My husband bought me a tshirt that says, “Work is forever. Snow isn’t.”
Manifestees are a fashion staple in ski towns, and The Escape Route’s “Quit work, buy some stuff, go somewhere, have some fun” is an ethos the store has been promoting for 20 years.
When I talked to owner, Jayson Faulkner, about the store’s 20 year history, for this Mountain Life story, he remembered fielding angry phone calls from upstanding citizens, reaming him out for his lack of civic responsibility.
But Faulkner practiced what he preached, and he considered the message a public service announcement. He’d found himself at those crossroads before opening the store and is walking proof that if you follow your heart, the path will open up.
“I was working for a merchant bank in London,” he says, “turned thirty, and had a kind of life crisis.”
The future behind door number one: become a suit.
“I’d read a book that said, choose close to your dream, so I asked when am I happiest? It’s not commuting on the underground. It’s when I’m outside and in nature.”
It had been a couple of years since the BC boy had been to Whistler, so he called up an old schoolmate, who was manager of Canski on Seymour Street in Vancouver, Tom Duguid. “I said, ‘Hey. I have an idea. Are there any outdoor stores in Whistler?’”
“Only the Mountain Shop.”
“Can you get climbing equipment?”
“So here’s my idea. Why don’t we open an outdoor shop?”
They pooled their savings, coming up with about $12,000 each. Borrowed some money from Tom’s mom. And secured the store space.
Then, they faced their next hurdle. They had no stock. And they had no idea where to get any.
“There was no outdoor retailer trade show. There were hardly any reps. You bought out of a catalogue. Then fortunately, a month before we opened, a shop in Squamish, the Alpine Shop, owned by Greg Foweraker, was going under. We got word about it. Greg was in Australia climbing. We called him and offered to buy everything in the store. Cash register, racks, stock, everything. Greg was in some trouble, so he said: Sold. We got everything for maybe less than 25c on the dollar. We had one or two of everything, so if you sold one item, there was just a bare spot on the wall. And we didn’t know where to get new stock.”
They bullshitted their way into becoming Patagonia dealers – going through old catalogues and calling up to place orders. Says Patagonia HQ, “We don’t actually have you on file.” Answer: “Really? Well, we’re your dealer here in Whistler.”
Every year, the store serves people who are reinventing themselves. Like the 40-something senior VP of a major Toronto brokerage who had a heart attack at work.
“As they were pulling him out to load him into the ambulance, they pushed someone else into his chair so they wouldn’t lose any trades.” Cue ephipany. “He thought: well what the fuck am I doing here if I am that replaceable.”
He quit work. He and his wife moved to Whistler. He came into the store, utterly stoked because he’d just been hired on at the mountain as a liftie.
“There are a lot of stories like that,” Faulkner reminisces about 20 years in the business. “It’s one of the things I love about Whistler. It’s part of our mojo.”
It’s the place people come to find themselves. For the first time. Again. Reinhabiting their skin.