It’s my first time in Revelstoke, and I’m interrogating our guide, who’s been living here for the last 15 years after a stint in Whistler in the mid 90s. Once we’ve played the “do you know?” name-swap game, I ask him about Revy – how many people, what kind of jobs, how many jobs, what kind of people. “The worst thing that’s happened, since the resort opened,” he says, “is the huge influx of A–”
I’m nodding, thinking he’s about to say “Albertans”, flooding into town flush with oil money and attitude.
But he stops me in my tracks:
The Dutch skiers in our group nod. “They’re all over St Anton, too.” There, they run the Krazy Kanguruh bar, and once a week, a giant kangaroo, replete with tail and beer belly, goes skiing around the mountain, handing out drinks.
Which is why I wasn’t surprised to get home from Revelstoke and read the headlines in the Pique:
Drunk Aussie’s fine goes from $100 to $845. Australian national defied order to pour out a beer, sipping it instead.
The fact that I am conflicted about this kind of behaviour (bloody idiot, how embarrassing, what overkill, is this a police state, ahh, my people, you really know how to escalate a battle with The Man) is precisely why Skier magazine editor Leslie Anthony thought it would be so funny to have me write a feature about last Aussie Day in Whistler, aka Whistralia. Especially after I pitched it to him like this:
When the Colonials go A-colonising. Aussie ski culture is apparently so insignificant that it’s THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD that Leslie Anthony didn’t include in his new book White Planet. But are the Kashmiris buying up ski resorts around the globe? Do the Kiwis take their colonised status and begin colonising other lands? Perisher Blue gets 900,000 skier visits a year, which is insane for anyone who’s experienced a High Country storm system. “Those Aussies are hardy,” says one former Big White staffer. They’re also, arguably, uncultured and obnoxious. So what happens when they descend in hordes on little ski towns like Big White, Silver Star and Hakuba in Japan, (in 5 years, the number of Australian tourists in Niseko went from 4,850 to 73,000), buying up real estate, staffing the resort’s frontlines, and flooding the lift-lines, with their annoyingly perky currency. Look, I’m as embarrassed of them as you are. But I can speak the language. And I think it’s only fair to give them a chance to explain themselves. Oi, Aussie. What the fuck are you up to? Oi? Oi? Oi?
I didn’t reconcile my conflictedness researching and writing that story. (Mate, you’re not a local just because you’ve lived in Whistler for two seasons. Would it kill you to try and blend in just a little bit? Ahh, what’s so wrong with good-natured displays of national pride?)
But Canada, come on. Your repressive regulations around alcohol (government monopoly on sales, consumption totally banned in any public places, highest excise tax in the world) is straight out of Prohibition and about 100 years out of date.
* Update (April 9 2011) * Terry David Mulligan has joined the cause: he’s currently planning acts of civil disobedience to protest the archaic Importation of Intoxicating Liquor Act which clamps down on modern bootleggers and rum smugglers by making it illegal to cross a provincial border with wine, beer or spirits. Ah, I feel so much safer now.