Basking in Canadian Pride- a Journey through my Research on Sustainable Tourism at Whistler Mountain.

For as long as I remember, Whistler’s been my favorite place on earth.  Everything about this Canadian ski resort town amazes me: the mountain, the community vibe, and the incredible landscapes, it’s all so perfect. But through the years, tourism has exploded and a new wave of international guests have taken over the village. For this reason, I’ve chosen to study mountain resort sustainability for what is, without a doubt, the most significant course of my Master’s Degree. Keeping Whistler beautiful is important to me, and studying the literature on how to ensure the area’s ecological integrity is essential for an industry that has helped turn British Columbia into a world class ski destination.


(all of the pictures were taken by me, 2016)

Redefining questions


Focusing my study on a few specific questions was my first challenge. Having never conducted a research of this magnitude, I was unaware of the amount of pages and time it would have actually taken to analyse all five of my initial questions- to develop arguments and back them by enough evidence to convince the reader of my points. One of the misconceptions I had about this research paper was that because it would be the longest one I’d ever right, I needed a broad set of many research questions to fill the pages. After an necessary conversation with my supervisor, I understood that a smaller number of well defined questions would be the only way I’d conduct a comprehensive research.




It’s taken me some time to get started, but now that I’ve gathered most of my source papers, I’m confident I’ll begin writing in the next few weeks. I honestly feel like I’ve never truly and properly written a university paper. Most of them so far have been 2000 word reports on specific topics, usually in groups or to be presented in an oral presentation. I’ve always believed I was great at writing research papers on environmental subjects such as sustainable tourism. As I put together my list of sources and begin organising my outline, I realise how much of an armature I am at research: where do I start, how many sources are enough, what if I don’t find exactly it is I am looking for? All these questions have troubled me so far. ‘Maybe I made a mistake in choosing this course?’ is another one I’ve struggled with. But then I take a breath, and remind myself that I’m capable of putting in the work, and so I shall.




It’s been difficult to differ away from peer reviewed journals. While dissertations and other research papers have often popped up, I usually dismiss them as non-credible or unacceptable sources. My issue with everything other than books and journals is that I know, without a doubt, that a large part of my mark will be determined by my choice of credible sources. Because my professors spent so much time talking about the importance of good information, it makes me nervous to trust anything that’s not peer reviewed or published. As I struggle to find specific answers to a few of my research questions, I will begin to look into some of these different types of sources.


A big piece of the puzzle will be a one on one conversation with a staff member at Whistler’s sustainability center. Although I haven’t been able to get a response from anyone at the center, I’m confident that if I stay persistent I will get lucky.




This program has essentially saved my life. The only big problem I’ve had with it is that I’ve just discovered it now, in my last semester of my fourth degree in environmental studies. Looking back, I could have saved entire weeks of research organisation and referencing. In the past, I would bookmark two-dozen articles, keep just as many tabs open, and spend hours (yes, hours) writing my bibliographies for a university paper. Endnote is quick, easy to use, and makes me feel like I have total control over my research paper.




The main issue I’ve had so far has been finding case studies on mountains just like Whistler. A testament to how much of a world class ski resort Whistler has become is the number of papers and case studies that have been written on the mountain. An important problem I could encounter would be that Whistler is the most sustainable ski resort in the world. In this case, I would be comparing and contrasting its strategies with less sustainable mountains and be unable to develop better approaches and recommendations for Whistler. This worst case scenario is possible but unlikely because there will always be something somewhere else is doing better, and as I get closer to the end of my search for sources, I am finding more and more of them on sustainability ideals for resorts such as Whistler.




My thinking has definitely evolved since the beginning of this research. I didn’t initially realise how much Whistler had already invested on sustainable practices. My thoughts were that this project would be simple because I’d have so much in terms of recommendations. Little did I know that since the Olympic games in 2010, the town has taken on a new approach to sustainable tourism management. Situated only a few hours away from Vancouver, a city that is set to become the greenest city in the world by 2020, Whistler’s pride comes from both its natural beauty and its focus on the environment. This has translated into the fact that I myself feel proud to be Canadian, and proud to have a national and provincial government that is dedicated to the environment and sustainability.


To finish …

So many challenges lie ahead. Though I’ve felt slightly overwhelmed, I am confident in my ability to research this topic and present a quality report. Although my initial thoughts were that this would be a simpler task, the fact that I will need to dig deeper into new strategies for Whistler will make this learning experience worth while. I’m looking forward to the struggle of next few weeks.


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