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- Did you know Whistler once had another ski hill? Ever wondered why you live on Ski Jump Rise? Join John Lee and... fb.me/NHtCLcdj 1 day ago
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Did you know Whistler once had another ski hill? Ever wondered why you live on Ski Jump Rise? Join John Lee and Tom and Beau Jarvis to learn about the Rainbow Ski Hill, a beginner slope where many skiers took their first runs.
Doors open at 6 pm; talk begins at 7 pm.
Tickets: $10 ($5 for Museum & Club Shred members)
This past September we were lucky enough to welcome Paul Burrows, founder of the Whistler Question in 1976, to the museum to talk about the early days of the paper.
The stories he told of The Question then are amazing, but while looking through our collection of oral histories we came across an interview Paul did with Whistler Cable nearly 20 years ago in which he described his early days in Whistler, back when it was still known as Alta Lake.
Paul first arrived in Canada in 1960 on a flight that hopped from London to Scotland to Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland to Toronto. He came west because “that was the place to be” and he and his friends started skiing. It was thanks to some bumps and twists on the mountains that he first met and became friends with members of ski patrol in Vancouver. They soon heard about a new ski area in Alta Lake and in 1965 Paul came up by train to take a look.
The second time he came up he was with a group in a Volkswagen and they brought their skis. It was August. As Paul recalled, “we put our skis on our back and walked up through the trees and we walked right up the west ridge of Whistler and we peered over the edge of Whistler Bowl and then we got to see them building the chairlifts on the Red Chair and cutting the ski runs. So then we skied down and we got mixed up and ended up on a cliff and we got stuck there for a while.” The group did eventually make it down the mountain.
In 1966 Paul returned as a member of the brown-jacketed ski patrol for the season before leaving to work for the ski patrol in Aspen for a year. When he returned he got a job working on the pro patrol alongside Murray Coates and Hugh Smythe. In his words, “It was pretty hairy. We got buried a lot. The safety procedures we used to knock avalanches down and everything else would not be tolerated today. We didn’t even talk about the WCB.”
During this time Paul, like quite a few other “residents” at the time, was squatting. He rented a 15-foot trailer from a place in Richmond for the season for $550 and parked in a lot at the bottom of the mountain. The trailer was put up on bricks, insulation was installed beneath it and plywood was put around it and the trailer became home to six or seven people.
With no electricity or water the wash facilities in the day lodge came in very useful, as did a trusty oil lamp. According to Paul, “I would shut all the doors and windows and you’re in there but the trouble is you keep running out of air. So when you had a party in there in the winter and there were guys in there you kept running out of air. So if you had this little oil lamp cranked up, it was a bit like the miner’s lamp, when the light started to flicker and go out you knew you had to open the door and let some more air in.” Condensation was also an issue in the trailer. Condensation build up could freeze the doors and windows shut and the lamp would then be used to melt one’s way out of the trailer in the morning.
After that season Paul again left Whistler, this time for Grouse and then work in the printing business.
In 1971 Paul married Jane and when she was offered a job teaching in Pemberton the pair moved back to Whistler, staying in their Alpine A-frame until 2000.
We’re starting something new on our blog for this year! Every week we’ll be sharing our own version of #tbt (Throwback Thursday) using photos from the Whistler Question from 1978 to 1985 and, wherever possible, the original captions. When the collection was donated the negatives were very helpfully organized by week, which means we actually know when the photos were taken or published! Some years do have some missing weeks, but what we’ve got we’ll share with you. So, if you’ve ever wondered what this week in Whistler used to look like, read on.
As it’s the beginning of a new year, we thought we’d share some photos from the beginnings of some other years in Whistler’s past. From the mundane to the more historic, we’ve collected a few shots of six new years in Whistler. All photos come from the Whistler Question and were taken or published in the first week of January.
Winters at Alta Lake were a quiet season for the small community without the crowds of summer visitors. Whistler Mountain did not open for skiing until 1966 and until then downhill skiing in the valley was uncommon. Instead winter sports centred on and around Alta Lake. In addition to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sleigh rides, activities that took place on the frozen lake itself were popular within the small community.
With the right conditions skating was a common pastime that could quickly become a community gathering with a bonfire and marshmallows.
In 1924 Sewall Tapley built an iceboat for his daughter Myrtle after she injured her leg. He used a few boards, old skate blades and a sail and thus introduced a new activity to Alta Lake. With a good wind the iceboat could easily outpace the skaters. While the iceboat did have a tiller attached it was not an effective means of steering. Instead, Myrtle recalled, “we’d crash into the snow bank on the other side of the lake, get out and turn it around to get home.” In the 1980s a new generation tried sailing on Alta Lake, this time using “windskiers” which hopefully had much better steering capabilities.
The lake continued to be a community gathering spot for Alta Lake residents through the 1950s and into the 60s. In the January 5, 1960 edition of the “Alta Lake Echo”, the weekly newsletter put out by the Alta Lake Community Club under various named from January 1958 until June 1961, it was noted that “a good crowd turned out Friday night to skate and spectate at Rainbow Rink. Cabin 8 was cosy and warm for the less hardy types and those whose feed would not fit the available skates.” The evening ended with hot dogs and hot chocolate provided by Alex and Audrey Greenwood, then owners of Rainbow Lodge.
The same newsletter also reported on the annual New Year’s hockey game that was postponed “due to poor player condition after New Years Eve. Rescheduled for 2 pm Jan. 2nd, game commenced promptly at 3:30.” On the side of the Alta Lake Amatoors were Frantic Fairhurst (foreward front and centre) and Non Stop Crankshaft, Capricious Croaker, Gummed Up Gow and Fearless Ferguson (all playing defence). The Rainbow Rockets lineup featured Sky Scraper Skip (“centre, right and left, fore and back”), Spud Murphy (“goal defence and generally against Alta Lake making a goal”), Gallopping Greenwood, and GoGetter Gordon.
Despite having fewer players, Rainbow took an early lead that they kept for a final score of 7-1, though the accuracy of the score is questionable. According to the sports report, “before the first half of the first quarter was over the judges retired to the warmth of Cabin 8 and the score was rather hard to keep track of.” Clearly the residents treated this game with the utmost professionalism.
The opening of Whistler Mountain shifted the focus of winter sports away from Alta Lake, though it took only one winter with very little snow to return people to the lakes. According to the Whistler Question, in January 1977 Whistler Mountain closed due to “adverse weather conditions”. Instead skating, hockey and even ice stock sliding kept the community busy.
Today, if the lakes have a safe layer of ice, ice skating and hockey games can still be seen on lakes throughout the valley.
Today we’ll be continuing the story started a few weeks back on the gothic arch huts built by the UBC-VOC. The tale began with the Brew Hut, built with the $30,000 the VOC got as compensation for the materials used to build the Whistler Club Cabin. After using one of two pre-fabricated huts for the Brew Hut, the VOC decided to build its second pre-fabricated gothic arch hut north of Pemberton, near both Overseer Mountain and the Meager Creek Hot Springs.
The VOC had originally planned to construct the hut in early September but when September came they were still waiting on approval from the BC Provincial Government. Conditional approval was granted in late September and the VOC constructed the hut over the Thanksgiving weekend in 1983. During a work hike a couple of weeks prior VOC members had prepared the site for the build and poured the hut foundations.
The hut was named in honour of Julian Harrison, a former VOC President who had perished in a climbing accident in California earlier that year. After construction was completed the Harrison Hut became a huge hit with VOC members. It was a popular destination in both summer and winter due to its location at the north end of the Pemberton Icefield and, of course, its proximity to the hot springs at Meager Creek.
In August 2010 the estimated largest landslide in Canadian history, surpassing even the Hope Slide in 1965, pushed nearly 48,500,000 cubic meters of rocks and debris down Mount Meager. The logging roads the VOC used to access the trail to the Harrison Hut were destroyed.
In 2011 VOC members Ben Singleton-Polster and Christian Veenstra began doing reconnaissance for the construction of a new trail on the geologically stable side of Meager Creek and the Lillooet River valley. This new route to access the hut had two large boulders blocking trail access. The smaller rock weighed approximately ten tons while the larger rock exceeded twenty tons. Jeff Mottershead and other VOC members worked at removing the two large rocks in order to build the trail to the Harrison Hut. For those interested, videos of the rock removal can be found on YouTube here.
Three years later, the VOC Harrison Hut trail opened in 2014. Renovations to the hut were needed and these started the same year. The VOC chose to wrap the entire hut with aluminum siding to protect the wood layer underneath from rot and alpine critters. They also installed solar panels on the hut to use to light its interior.
This concludes our short series on the gothic arch huts of the UBC-VOC. If you’d like to find out more about these and other iconic structures in the backcountry, the Whistler Museum will be releasing a virtual exhibit with the Virtual Museum of Canada in Winter 2018. Keep an eye out for more details.