Samuel Johns, BA (hons)* - University of British Columbia
Consistently ranked as North America's best ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb is held in high regard for its leisure and tourism. Marketed in 2012 as the ultimate 'Wonderground', these mountains are noted as 'places where wonder has struck'. Yet is wonder 'a place or a state of mind? A physical space or a kind of grace?'. With one of the world's most liveable cities - Vancouver - mere hours away, it is no wonder that outdoor enthusiasts flock to Whistler Blackcomb.
Given the recent attention paid in geography to well-being, this case study examines such notions through a local, qualitative lens. Downtown young urban professionals are interviewed regarding their weekend getaways and the notion of urban escapism rapidly arises. To what extent is the lifestyle culture of Vancouver secured by weekend well-being? Is such dualistic living sustainable?
This study presents numerous theoretical and empirical questions, not least stretching the methodological tools of geographical analysis. Participant observation provides insight into practices of urban escapism. Seemingly, Whistler's 'Wonderground' is more complex than first imagined. Its exclusivity and elitism are critiqued, posing the question as to whether this 'wilderness space' is rapidly becoming urbanised. What will this transformation in the 'natural' and social environment mean for well-being?