Return of the Slush Cup

Photograph by Greg Griffith.

Photograph by Greg Griffith.

As Doug Larson once said, “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush” – and in this case, we’ll feel like whistling with a ski boot full of slush!

This year marks the return of the infamous Slush Cup, where competitors attempt to clear a massive slush pit. While the origins of the Slush Cup are uncertain, our archives suggest that the event has been a part of Whistler’s history for quite some time.

The Great Slush Cup is one of the closing activities at GO Fest and will be held on Monday, May 19th at Glacier Creek Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain. This seems like a fitting festival ender, as participants are encouraged to “dress to impress” (meaning as outlandish as possible, of course), so everyone will be ready to hit the clubs and after-parties in their swimwear, dinosaur costumes and nude-suits – whichever you prefer!

Find out more about GO Fest and the Great Slush Cup here.

The Bears are Up!

Over the past two weeks, my social media newsfeeds and photo streams have been blowing up with posts and images of bear sightings here in Whistler. Ah, it is that time again, isn’t it? With the first signs of post-hibernation being on the very last day of March when a few Instagram posts of paw prints in stale snow surfaced.

Pioneer Myrtle Philip holding Teddy the bear, 1926. Philip Collection.

Myrtle Philip holding Teddy the bear, ca. 1925. Philip Collection.

With each new bear sighting comes varying emotions: some people feel fear, others joy, and for many uncertainty. Whistler locals love sharing their bear stories, often suggesting that black bears are generally quite harmless to humans. One local, Colin Pitt-Taylor, claims he accidentally cycled into a black bear; Colin leaving the scene unharmed, and the bear leaving seemingly unfazed. Another local and avid golfer, Colin Gower, claims to have come rather close to numerous bears along the Nicklaus North golf course. This is no surprise, as black bears have settled into our golf courses, ski hills and parks (even though they’ve inhabited Whistler long before us humans decided to move in).

Today, most Whisterlites have a high level of respect for bears, and in fact, bears have been held in such high regard as far back as we can trace. Archaeological evidence suggests that bear worship (also known as Bear Cult or Arctolary) may have been a common practice among Neanderthals in the Palaeolithic periods. Bear worship did not stop there. To name a few examples: Celts believed bears to be incarnations of the goddess Artio, the Ainu people of northern Japan considered the bear to be the head of the gods, and First Nations throughout North America honour the bear with costumes, masks and images carved on totems.

Photograph by Michael Allen.

Photograph by Michael Allen.

It is clear that bears have been admired by humans throughout history, but even still, when pioneers came to settle here they began hunting and slaughtering bears, exploring new territory and clearing land for their homes. Grizzlies were virtually exterminated from the Canadian Plains and the western United States, and at this time, bears were generally regarded as human-eating monsters – a much different take on bears than our archaic predecessors might have reasoned.

Thankfully by the twentieth century, public perceptions of bears began to shift. Laws limiting hunting were enacted and residents of national parks realized the importance of coexistence. However, at this time, bears were often used as amusement; tourists would feed them and gather around the centrally located garbage dump to watch as bears fed on our waste.

Bears in the garbage dump (future site of Whistler Village), ca. 1965. Petersen Collection.

Bears in the garbage dump (future site of Whistler Village), ca. 1965. Petersen Collection.

Jump to the present day and we seem to have greatly improved on this coexistence thing. Laws and regulations have been enforced to protect bears, further limiting hunting and keeping our food and waste secured in bear-proof bins and depots. Most Whisterites and visitors have adopted a deep level of respect for our approximate 100 black bear residents, understanding these ursine beauties as independent beings, crucial to our ecosystem.

Alex Philip holds Teddy the bear, 1926. Philip Collection.

Alex Philip holds Teddy the bear, 1926. Philip Collection.

So, should we be frightened by our thick-furred residents as they appear from their long, winter slumbers? Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be killed by a domestic dog, bees or lightning than killed by a bear. In fact, no one has ever been killed by a bear in Whistler. Furthermore, one in 35,000 grizzly bears and only one in 100,000 black bears will kill a human. As Sylvia Dolson and Katherine Fawcett describe in their book A Whistler Bear Story, bears are “gentle, with the capacity to be fierce,” “entertaining and playful, yet capable of killing,” and “your favourite cuddly stuffed animal, morphed into a massive body with sharp teeth and long claws.”

While it is true that most run-ins with bears have proven harmless, it is important to stay safe and know proper bear safety. Visit http://www.bearsmart.com/ for a great resource on how to be bear-smart!

Ironman: Call for Volunteers!

Whistler_Ironman_Canada

Dear 2013 Ironman Volunteers,

The Whistler Museum is once again hosting a run-aid station for Ironman and we need your help!

The event in 2014 will take place on July 27th and we need to get as many people as possible on board to make sure it is a success!

This year’s station will be on the running part of the course on the valley trail East of Blackcomb Way. The shift will be 6pm – midnight. If you can sign up again this year please do. Ironman2013_small As well as contributing to the success of the race, Ironman also donates $1000 to each non-profit that hosts a station. The money will go towards housing and storing the Museum’s archives and artifacts to preserve our history for posterity.

To sign up take the following steps:

Go to http://www.ironman.ca

Click on “Volunteer”
Click here to volunteer
Scroll down the list and find Run Aid Station 10 Shift 2 on Sunday 27th July.
(Make sure you get the right station and shift, else you won’t be volunteering for the museum!)
Check the box beside the name
Go back to the top and Click Sign Up
Populate the screen that appears
Once you have signed up the Museum will contact you and answer any questions that you may have. You have to sign up via the site and not by contacting the Museum directly as all volunteers are required to sign a waiver.

We hope you can volunteer with us!

Many thanks,

Whistler Museum

Must Love Dogs

When I moved to Whistler just over half a year ago, one of the first things I noticed was the abundance of dogs. OK, more like the abundance of big and beautiful dogs. It only makes sense with Whistler’s terrain perfectly suited for those long walks and free-running and hunting days.

Sewall Tapley and dogs, 1918. Philip Collection.

Sewall Tapley and dogs, 1918. Philip Collection.

This, of course, is nothing new. Dogs of all textures and sizes have been a huge part of Whistler since our earliest pioneers decided to settle here. Our archive holds a wealth of early photographs of dogs – some identified and others not.

Binkie on Alta Lake, 1941. Philip Collection.

Binkie on Alta Lake, 1941. Philip Collection.

From these early albumen and gelatin silver prints, it is clear that although considered as family pets, these pooches were more than just companions – they were hunters and guard dogs as well. During the early days of Alta Lake, the local dogs would have been efficient hunters and handy companions for shooing away bears for their owners.

Sam and Louise Betts on a snowy railway track, 1942. With them are dogs Tweed and Sparks. Philip Collection.

Sam and Louise Betts on a snowy railway track, 1942. With them are dogs Tweed and Sparks. Philip Collection.

Today in Whistler, dogs have it made. They are free to roam on some of the most gorgeous hiking trails in the country, spend a day at the doggie spa in Function Junction and – for the tourist dog – relax at one of the many pet-friendly hotels in the valley. Our spoiled furry friends even have their own section devoted to them at Rainbow Park.

Apart from the leisurely dog residents here in Whistler, our vast landscape is also home to highly trained rescue dogs. In 1978, professional patroller Bruce Watt trained Whistler’s first rescue dog. Bruce was enticed to do so after being caught and buried in a heavy avalanche that year. Bruce was then encouraged by Chris Stethem, the Safety Supervisor on Whistler Mountain at the time, to pursue an avalanche rescue dog training program. Bruce did just that, researching and perfecting his methods of training along the way. By 1982 the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) had formed. You can learn more about CARDA and the history of rescue dogs here.

Myrtle Philip sitting with dog and puppies, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Myrtle Philip sitting with dog and puppies, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

While it’s easy to admire the beauty of dogs surrounding us Whistlerites, it is important to understand these creatures as affectionate beings, in need of care and protection. With the recent influx of injured and homeless dogs brought into WAG, the local shelter is in need of donations and adoptions more than ever. This recent article in the Whistler Question Newspaper outlines some of the issues surrounding animal abuse and neglect happening around Whistler, bringing awareness to the fact that we need to teach respect for animals to kids from a very young age.

If you would like to help our local hounds by donating to WAG, click here.

How Flute Got Its Name

Ever wonder how Flute Summit got its name? Well, Piccolo, Flute and Oboe, adopted in 1965, refer to three secondary summits extending southeast from Whistler Mountain. The lowest summit was named Oboe in reference to the instrument with the lowest pitch of the three, the middle summit was named Flute in reference to the instrument with the middle pitch, and of course, the highest summit was named Piccolo in reference to the instrument with the highest pitch.

For other interesting and quick facts, follow the museum on Instagram at http://instagram.com/whistlermuseum.

From Drinks to Whistler

Wandering around the Village late afternoon in March, you would be hard-pressed not to stumble across patrons enjoying a frosty glass of suds in one of the many frequented Après-ski bars here in Whistler.

Ski-après often includes food, music, dancing, socializing, and having a few drinks after a long day of skiing

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

The act of Après-ski originated in Telemark, Norway during the 1880s after a rise in the popularity of Telemark Skiing (named after the region).  At this point recognizable ski-après made a modest entry, first informally in skier’s homes, then in newly developed ski clubs—the inevitable second step of the arrival and growing popularity of skiing [Lund, Morton. (2007, March). Skiing Heritage, 19(01), 5-12]

WORLD CUP WEEK '93 - National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley's

WORLD CUP WEEK ’93 – National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley’s

In 1893, Ski-Après made its way to the Alps with the founding of Ski Club Glarus in Switzerland, one of the first ski clubs in the Alps, and from this point ski-après started to spread through Switzerland, France, Austria, and the rest of Europe. Sometime after the First Winter Olympic games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, the French coined the phrase après-ski.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of 'Canadian' beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of ‘Canadian’ beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

The arrival of Ski-Après to Whistler may have its roots in the arrival of the Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club, whose members (composed of mostly Austrian and German people) started to frequent Whistler during the late 1950s/early 1960s, eventually buying a 5-acre lot in 1962, and building Tyrol Lodge in 1966.

Long time Whistler Local Trudy Alder worked as the caretaker at the lodge from 1968 to 1970. At the time, she considered entertaining lodge guests with spirited ski-après to be as important a duty as clean linens and stacked firewood.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

Ski-après certainly is an important part of socializing in Whistler with many locals and tourists alike gathering around to enjoy a fine wine, a cold pint, and other spirited drinks. Enjoying a glass of intoxicating beverage is nothing new to the valley, and certainly didn’t arrive in the valley with the arrival of the skiers. Whistlers own origin story involves liquor to some extent with John Millar, a trapper who was living in Alta Lake, meeting Alex Philip at the Horseshoe Bar and Grill (a  restaurant owned by Philip) in 1910 on one of his yearly trips to Vancouver. Millar told Alex of Alta Lake’s beauty and excellent fishing, and though inebriated, he got Alex very excited, for Alex had always wanted to run a fishing lodge. Millar was invited to dinner the following night, with Alex and Myrtle making plans for a trip the following summer. In August 1911 they set out on a trip to visit AltaLake, eventually developing Rainbow Lodge and tourism in the Valley.

Rainbow Lodge became the centre of socializing in the valley in the following years, with fine food, dancing, and of course enjoying a few drinks. Alex Phillip was known to partake in a few glasses of suds with guests while they were staying at the lodge, with some guests later becoming good friends

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

These days, Rainbow Lodge no longer stands, and Ski-après is no longer confined to Tyrol Lodge and Dusty’s. There’s no shortage of pubs, clubs, and lounges around WhistlerVillage to provide a wide variety of après experiences. Between the Whistler Brewing Company and the Brewhouse, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a number of Whistler beers after a hard day on the slopes. Looks like Whistler, as per usual, has put a new twist on an old tradition!

Whistler Under Ice: A Look at the Glaciation Effects on Whistler

Earlier this year, Sarah (Executive Director and Curator) and I (Assistant Archivist Trish, here!) went on a ziptrekking adventure. As the wonderfully informative guides toured us around the heights of Fitzsimmons Creek, one of them began explaining how the last Ice Age affected the mountainous terrain that we know and love today.

Immediately intrigued I decided to dig a little deeper into the geology of Whistler – most enchantingly, the effects of glaciation on our town. In short, ice sheets and glaciers are vastly recognizable within Whistler’s topography, as they have essentially shaped our entire landscape. From quarrying out the alpine basins we ski in to producing the series of ridges that define our skyline, ice sheets and glaciers are the key culprits to the rocky grounds and heights we’ve become so familiar with.

Whistler's oldest rocks are found on Fissile Peak

Whistler’s oldest rocks are found on Fissile Peak

Whistler Bowl, West Bowl, Horstman Glacier Bowl, Harmony and Symphony Basins have all been molded into their present states by glaciers that have plucked at the bedrock, while carrying and grinding loose fragments into smaller pieces with the movement of ice sheets. The bowls were all created during the initial stages of the build-up of the Cordilleran ice sheet. The Cordilleran ice sheet periodically covered large parts of North America (including British Columbia) during glacial periods over the last 2.6 million years. Approximately 15,000 years ago, it covered all but the highest peaks of Whistler.

Noticeably, mountain peaks in Whistler range from jagged to more rounded. These physical traits are so interesting in that they can identify the height of the Cordilleran ice sheet. Essentially, a peak that is jagged was above sheet level, whereas more rounded peaks are so because they were under ice. This is endlessly fascinating as you can scan Whistler’s landscape and notice each peak, visualizing the height of the ice that once covered our land.

Blackcomb from Whistler Bowl.

Blackcomb from Whistler Bowl.

A prime example of the ice sheet elevation levels is evident when comparing Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain. Plucked features and striations (effects of glaciation) can be found on the summit of Whistler Mountain (2160m) but not above the Horstman Hut (2252m) on Blackcomb Mountain (2437m). Therefore, the surface of the ice in this area was likely just below Horstman Hut.

Next time you’re wandering about in the valley or ascending in a gondola up Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain, imagine how Whistler would have looked 15,000 years ago. Imagine our ice-filled valley and our jagged mountain peaks peering out from under a massive sheet of ice, while large glaciers pluck at bedrock and carry pieces to new terrain.

1973 aerial of Wedgemount Glacier terminus in lake basin. The trimline marks the former extent of the glaciers circa 1895, with various stages of recession also marked.  Interpretation by Karl Ricker.

1973 aerial of Wedgemount Glacier terminus in lake basin. The trimline marks the former extent of the glaciers circa 1895, with various stages of recession also marked. Interpretation by Karl Ricker.

For an excellent resource on the geology of Whistler, visit http://www.whistlernaturalists.ca/