A Hike to Russet Lake with Dick Fairhurst

While some may lament August as the end of summer, it is primetime for alpine hiking. The winter snowpack is completely gone (or nearly so) bugs are becoming less of a bother, and crowds are starting to diminish.

This week we’ve decided to share a series of photographs that were in s photo album belonging to local pioneer Dick Fairhurst. The photo album contains dozens of beautiful images presumably taken by Dick of the Alta Lake valley and surrounding mountains, in winter and summer.

We will likely share more of these images on this blog in the future, but for now we are posting a series of images from a hike he took to the Russet Lake area, likely in the early 1960s.

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Enjoying the view of Black Tusk (back right) from the Singing Pass area.

 

With ski lifts up on Whistler Mountain still several years away, the main access-point to Russet Lake was via the historic Singing Pass trail up the Fitzsimmons Valley. Even though the area had been part of Garibaldi Park for at least a half century, it seems like the “no dogs” rule had not come into effect yet (or simply wasn’t enforced) as Dick and his hiking partner brought along two canine companions.

 

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Taking a break on the shores of Russet Lake.

 

At this point there was still no formal campsite or mountaineer’s hut at Russet Lake (the Himmelsbach Hut was completed in 1968), but the prospector’s cabin in Singing Pass was still standing. Without a photo of their campsite, we can’t be sure if they stayed at the cabin or pitched a tent elsewhere.

 

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Hiking around Russet Ridge, close to Adit Lakes. The flanks of Fissile Mountain are visible to the left.

 

Overlord glacier

Hiker standing on the lower Overlord Glacier. Adit Lakes are visible below the clouds on hte right-hand side.  

 

 

 

whirlwind view

Hiking above Russet Lake, near where the first instalment from the Spearhead Huts Project is set to be built, perhaps starting summer 2017. The flanks of Fissile Mountain are visible to the left, with Whirlwind Peak at back right. 

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On the summit of Fissile Mountain, with sections of the McBride Range and the heart of Garibaldi Provincial Park off in the distance. Check the feather in that cap!

 

Today, Russet Lake is a very popular hiking and camping destination, which can be accessed via the Singing Pass trail or over the Musical Bumps from Whistler Mountain. Next time you’re planning an alpine hike around Whistler, consider following in Dick Fairhurst’s footsteps!

Wrapping up Crafts in the Park

Last Friday the Museum wrapped up it’s Crafts in the Park event that it teams up with the Whistler Library for. The event has been running for … Every year we are given a different theme to base all the crafts off of and this year’s was “How do you connect to Whistler”.

This year we ran it for a total of seven weeks and included a different craft every week. Week one had the kids making foam bear masks because nature and especially the bears are very important to Whistler. Week two was a special week because the Museum teamed up with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center to talk about the importance of the Indigenous history of the area as well as make cedar rope bracelets. Week three was a cardboard tube train engine because one of the first ways to efficiently get into Whistler was by railway. Week four we talked about the Olympics because they were so important for the development of Whistler into what it is today, so the kids made clothespin skiers. The following weeks the kids made screen printed t-shirts from scratch, a pipe cleaner mountain bike and bridge as well as a mini version of the Peak to Peak.

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Some of the mountains kids made in our last week of Crafts in the Park

The Museum had a lot of success with each week and kids really enjoyed themselves each time. Kids were able to be really creative and we saw a lot of great crafts from the kids every week. Each week varied in attendance but on average we had between 20 and 30 children show up each week and had a lot of fun meeting and hanging out with everyone.

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Two of our Crafts in the Park participants showing off their creations

Each week our summer student Michaela would start off the event with a bit of history as to why each craft was chosen and how they related to Whistler and then Kristina from the Library would read a book to the kids after which everyone would participate in the craft together. Sometimes our helpers would even participate along with the children so everyone involved had lots of fun. We even had a couple of kids who consistently came every single week!

This event was a lot of fun for everyone involved, the people who made it possible by helping out, the parents of the kids who came, and of course the kids themselves. The Museum loves putting this event on every year and we cannot wait to do this again and again because we have received a lot of praise from parents grateful to have something artistic for their children to participate in and making something that brings kids and the community together. The children loved getting to make different things with their friends and the help of their family.

Whistler’s First Mountain Bike Race

This summer, as we made our way through digitizing the Whistler Question Photo Collection and I have come across the Whistler’s first ever Off-Road Bike Race. The first race took place on June 20, 1982.

On that Sunday Morning, “seventeen keen competitors” lined up on the slopes of the Village Chair. The race course started on the slopes of the Village Chair. One competitor Mark Rowan recalled the race started “Le Mans” style, which meant competitors started from a standing position. “Racers ran down the lower part of the Village Chair before picking up their bicycles in Mountain Square,” Rowan recalled, noting that this was roughly near where the Longhorn Saloon is today.

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Chaz Romalis leads the pack during Whistler’s first ever  MTB race. Photo: Whistler Question/WMAS.

“The racers then headed out to Lost Lake and to the power line road which runs along the east side of Green Lake. From the Wedge Creek turnoff they headed back via Mons and the Lost Lake trail again.”

Jacob Heilbron said “The Whistler Race may have been called the Canadian Championships but there was no governing body for mountain bike racing at the time. As far as I know it was the first mountain bike race held in Canada.”

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Photo: Whistler Question/WMAS

It wouldn’t be until 1984 and the formation of CORBA (Canadian Off-Road Bicycle Association) that the first official Canadian Championships would take place on Vedder Mountain.

Heilbron said, “There were no rules, so I switched to a road bike and picked up around 3 places on the section of highway heading back to town. Then I switched back to a mountain bike as we crossed back into local trails and tried to find the lightly marked trail on the way back to the finish.”

The first prize was $1000 as recalled by both Chaz Romalis and Jacob Heilbron. The organizer of the race was Jon Kirk. Chaz mentioned “he was responsible for the Deep Cove Daze, which brought thousands of spectators to watch a crit race in the late 70s and early 80s.”

Heilbron also recalls “There was definitely some confusion about who had completed the entire race and what place they had finished.”

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Photo: Whistler Question/WMAS.

Chaz Romalis, owner of the Deep Cove Bike Shop in North Vancouver, recalls “ I was in second place and I was descending the hill from the Microwave Tower when I crashed out of the race.”

Mark “Straight-Ahead- Fred” Rowan unfortunately didn’t finish the race. He said, “I rode a cyclocross bike and my front tire caved in and I injured my face.”

The original article, appearing in the June 24, 1982 issue of the Whistler Question, mentions the winner of the race, “Tony Starck, 22, from Victoria had purchased his bike only 3 weeks prior.” Starck was the first Canadian Champion of Off-Road Bicycle Racing.

Second was Russ Maynard and third place went to Jacob Heilbron.

Enjoy Crankworx!

 

By John Alexander

LEGO Comp 2016 Recap

This past Saturday, we were once again overjoyed to welcome a horde of excited children to the museum as we hosted our 20th annual LEGO-building competition. We had wonderful summer weather, so held it outside at Florence Peteresen Park, a decision that everyone seemed happy about.

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This year’s theme was “What connects you to Whistler?” Although some competitors built railways and cars in a literal interpretation of the theme, we weren’t surprised that most designs ended up portraying the children’s favourite past times and activities, things like skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, even zip-lining.

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Winner of the 12+ category at yesterday’s LEGO competition was this zip line (it actually worked, too). Unbeknownst to him, 1st prize included a zip line tour with Ziptrek.

 

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Judge Jack Crompton checking out some of the creations at the 6-8 table.

The final results were as follows:

Ages 5 and under:

  1. Kirra Jamieson
  2. John Martindale
  3. Elliot Durham

Ages 6-8:

  1. Isaac Purcell
  2. Hunter Guthrie
  3. Jake Dean

Ages 9-11:

  1. Kenta Okochi
  2. Sydney Guthrie
  3. Zach Durnin

Ages 12 & up:

  1. William Davies
  2. Colin Clark
  3. Harley Dundas
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Waiting to find out the winners.

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A bunny tower from the Duplo table.

 

Big thanks to our judges: Municipal Councillor Jack Crompton, Cathryn Atkinson from Pique Newsmagazine, Jeanette Bruce from the Whistler Public Library, and the Whistler Museum’s own Michaela Sawyer.

The level of support this event receives from the local business community is always wonderful. This year we received prizes and other support from Avalanche Pizza, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Escape Whistler, Prior Skis & Snowboards, The Old spaghetti Factory, The Adventure Group, Resort Municipality of Whistler, Marketplace IGA, Whoola Toys, Hatley, Armchair Books, Imagine Cinema, Cows, and more!

And of course, a big thanks to all of the competitors (and their supporters) for coming out and sharing your creativity. See you next year!

… And for the “Big Kids” out there who want to play with LEGO too, fret not. We will once again be holding our “Big Kids LEGO Comp” in November.

lego 2016

 

Whistler Forest History Project

A few week’s ago we posted about Whistler’s Wildfire History. That post included a timelapse video that showed the impacts of wildfires on the regional landscape, by decade. The video was produced using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data that had been compiled by the Whistler Forest History Project (WFHP), and we figured that we might as well dedicate a whole post to the WFHP, explaining in more detail what this really important initiative was all about.

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The Parkhurst logging settlement on Green Lake was one of the largest forestry operation in the history of the Whistler Valley. 

The WFHP was a project undertaken to develop a comprehensive understanding of landscape change in the Whistler Valley since 1914, from causes such as logging, urbanization, wildfires, and more. Using aerial photographs, historical maps, archival sources, oral interviews, and more, a GIS database tracking this landscape change was produced thanks to the extensive volunteer efforts of three Whistler residents and professional foresters: Don MacLaurin, RPF ret., Peter Ackhurst, RPF and John Hammons, RPF, ret. The project was administered by the Forest History Association of British Columbia and the Whistler Museum, and funding was generously provided by the Community Foundation of Whistler’s Environmental Legacy Fund.

 

Here’s a short video summarizing their work and their findings:

This information provides important information for environmental and planning professionals, as well as serving broader educational purposes for the general public about landscape change. We’ve already used it as the basis of a few blog posts and research projects, and will continue to do so in the future.

Next time you walk through the woods, try to guess the age of the trees you are walking past, and reconstruct the history of the forest!

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Using the information in the WFHP database, we were able to discover that this undated photograph was from the early 1940s. 

 

Painting the Past – Artists History

Whistler is home to a variety of artists working in many different mediums. Many of the artists throughout Whistler come from all over the world but all of them now call this beautiful area home. The variety of artists include photographers, fine artists, sculptors,  digital artists, artisans, illustrators, and more, and are spread out all over the valley. There are hundreds of artists with different styles and who work in different mediums so you can find almost any type of art being produced in Whistler.

The most commonly celebrated theme, however, is easily the scenic views and beautiful nature that can be found all around the Whistler area. Whether artists literally depict scenes from the landscape or merely take influence from them, the natural wonder of Whistler has not escaped the artists who call this place home. As well, many of these artists have been featured in places outside of Canada not just outside of Whistler.

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Isobel sitting in her hand-painted coffin

The first well-known artist in Whistler is Isobel MacLaurin. Her and her late husband Don have called Whistler their full-time home for more than 30 years (and a part-time retreat for decades before that) and they saw the town grow into what it is today, all while Isobel helped the art scene in Whistler get on its feet. In the days before the creation of the Whistler Arts Council (now known as Arts Whistler) Isobel was the only professional artist in town. That meant she was asked to do a lot of work for the mountains, which included signs that are still on the mountains to this day and all of which were painted by hand in Isobel’s studio.

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Isobel painting on her deck.

Among her more memorable jobs was being flown up into the alpine in a helicopter to sketch the landscape for many of her interpretive signs. Isobel often was not paid for her work, instead preferring an exchange for season’s passes to the mountain for her family. One drastic difference that Isobel herself notes is the budget for signage in the early days compared to now; in the early days of the village Isobel did up a handful of signs for the community and got paid $18 per sign, but nowadays Whistler has a multi-million dollar budget for signage every year!

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Each sign was hand painted by Isobel. She received $18 per sign.

Once the Arts Council was set up, other artists began to come to the area as well. The same year it started the Council also set up their first Children’s Art Festival in which Isobel helped lead free arts courses for the children. Isobel talks fondly about how attentive the children were and how well they all did learning to draw. Isobel MacLaurin has been in Whistler for many years, originally she was one of the only artists and now that number has grown into the hundreds. Whistler’s beauty lends itself easily to the inspiration for many a young artist who finds their way here.

By Michaela Sawyer

The SoCreds Party in Whistler!

Thirty years ago, Whistler was at the centre of the BC political universe. During the week culminating in July 30th 1986, the provincial Social Credit Party held their leadership convention here, as they sought to find a replacement for outgoing party leader Bill Bennett.

The Whistler Driving Range was transformed into a political fair grounds, where leadership hopefuls could promote their political brand. Photo from the Arv Pellegrin collection/WMAS.

The Whistler Driving Range was transformed into a political fair grounds, where leadership hopefuls could promote their political brand. Photo from the Arv Pellegrin collection/WMAS.

The Socreds, as the party was commonly known, had a close connection to the nascent resort. Although the initial decisions to create the RMOW, develop skiing on Blackcomb, and build a tourism-specific village at the base of the mountains had been made during the 1972-1975 reign of the NDP, the Socred’s ideological opposites and bitter rivals, the Socreds (to many people’s surprise) continued to support Whistler Village when they regained power in 1975.

Most notably, this included assuming provincial control of a heavily indebted Whistler Village Land Company in 1983. Without that decision, Whistler Village would be a very different place than it is today. At major political risk, the Socreds had hitched their wagon to Whistler Village.

The buzz in Village Square was inescapable.

The buzz in Village Square was inescapable.  Photo from the Arv Pellegrin collection/WMAS.

 

In 1986, with Whistler Village construction completed and the resort experiencing rapid growth and approaching economic stability, it was the perfect venue to highlight one of the Socred’s major successes in governance.

 

So Cred Convention

The carnivalesque atmosphere on the Whistler Village driving range during the 1986 SoCred Leadership convention. Photo by Dave Steers.

In typical fashion, Whistler locals made sure to apply their own interpretation of the term “political party.” As local photographer Dave Steers recalls:

What became evident rather quickly to Whistlerites was that the convention offered interesting eating and drinking opportunities. Many of the would-be leaders didn’t seem to mind wining and dining the locals in town and, not surprisingly, full advantage was taken.

Tapley’s regulars could be found schmoozing with delegates over bar-b-q’d bison burgers. Citta’s patio-dwellers migrated to the driving range to trade political views and and down beers with the movers and shakers of the Social Credit party. It made for some interesting exchanges.

A kind of poster war developed in the village. Rumour had it that local eateries were selling walls and pillars to candidates who would then paste their campaign posters onto them. A pillar in the right location was rumoured to be worth over a thousand dollars.

Village Square was turned into a central convention space and outdoor billboard for all of the contenders (at least those who could afford the temporary real estate for their signs). Photo from the Arv Pellegrin collection/WMAS.

Village Square was turned into a central convention space and outdoor billboard for all of the contenders (at least those who could afford the temporary real estate for their signs). Photo from the Arv Pellegrin collection/WMAS.

In the end, Bill Vander Zalm won the convention and assumed leadership of the party, overcoming rivals Grace McCarthy and Brian Smith, among others. Notably, the 12th and last place finisher was none other than future Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell.

The 1986 convention was widely regarded as a successful and energizing political event, and Vander Zalm initially enjoyed high approval ratings as BC Premier. Thankfully, however, Whistler’s fortunes weren’t tied to the Socred brand, as Vander Zalm was forced to resign due to a controversial conflict-of-interest case in 1991, and the ultimate decline of the Social Credit Party followed soon after.

Here in Whistler, meanwhile, the party never stopped.