What do canoeing and powder skiing have in common?

With the beginning of the new year, we have been spending some time looking back at what 2018 brought to the museum (new records, new exhibits and many new donations of artifacts and archival materials!) as well as looking forward to what lies ahead.

Each year January marks the beginning of our annual Speaker Series.  We’re very excited to start off our 2019 series Thursday, January 17 with Highways of the Past: Canoeing the Grand Canyon of the Liard River.

In 1972 Mike Stein and five fellow adventurers filmed their journey on the Liard River, which flows 1115 km through parts of the Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.  Their trip focused on the Grand Canyon, a 30 km stretch of the Liard River containing numerous class IV and higher rapids.  For decades the resulting 16mm film was thought lost, but recently Mike Stein not only found a copy but had it digitized.

Heading through the Liard Canyon, 1972. Photo courtesy of Mike Stein.

Thursday, January 17 Mike Stein will be at the Whistler Museum for the first screening of Highways of the Past and to discuss his own experiences before, during and after the trip.

While looking through a copy of Garibaldi’s Whistler News published three years prior to the trip down the Liard River, I found an article written by another participant in the canoe trip, Jim McConkey.  McConkey came to Whistler Mountain to take up the position of Ski Director in the spring of 1968 and began writing instructional articles about ski techniques for the publication during his first season.  In early 1969, Whistler Mountain received weeks of what he described as “beautiful, deep powder snow.”  This led to “Learning Powder Snow Technique,” an article in which McConkey instructs skiers on the proper way to ski powder.

‘Diamond’ Jim McConkey’s official Whistler Mountain portrait.  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

The article begins by defining true powder snow as “very light snow that flies out from underneath the skis, sometimes bellowing up over the skier’s head.”  Once the skier found the right snow, they also had to ensure they had the right equipment, meaning flexible deep snow skis, with little camber and soft heels.

When the skier was ready to head for the hill, McConkey recommended starting with a long, gently slope to practice the “continuous, flowing motion of linked turns straight down the hill” that is powder skiing.  According to the article, there is no room for traversing a run on a powder day as “traversing like a cautious old woman is Taboo.”

Jack Bright and Jim McConkey skiing Whistler Mountain, 1972 (the same year as the trip).  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

The article ends with hints that still hold up well today, such as “establish a rhythm”, “keep your head and shoulders facing down the fall line,” and “keep your feet locked together.”  Especially useful is McConkey’s last reminder:

Be sure to laugh when you take a giant clobber in the deep snow.  You will get your chance to laugh with your friends when they fall.  Powder snow and clobbers too are for everyone.

We may not be able to promise weeks of powder skiing this January, but you can join us at the museum Thursday, January 17 for a unique look back at an incredible journey from 1972.

Tickets are on sale at the Whistler Museum; $10 or $5 for museum or Club Shred members.  Doors open at 6:30 pm, the talk and film will start at 7 pm.  See you there!

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Whistler Museum: Year in Review

The past year has been one of great exhilaration, vision and accomplishment for the Whistler Museum & Archives Society.  Together with the Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers, the museum continued to advance its mission to collect, preserve, document and interpret the natural and human history of mountain life in Whistler, and broaden our program offerings.

2018 marks the busiest year in the museum’s history, with over 12,800 exhibit visits and an additional 10,600 people partaking in the museum’s many events and programs.  These programs included our long-running Valley of Dreams Walking Tour, which educates guests and locals alike on the pioneer history of the region, tales behind the development of the mountains, and the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.  The tour is currently in its 22nd year and runs daily throughout June, July and August.

Walking tours have been run by the museum for 22 years, making it our second longest running program (beaten only by the Annual LEGO Building Competition).

The museum’s Discover Nature program was another highlight from the past year.  This program, which runs in July and August, included a Discover Nature Station at Lost Lake Park and a nature-based walking tour.  Our friendly interpreters used the touch table items to engage participants and to encourage questions about the marvels of natures.  Participants also had the opportunity to dig deeper into any of our items on display (or things not on display) to discover fun facts about some of Whistler’s local organisms.

Other museum program highlights this year included Kids Après, Crafts in the Park (in partnership with the Whistler Public Library), Nature 101 training seminars, our 3rd annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week, Feeding the Spirit and, of course, our long-running Speaker Series.

Brandywine Falls, now a provincial park, was once the Conroy family homestead and then a bustling resort run by the Gallagher family. Photo: Whistler Mountain Collection

My personal favourite Speaker Series event we held this year was with Julie Gallagher, who grew up at Brandywine Falls, and whose parents Ray and Ruth Gallagher ran a resort in the current location of Brandywine Provincial Park.  After delivering a riveting talk on April 28th, Julie offered to take staff and guests on a walk through Brandywine Falls the following day, describing where many lost structures were located, and even showed us a few remnants of structures just off the main viewing area that I personally have walked past many times but would never have noticed if she had not pointed them out.

One of the major accomplishments of the museum this year was the completion of Coast Mountain Gothic: A History of the Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts, a virtual exhibit with the support of the Virtual Museum of Canada.  This exhibit explores the story, design and construction of Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Huts and the people and organizations who brought them to life.  This was a major endeavour that took over two years to complete and was also the museum’s first fully bilingual exhibit, with all interpretive text available in French.  You can check our the exhibit on our website under exhibits: VMC – Coast Mountain Gothic.

The VOC building the Harrison Hut in October 1983. Photo: Jay Page; UBC-VOC Archives, October 1983.

Given our lack of physical space in our current location, we are glad to have the opportunity to tell Whistler’s stories through our Museum Musings column every week – thanks to the Pique for allowing us to share 52 Whistler narratives in 2018 that would have otherwise been left untold.  We are grateful to everyone who reads our column and attends our events.  Thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you in the new year!

– Brad Nichols, Executive Director

Highways of the Past: Canoeing the Grand Canyon of the Liard

Heading through the Liard Canyon, 1972. Photo courtesy of Mike Stein.

In 1972 Mike Stein and five fellow adventurers filmed their journey on the Liard River, which flows 1115 km through parts of the Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.  Their trip focused on the Grand Canyon, a 30 km stretch of the Liard containing numerous class IV and higher rapids.  For decades the resulting 16mm film was thought lost, but recently Mike not only found a copy but had it digitized.

Thursday, January 17 Mike Stein will be at the Whistler Museum for the first screening of Highways of the Past and to discuss his own experiences before, during and after the journey.

Tickets are on sale at the Whistler Museum.  $10 or $5 for Museum or Club Shred members.

Doors open at 6:30 pm; the talk and film begin at 7 pm.

The Holiday Season in Whistler

The holiday season has always been a hectic time in Whistler, as so much energy is spent welcoming and entertaining guests.  The Village Stroll looks magical at this time of year, with the lights glowing on the trees and the snow falling through the air.

Scanning through our archives, photos from many collections show that Christmas has been a major production in the area dating back to Rainbow Lodge in the 1920s.  Alex and Myrtle Philip, the owners and proprietors of Rainbow Lodge, were renowned hosts and pulled out all the stops at Christmas to entertain visitors and residents around Alta Lake.

Here’s the Rainbow Lodge dinner table, Christmas 1923.  Philip Collection.

While we have only a few photos of the interior of Rainbow Lodge during this era, the Philip Collection includes images of the main lodge with a decorated tree and streamers and the dining room set for Christmas dinner.

Other holiday photos from Alta Lake include the Woods family in the snow with party hats and a New Year’s Eve dance at the community hall (also the Alta Lake School) in 1937.

New Year’s Eve celebrations at the community hall for 1937.  Philip Collection.

Dances at the community hall were remembered fondly by Bob Williamson, a lineman working for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in the 1930s.  As he recalled, “This was the Hungry Thirties.  Not very many locals were earning much money but many pleasant evenings were spent in this hall in the wintertime… The only cost for the evening was to buy the coffee and that was raised by donations of 10 to 25 cents from those who could afford it.  Alex Philip made the coffee in Granitewood Gallon Coffee pots.  It was excellent coffee.”

Season’s Greetings from Whistler Mountain staff, early 1970s.  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

As skiing developed in the valley, winter and the holiday season got busier.  The Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection includes photos of a skiing Santa, ski instructors dressed up as reindeer and Seasons Greetings from Whistler Mountain.

The so-called “ski bums” got into the holiday spirit as well.  Over the past few months Angelus Chouinard has been working on digitizing the complete George Benjamin Collection and we have found some gems showing Christmas dinner being prepared at the first infamous Toad Hall in 1969.

Master Climax Turkey Glory – Christmas Dinner at Toad Hall in 1969!  Benjamin Collection.

John Hetherington, Toad Hall staple, Whistler Mountain ski patroller and current Whistler Museum Board President, reflected fondly on those days:

Christmas at Toad Hall was great… Of course, there was no electricity, so it was just Coleman lanterns and the old ‘Master Climax’ wood stove.  One year we used candles to decorate the Christmas tree.  We only had birthday candles so they burned quick and we had to keep replacing them.  While they were burning it looked amazing, but we were terrified of burning the whole place down.

Many such treasures have been found while digitizing the George Benjamin Collection.  George Benjamin first came to Whistler to ski in 1968 and moved to the area in 1970.  He and John Hetherington co-owned Tokum Corners, a roughly made cabin with no electricity or running water, and lived there with Rod MacLeod into the early 1980s.  George was a semi-professional photographer and, as his family in Ontario owned a photo-finishing business, was able to develop his photographs for free.  There are over 8000 images included in the George Benjamin Collection, spanning from his first visit in 1968 to 1991.

To view more of the photos mentioned here, check out our Smugmug page here and keep an eye out for more photos from the George Benjamin Collection to be added in the New Year!

We hope everyone enjoys their holiday season and wish all of you a Happy New Year!

This Week In Photos: December 27

This may be the last week of This Week In Photos but there are many more photos from 1978 – 1985 that we haven’t yet had a chance to share with you.  Take a look here to see them all (assuming you have a few spare days)!

1979

7 dwarfs from left to right: Eric Bredt, Martin Elmitt, Duncan Maxwell, Richie Bridgewater, Alistair Crofton, Clint Logue, Serap Graf, Kelly McKay is Snow White.

Simon Beller consults with Santa at the Christmas Concert.

Representatives from Men’s Club Magazine of Japan who toured Whistler on Thursday with hostess Gail Palfreyman on right.

Community Club Christmas Carol singers on Saturday. From left to right: Andrew Roberts, Melanie Busdon, Clare Jennings, Rachel Roberts, Jessica Wilson, Sara Jennings, Roger Systad, Christopher Systad, Bishop children, Duncan Maxwell.

The Sabey house in Emerald still smoulders in the rain.

1980

At the Myrtle Philip Christmas Concert – a rousing chorus of Robin Hood’s followers…

… and a portion of the school choir.

Neil Roberts and Gordon Turner dispense flapjacks and sausages to the children at the Christmas breakfast at the school.

The new additions to the Whistler Brownie Pack.

1981

The latest in practical fashion. Meg Davies shines in her new plastic bag… compliments of Blackcomb. Well, at least it keeps you dry no matter what.

The finish line for the Subaru Pro Series held on Blackcomb Mountain this past week.

Jamie Kurlander accepts congratulations from Mayor Pat Carleton after winning both races in the Subaru Pro Series.

Charlie “The Scribe” McClain presents Al Davis and Geoff Hesthemer with plaques over their dead bodies.

1982

Excited skiers head up the Village lifts…

… while these two are all smiles as they find a different way down Whistler Mountain.

The Whistler Singers perform…

… and are joined for an impromptu dance performance by some of the younger audience members.

From Whistler to California: An Archival Mystery Solved

Working at a museum or archive can be a bit like being a detective.  Piecing together evidence to solve historical puzzles, you often uncover connections between people and places you’d never expect.  I’ve learned this well in my first two and a half months as Archival Assistant at the Whistler Museum and Archives.

One of the first collections I looked at in my new role was a donation of nearly 500 photographic slides from longtime Whistler resident Karen Blaylock.  Most of them provided a wonderful glimpse of the area in the late 1960s and 1970s.  Some of the photos, however, were taken well outside the valley.  As these slides don’t fit within our collections policy, they had to find new homes.

This was the case with about 70 slides depicting a very un-Whistler-ish scene: a theme park with orca whale shows, hoop-jumping tigers, elephant rides and more.  These were most likely from a family vacation to California.  But where exactly were they taken, and who should they be donated to?

This picture provided the clue needed to identify this California theme park. Courtesy of the San Mateo County Historical Association.

The answer came – as it usually does in these archival mysteries – in a well-hidden clue.  On closer examination, I noticed that one of the slides showed a water skiing jump with the words “Marine World/Africa, U.S.A.” on its side.  A quick Google search revealed that there was once a tourist attraction by this name in Redwood City, San Mateo County, California.  Bingo!

With a bit of further research, I found out that this park had a colourful past rivaling Whistler’s in its heyday.  Marine World opened in 1968 as a small zoo/aquarium on land reclaimed from San Francisco Bay.  It went bankrupt after only four years, but was purchased by Resorts International, owner of an animal-training facility known as Africa U.S.A.  It soon reopened under a joint name and the park wowed residents and guests of Silicon Valley throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.  Draws included water-skiing elephants, rock concerts, safari raft rides, a fake mountain with 50-foot-tall water slides, a dolphin named Mr. Spock and a one-horned goat marketed as a ‘unicorn’.  Possibly the craziest stunt took place after the park’s move to Vallejo in 1986 – Star Trek actor William Shatner rode a killer whale to raise money for wildlife conservation.  The relocated Marine World/Africa U.S.A. eventually became today’s Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

Now that I knew where the slides were from, I could search for a museum that might want them.  This turned out to be the San Mateo County Historical Association (take a look here).  I contacted the Archival Collections Specialist and emailed her scans of the slides.  They were unanimously accepted at the Historical Association’s monthly collections committee meeting.

At the time of writing this article, the slides have completed their nearly 2,750 km journey from Whistler to California.

I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to connect this little piece of history with its wider context and I can’t wait to see what other discoveries await me at the Whistler Museum and Archives!

Holly Peterson is the Archival Assistant at the Whistler Museum and Archives.  She is here on a Young Canada Works contract after completing the Museum Management and Curatorship program at Fleming College (Peterborough, Ontario).

For more accounts of Marine World/Africa U.S.A. in its heyday, take a look here, here or here!

This Week In Photos: December 20

Somehow, we’ve only got one more week of This Week In Photos left after this one.  Though the year seems to have passed alarmingly quickly, we’ve really enjoyed sharing photos from The Whistler Question with you each week.  Be sure to take a look through past weeks – you never know if there’s something (or someone) you missed!

1978

The season’s first skiers lining up to buy tickets on Friday.

One of the first gondolas full of skiers to go up the mountain this year.

Santa is surrounded by children at the school concert.

Betty Shore shares a joke with Santa after the concert.

1979

The ruler measures 28 cm! After the storm on Thursday, December 13, before it turned to rain.

At the Ski Club Benefit Evening, a smiling group enjoys themselves…

… and auctioneer Paul Burrows looks for bids on a Salomon cap.

Roger McCarthy gets into some deep snow on the side of Dad’s Run.

Mechanical failure causes the School Bus to go off the road last week – there were no children on board.

4:30 PM at the Husky intersection on a busy, snowy evening.

1980

An unusual sight on Whistler – aerial view of skiers lining up at the mid station loading on the Green Chair – Friday, December 19.

Latest aerial view of Whistler Village – December 19, 1980.

Santa’s helpers pass out goodies at Signal Hill School in Pemberton.

After a dramatic arrival by helicopter, Santa is mobbed at the Rainbow Ski Village Saturday as he tries to distribute candy canes.

New sign at the entrance to the Village has proved very helpful to both visitors and residents. The only problem is the wrong spelling of Whistler’s first lady – it should be Philip.

Big puddle formed quickly at the northern entrance to Blackcomb Estates after rain started and warm temperatures melted the past week’s heavy snowfall.

1981

Make-up time for moms and dads and kids before curtain call for the Myrtle Philip School play.

Owner Dick Gibbons (left) and designer Gilbert Konqui lend a hand getting the Longhorn ready for action. Located in Carleton Lodge in the Village, the 250-seat restaurant is ready to serve you a drink and a quick, hot meal.

Hats off to Peter’s Underground. Peter Skoros and crew gave a tip of the old hat at the lively opening of Peter’s Underground Sunday, December 20. Cordon Rouge, prime rib and a roomful of laughter highlighted the evening. Located under Tapley’s, Peter’s Underground promises good food at very reasonable prices 21.5 hours a day (open 6 am – 3:30 am) seven days a week.

Gerry Frechette gets a hand fro Sylvan Ferguson in erecting the parking meter stand.

1982

No, this young man is not a practitioner of the latest foot fetishes. He’s fitting WMSC General Manager Peter Alder with a new pair of boots from McConkey’s Ski Shop. (By the way, Peter’s old boots were just that – old. They fastened with laces.)

Nick Gibbs, Stoney’s chef, went all out with his culinary talents and produced this appetizing creation from a 40 lb. salmon donated by the Grocery Store. It was part of a huge “indoor picnic” for participants in the All Cal Winter Carnival.

Susan Christopher helps a sheep into costume before the school play.

Publisher Paul Burrows and his wife Jane prior to a well-earned visit to the Caribbean.

1984

Michele Bertholet is the head chef at Pika’s (pronounced Peeka’s), Whistler Mountain’s new restaurant adjacent the Roundhouse. The facility, which is licensed to seat 400 persons, had its official opening Friday. The 8,300 sq. ft. restaurant, designed by architect Lee Bruch and engineer Jon Paine, cost about $600,000 to construct including more than $150,000 in kitchen equipment. Bertholet and his staff will now be able to provide freshly baked pastries, rolls and buns daily as well as hearty meals such as Baron of Beef and chilli. As well, the new restaurant features a custom sandwich bar. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation named the restaurant Pika’s, a small rock rabbit commonly found through the high alpine regions of North America, after a contest that drew 300 entries. Whistler residents Ms. Lori Mitchell and Mr. Peter Pritt were the winners and will split the grand prize so that each will receive $100 as well as a $50 gift certificate from Dusty’s Cantina. Coincidentally, the name also fits a former mountain resident of a slightly larger form: Jessica Hare. Jessica lived in Whistler Mountain’s alpine residence for four of her five years and gained the nickname Pika.

The North Shore Community Credit Union moved across the square to its new 1,300 sq. ft. premises Sunday. The bureau, an 8,500 fund safe and other banking equipment had to be moved by truck from the old location to the new. Carpenters and electricians worked nearly around the clock Sunday and Monday to be ready for business as usual Tuesday. They made deadline.

Sunshine Jim entertained about more than 100 Whistler youngsters Saturday afternoon before the kids were visited by Santa Claus. Sunshine Jim sang a series of songs including Scooter the Car and Porky the Raccoon who, even though traditional enemies, became friends. The event was sponsored by the Alta Lake Community Club and was held in the Myrtle Philip School lunchroom.

Five-year-old Paul Vance shares Santa’s knee with his brother, six-month-old John.