and a rocking nightlife is the reality that stable fellowship is hard to come by here. You’ll brush shoulders with a lot of interesting folks, but how many of them will be part of your life for more than a few fleeting months? 

With that in mind, let’s not take our existing relationships for granted. Let’s maximize the time we have with those we befriend. Don’t assume that bars and recreational activities will automatically generate lasting community. Instead, be intentional in fostering that community—even if some of us don’t stick around.

Most of all: don't be cliquey. Life's too short for that nonsense.

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