Speaker Series: Canoeing the Horton River

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In July 1991 four adventurous souls completed a three week canoe trip on the Horton River in the Northwest Territories. Among them was long term local and President of the Whistler Museum board, John Hetherington, as well as Whistler Ski Patrolman Pat “Dago” Coulter.

The Horton River is one of the most remote rivers in North America, though it deserves great renown. The river has several distinct features: it empties into the Arctic Ocean at a point further north than any other mainland river in Canada, it runs alongside the Smoking Hills (it broke through the Smoking Hills to Franklin Bay around 1800AD, cutting off the last 120 kilometres of river), and it is now in the process of creating a new delta.

The four expeditioners experienced a snowstorm in July, a close encounter with a grizzly, several caribou, coils of smoke from the Smoking Hills, and barren tundra (among other things). Hetherington reminisces: “For the last week of the trip we paddled through the night by the light of the midnight sun, to avoid the strong daytime winds. At the Arctic Ocean we walked to an old DEW Line station, watched icebergs drift by, and had a huge caribou herd migrate by our campsite.”

As part of the Whistler Museum Speaker Series, John Hetherington will be sharing photographs and stories from this remarkable adventure. The event, “Canoeing the Horton River,” will take place on Wednesday, February 18th, from 7 to 9pm (doors are at 6pm) at the museum. Tickets are $7 each ($5 for museum members) and can be purchased by telephone or in person from Whistler Museum. There will be a cash bar and complimentary tea and coffee.

Anyone interested in the Canadian Arctic, canoeing, adventure sports, or anything to do with the Canadian wilderness should not miss this one.

Kids Après

Our popular Kids Après is back for Family Day Weekend, February 7th to 9th from 3-6pm. This is a great chance to bring your youngsters by the museum to experience a bit of culture, colouring, button-making, LEGO, and more. Entry is always by donation. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

We’ll also be holding Kids Après everyday during March Break this year. Hope to see you and the kiddies joining in on the fun!

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Plans for Lost Lake: Then and Now

By guest blogger, Diana Caputo

In 1980 Alta Lake Sports Club compiled a proposal to build cross-country ski trails in the Lost Lake area. At that time cross-country skiing was on the rise and was already a major sporting activity, with many competitor resorts progressing with new terrain for the sport.

The goal of the initial idea was to offer cross-country ski trails suitable for a variety of purposes; the Floodlight run was designed for evening skiing, and runs to support competitions were in the works. It was important to provide grooming and separate hiking trails in winter but also attract hikers, walkers and runners in summer.

The network of trails proposed were split into three areas:

  • School Ground to Lost Lake
  • Northwest of Lost Lake
  • High plateau north of Lost Lake
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Proposal for the Construction of Crosscountry ski trails in the Lost Lake Municipal Park, 1980.

The proposal went ahead, although not to the exact specifications. So what has been changed and what is it like today?

Comparing the two maps we can see traces of the original proposed trails in the current landscape; however, today Lost Lake offers much more than originally envisioned. Even the cross-country ski trails boast a wide range of skill-levels. Although the former idea of the Floodlight run is not as originally intended, there are currently four kilometres of lit trail constructed for night skiing. Besides that, there are many snowshoe and Nordic hiking trails provided in winter; although, on the down side, winter walkers are not permitted nowadays.

As soon as the snow hits, it is quite busy on the Lost Lake trails. Unfortunately, the snow conditions over the last two years have been less than ideal, which has caused delays for opening day. Because of this recent pattern of reluctant snowfall, the Municipality of Whistler is considering installing snowmakers to avoid delays in the coming years.

In summer the Lost Lake Park provides much more than planned back in 1980. Lost Lake attracts hikers, runners, dog-walkers, and bikers, with its great multi-use trail network. Lost Lake even offers a disc golf course, sandy beaches, docks, and BBQ areas. Not a bad place to spend your summer days.

[Click to view summer map]

Lost Lake Park also offers cross-country ski, snowshoe, and bike rentals, as well as lessons, and guided tours of the area. I can’t stress enough how enjoyable and impressive the park is in both summer and winter. We’re fortunate to have such a place here in Whistler.

The Post Office Post

This morning I woke up to beautiful, massive snowflakes falling over Whistler, and a substantial layer of powder already formed on the ground. It’s days like these that entice me to look through our archive for some old photographs of deep snow. Our collections are full of such pictures, and today I found a few especially endearing ones of Whistler’s first post office (covered in snow, of course).

Post office and store at Rainbow Lodge, 1914 or 1915. Verso reads "First winter, 1914-1915." Philip Collection.

Post office and store at Rainbow Lodge, 1914 or 1915. Verso reads “First winter, 1914-1915.” Philip Collection.

Before the PGE Railway ran to Whistler (then Alta Lake) in 1914, mail was sent and delivered by people passing through the valley to and from Vancouver – a less than reliable system. The completion of the railway made way for many conveniences such as mail delivery. In anticipation for the PGE Railway, Myrtle and Alex Philip (proprietors of Rainbow Lodge, Whistler’s very first resort lodge) included a post office in a small alcove in the lodge, and the office was later moved to their newly built general store. Myrtle became Alta Lake’s first postmaster in 1915, and she would often wake up before dawn to collect the mail packet from the train.

Myrtle Philip and her dog standing outside the post office, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Myrtle Philip and her dog standing outside the post office, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Although the progress of the PGE allowed for a more reliable mail delivery service, there was still one major issue; the first post office address was Summit Lake, B.C., which was often confused with another Summit Lake in the province. Thus, mail was frequently sent to the wrong destination. This conflict immediately prompted a name change to “Alta Lake, B.C.,” which made delivering and receiving mail a little more consistent.

Post office with Christmas tree, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Post office with Christmas tree, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

In the beginning, mail came in on all trains, four times per week. On Monday and Thursday the mail came direct from Vancouver. On Wednesday and Saturday it came from Vancouver via Ashcroft and Lillooet and was usually a lighter load. The PGE had a mail car with a mail attendant on the train. Everyone in town gathered at Rainbow on mail days to collect their mail, pick up their newspapers, and of course, socialize.

Myrtle Philip remained postmaster for almost 40 years. In 1948, after Alec and Audrey Greenwood purchased Rainbow Lodge, the position fell to Audrey.

Photo from the Archive: Alex Philip shoveling snow, ca. 1965

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I have a feeling most viewers are envious of this mass amount of snow from approximately 50 years ago! “Hey Alex, ‘mind transferring some of that to the future over here?” I love looking through old photographs from our archive and noticing the changes in landscape and weather that are apparent. I especially love pictures like this that showcase some of our earliest pioneers and their Whistler lifestyles—and not without subtle humour, of course.

This photograph shows Alex Philip in his later years. Alex was the co-founder of Whistler’s first resort, Rainbow Lodge, and is also known for being an author of romance novels. Click here to learn more about the life of pioneer Alex Philip.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@ whistlermuseum) for more short bursts of history and weekly photographs from our many collections.

Dave Murray: Whistler’s First Home-Grown Hero

Dave Murray is one of the most well-known names and highly adored athletes in Whistler’s history. Thought of as Whistler’s very first home-grown hero, Murray grew up skiing on Whistler Mountain, and is originally from Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Murray had a late start in his ski Dave-Murray-ACCESS-WMA_P95_006_027_Murrayracing career, as he didn’t start racing seriously until he was 16 years old. This, of course, did not stop him from achieving great professional heights. In 1974, at 21 years old, Murray became a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. He spent the following eight years as a founding member of the Crazy Canucks, the downhill team that captured our hearts in the 1970s and 80s with their “crazy” racing style. In Murray’s best season (1975-76) he had four top-ten finishes. In 1979, he was overall Canadian Champion and was ranked third in the world in downhill. He also represented Canada at the 1976 and 1980 Olympic games.

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The Crazy Canucks.

After 10 years on the competitive ski racing circuit Murray retired to become the director of skiing at Whistler Mountain, as well as the organizer and lead instructor of the summer ski camps. In 1984, the name of Whistler’s most popular summer ski camp was officially changed to Atomic Dave Murray Whistler Summer Ski Camp, and its fame grew to attract many skiers from Europe and Japan. Murray also organized masters ski racing for adults (an idea he imported from Europe).

Stephanie Sloan, ca. 1980.

Stephanie Sloan, ca. 1980.

On Tuesday, October 23rd, 1990, Dave Murray passed away after battling skin cancer. He was just 37 years old, leaving behind his wife and best friend Stefanie Sloan, and daughter Julia Murray. Stephanie was a pioneer in freestyle skiing and a world champion, and Julia became a member of Canada’s Ski Cross Team, and competed at the 2010 Olympics. Both continue to call Whistler home.

Dave Murray had a major influence on the world of ski racing, but perhaps what is most inspirational about his story is that he had a genuine love for skiing. His free time was spent free skiing. He took any chance he could get to explore and carve down obscure, off-piste runs, exuding pure joy on his descends. “It’s that unbelievable sense of freedom you get when you’re free-falling through the powder,” he tells friend Michel Beaudry. “It’s like nothing else on earth.”

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A Woman Ahead of Her Time: The Original Sightseeing Gondola Rider

Nowadays you don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy the fantastic vistas that Whistler Blackcomb has to offer. Non-sliders are very welcome to enjoy the thrill of riding the lifts and, of course, the spectacular experience of the Peak to Peak gondola. The summer months are packed full of sightseers and hikers, but it is not uncommon in winter for people to ride the gondolas “on foot,” and there is even a special ticket price for this kind of sightseer.

Parking lot and gondola at Creekside base, ca. 1980. Whistler Mountain Collection.

Parking lot and gondola at Creekside base, ca. 1980. Whistler Mountain Collection.

However, in the early days of Whistler Mountain, the “on foot” visitor had not been thought of. A middle-aged woman pioneered the concept in the 1960s. She arrived at the base of the Creekside gondola (the only gondola at that time) wearing her snow boots and a fur coat, and asked to purchase a return ticket. She took her place in the line-up and proceeded up the mountain to the dismay of the staff, who were quite taken aback by this passenger without skis. When she alighted from the gondola she calmly proceeded to the chair lift. The operators were extremely confused, but dutifully stopped the lift to allow her to sit down comfortably. Once the chair had started up they realized that disaster might be looming when the chair reached the ski-off ramp as the sightseer had no skis to ski-off with! They hurriedly called the top station operator so that he was forewarned, and he too stopped the lift so that the unorthodox rider could descend from her perch in comfort.

Creekside Gondola, 1966. Whistler Mountain Collection.

The woman was completely unruffled and she chatted amiably with the staff about how much she had enjoyed the ride, the beautiful mountain views, and watching all the skiers. She then enquired as to where the T-bar was located! The idea of the fur-clad woman skidding up the slope on her snow boots must have crossed the lift operator’s mind as he pointed towards the T-bar bowl. The woman blinked and said, “No, I mean the tea bar, I was told there was a tea bar up here and I would like a nice cup of tea!”

Much laughter ensued from both the staff and the woman herself when the misunderstanding was revealed. In hindsight however, we must admire the woman as being ahead of her time. These days it’s perfectly normal to ride the lift without skis and enjoy a nice cup of tea in the Roundhouse.