Exhibit Opening Tuesday

One of the larger donations to the archives in 2020 was a collection of materials from the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, charting its evolution from the 1990s to the 2010s. That donation forms the backbone of our next temporary exhibit, looking at the history of Pride in Whistler.

We will have extended hours for the opening evening of Pride & Progress on Tuesday, January 25 from 6 – 9 pm and will be open 11 am – 5 pm on Wednesday, January 26. The exhibit will run through April 19. We hope to see you there!

A Look Back at 2021 for the Whistler Museum

The year 2021 was one of fluctuation for the Whistler Museum. With a few COVID restrictions on occupancy and mask mandates, we were able to keep our exhibits open to the public six days a week throughout the year.

Over the course of 2021, the museum welcomed 6,513 exhibit visitors. This is an increase of 28 per cent over 2020, but still down 55 per cent over pre-COVID numbers in 2019. In addition to exhibit visits, we also held several events and programs online and outside the museum, which attracted approximately 13,232 people. In total, the museum provided direct services to approximately 19,745 individuals. We also had increased traffic and interactions throughout 2021 on our social media accounts including Instagram, YouTube, and our online Whistorical blog.

Offering online programs has led us to new ways of putting together programs, such as filming craft tutorials to accompany craft packages.

Our popular Speakers Series was delivered completely online in 2021. These events shifted from in-person events held at the museum to 20-minute mini-documentaries that were streamed live to an online audience and followed by a Q&A with the speakers. The first of these was with Dean Nelson, a longtime organizer of the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, exploring the history and evolution of Pride in Whistler, including Pride House during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the first such LGBTQ+ space at an Olympic Games. Our next discussion was on the history of journalism and publishing in Whistler and featured speakers Paul Burrows (founder of the Whistler Question), Charlie Doyle (co-founder of the Whistler Answer), Bob Barnett (co-founder of Pique Newsmagazine), and Clare Ogilvie (then-editor of Pique Newsmagazine).

Our third Speaker Series event looked back at one of Whistler’s most endearing races, the Great Snow Earth Water Race that was held form 1975 to the mid 1990s. Race organizer Bryan Walhovd was accompanied by race participants from the first year of the race including Trudy Alder, Nancy Greene Raine, and Joe Csizmazia. Recordings of these Virtual Speaker Series events can be found on the museum’s YouTube Channel and on our social media platforms.

As we were not able to host many of our in-person family programs, we also adapted these to be delivered remotely. Our popular Crafts in the Park program continued as a video series and was developed by our summer programming student. Each video explored an aspect of Whistler’s history and was accompanied by a craft that families could complete at home. This program was presented in partnership with the Whistler Public Library.

Developed at the end of 2020, our Kids Après Activity Booklet was designed to replace our in-person Kids Après program. This activity booklet features colouring pages, mazes, crosswords, and various other activities. The 20-page booklet is still available (for free!) at the Whistler Museum. This program was made possible with funding from the Province of British Columbia.

Our Kids Après Activity Book was developed as part of our 2021 Family Day programming.

In terms of in-person programs, we were grateful to be able to offer our long-running Heritage Walking Tours through Whistler Village (June through September), and our Discover Nature program at Lost Lake Park (July through August). These ongoing programs are staples of our ever-expanding program lineup; they contribute to community and visitor outreach and education that are essential to our mandate.

We are currently developing our program schedule for 2022. We hope to see the return of our Mountain Bike Heritage Week in 2022, as we have been unable to produce it over the last two years. More details on these programs will be available in the coming weeks.

I would like to take a moment to thank our funders and supporters: the Resort Municipality of Whistler; the Province of British Columbia; the Community Foundation of Whistler; Canadian Heritage; British Columbia Museum Association; and our museum members for their continued support over the years.

I would also like to say a special thank you to everyone who has visited our exhibits, attended our events, read our Pique column, followed us on social media, and otherwise helped spread the word about Whistler’s fascinating people and history. Your support helped us make through a very challenging year!

Whistler’s Answers: January 13, 1983

It’s a new year, which means we are on to a new year of Whistler’s Answers!

In the 1980s the Whistler Question began posing a question to three to six people and publishing their responses under “Whistler’s Answers” (not to be confused with the Whistler Answer).  Each week, we’ll be sharing one question and the answers given back in 1983.  Please note, all names/answers/occupations/neighbourhoods represent information given to the Question at the time of publishing and do not necessarily reflect the person today.

Some context for this week’s question: At the end of 1982, the Whistler Village Land Co. was in great financial difficulties. In response, the provincial government proposed to form a new Crown corporation, WLC Development Ltd, to take over the operations of the Land Co. The Crown corporation would also take over the development of the golf course and the Sports & Convention Centre. What this would mean for the province’s involvement in other parts of Whistler’s governance, however, was unclear.

Question: Do you think Whistler will have less control over its affairs following the provincial government’s take-over of the Land Co.?

Ike Elboim – Contractor – Valleau Road

Yes, I think we’ll probably lose a lot of control. I wouldn’t be surprised if the government appointed a provincial representative on council again. They’ll start to have input into things like our Official Community Plan. I think all this should be controlled by the residents of Whistler, not the government.

Peter Gordon – Satellite Salesman – Microwave Road

I believe Mark Angus has the authority not to allow anything like that to go on. The government probably isn’t interested in having any more control than they’ve had in the past unless things start to mess up. They’ll just leave it to Angus and his council I’m certain.

Ed Bezeau – Computer Consultant – Adventures West

Looking at other corporate bailouts there have been recently, I’d say when the government puts money into something it usually wants to get involved. This is probably even truer on the municipal level than any other. I don’t know that they’ll go so far as to suggest zoning bylaws or any details like that.

Making It Snow

For the first decade of operations on Whistler Mountain, an abundance of snow was normal for the ski season. The season of 1973/74 was a record-setting winter, with Whistler Mountain recording a base of just over 5 m in the early spring. After so many seasons, most people had grown to expect Whistler always to have lots of snow. According to John Hetherington, who was working on ski patrol at the time, “We just thought it would go on forever.” Then, just a few years later, it didn’t.

The season of 1976/77 is often described as one of the worst ski seasons Whistler Mountain has ever had. The Whistler Question reported that over the American Thanksgiving weekend, “a few hardy souls went up the mountain to hike up & down either at the top of the red or the ridge behind the top of the blue chair.” By Christmas it had snowed a little bit more and Whistler Mountain was able to open, but skiers had to download by the Red Chair and the gondola. Then, in January 1977, it rained to the top of the ski area and washed away what little snow there was. The lift company closed for the rest of the month and well into February.

The Whistler Question, January 1977.

This complete lack of snow inspired the first attempt at making snow on Whistler Mountain. While today snowmaking is carefully planned, has a large infrastructure, and follows procedures, that was not the situation described by Hetherington and fellow patroller Roger McCarthy. According to Hetherington, “Back then, Whistler was pretty wild and out there and things were pretty loose… Nobody gave a damn what you did on the mountain.” In this case, what ski patrol did was use an entire case of Submagel (the explosive often used in avalanche control) to blow a huge crater in the creek at the bottom of the Green Chair.

They built a dam at one end of the crater, got some pumps, borrowed a snow gun from Grouse Mountain (Grouse had installed the first snowmaking system in British Columbia in 1973), and began making snow to get skiers to the bottom of the Green Chair without having to carry their skis for the last 100 m or so. Once the crater slowly filled, it could support about two to three hours of snowmaking. However, McCarthy recalled that the system was far from perfect: “The challenge was that any time we tried to make snow, it got cold enough to make snow, the water would stop running and stop filling the little creek and we’d end up sucking mud into the pumps. So it wasn’t that successful, but it was the beginning.” Packer drivers were able to spread what snow they did make to form a narrow run to the bottom of the Green Chair, providing some temporarily skiable terrain.

Ian Boyd demonstrates the ins and outs of an SMI snow-making machine capable of producing enough snow to cover one acre one-half inch deep in one hour in 1982. With the addition of more machines and proper reservoirs and infrastructure on Whistler, snowmaking became more common through the 1980s. Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

This first attempt at making snow signalled a shift in thinking as the lift company was forced to realize that they would not always get the snow there were used to. In 1981, Sandy Boyd was hired as Gondola Area Coordinator for the lift company and, already having experience with snowmaking, Boyd brought more snowmaking to Whistler through the 1980s. Today, as the questions of snowfall and the impacts of climate change on Whistler are never far from mind, snowmaking is an important part of mountain operations and it is not uncommon on a clear night to see the snowguns at work on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.