Whistler’s Answers: May 6, 1982

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 1982.  Please note, all names/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: A major recession hit North America in late 1981.

Question: If your boss told you that you had to take a 2.5% pay cut because of economic conditions, how would you react?

Sigrid Moore – Bartender at Creperie Chez Moi – Alpine Meadows

I don’t think there would be too much I could do right now. There aren’t too many jobs available and if you have one you have to hang on to it. It’s not a matter of pride where you could just stick your nose in the air, say ‘forget it’ and walk out.

Jean-Luc Perron – L’Apres busboy – Alta Vista

At the salary I’m making right now, I think it would be unfair to take away any percentage. As it is now, I’m only making enough to get by on.

Astrid Douglas – Front desk clerk at Mountainside Lodge – White Gold Estates

It all depends on the situation. For me working here, I couldn’t afford it, especially living in Whistler where increases in salaries are never even as high as inflation.

It depends on what you’re working at too.

Rob Phillips – Longhorn manager – Whistler Cay

If it was essential for me to stay at Whistler, then I would gladly accept a cut in pay.

But if the money was important, my background in the restaurant business allows me sufficient latitude to maintain my current level of income elsewhere.

Jim Kitteringham – Vehicle Maintenance Foreman for Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. – Emerald Estates

If my employer asked me to take a wage cut, there’s no way I could support myself financially, especially considering the high cost of living at Whistler.

In other words – no way!

Ken Domries – Husky mechanic – Alpine Meadows

I think what I’d do is send my boss to my landlord and the power company to see if they would take a 2.5% decrease. Sure, I’d take a cut – if everyone else did.

Windsurfing in Whistler

Before summers in Whistler drew thousands of mountain bikers to the area, Whistler was gaining a reputation for a sport that took place on the water: windsurfing. As the sport of windsurfing became more popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Alta Lake became a hot spot for many Canadian windsurfers, as shown in the many photos from the 1980s that feature windsurfers of various ages, skill, and standards of dress.

According to Jinny Ladner, a former Canadian windsurfing champion, the first board was brought to Whistler by Mark Dufus in 1975, though not many people in the valley know much about the sport at the time. Looking at reports from the summer of 1981, however, it would appear that once windsurfing was introduced to Whistler it took hold and grew quickly.

Windsurfers on Alta Lake, sometime between 1981 and 1983. George Benjamin Collection.

While you might think that May 1981 would have marked the beginning of the windsurfing season in Whistler, apparently a few hardy souls had already been seen with their boards on Alta Lake as of January 1. For most windsurfers, however, in May the season was just getting started.

According to the Squamish Citizen Shopper, Whistler Windsurfing and Blackcombe Sports were the two main businesses offering rentals and instruction. For newcomers to the sport, the Citizen helpfully noted that, “in consideration of the fact that learning how to windsurf involves falling in the water quite a bit, anyone wishing to take lessons should be able to swim.”

Sails flapping, windsurfers in the first heat of the men’s Triangle races skim away from the starting line during the BC Windsurfing Championships on Alta Lake. Whistler Question Collection.

In 1981 there were plenty of ways for those interested to get involved in the sport, from novices to international competitors. Blackcombe Sports offered membership to the Blackcombe Boardsailing Club, which included free use of a board for the summer, discounts on lessons and sales, and free entry into all Club-sponsored events. Whistler Windsurfing co-sponsored an instructor course with the Canadian Yachting Association and the British Columbia Sailing Association. They also ran the Whistler Windsurfing Summer Series, a series of weekly races beginning in early June. Race results were tallied to come up with a monthly winner and at the end of the summer the monthly winners would compete to become the overall winner.

Other windsurfing events held on Alta Lake that summer included the Whistler regatta in June, the British Columbia Championships in August, and Whistler’s first Great Waters Race in September, though the Great Waters Race was not strictly speaking a windsurfing event. As part of the Whistler Fall Festival, five-person teams (at least two of whom had to be women) competed in canoeing, swimming and kayaking along with windsurfing. The windsurfing portion of the race may not have been the most successful, as it was later described by the Whistler Question as “a paddling race due to lack wind.”

Andrew Stoner, owner of Whistler Windsurfing, now has to take a definite step up in the world to jump the gap between his docks on Alta Lake. Whistler Question Collection.

Whistler residents were well represented at the Canadian Windsurf Championships in September that year. Jinny Ladner and Andrew Stoner (one of the organizers of the Summer Series alongside Doug Schull) earned places as two of the five Canadians traveling to the Windsurf World Championships in Okinawa later that year.

Windsurfing remained a prominent sport on Alta Lake through the 1980s and 1990s, but the sport experienced a decline in popularity in the late 1990s. While it is less often that you will come across windsurfers on Whistler’s lakes, windsurfing has seen a resurgence in the last decade and windsurfers and kitesurfers will often be found in Squamish.

Whistler’s Answers: April 29, 1982

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 1982.  Please note, all names/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: A major recession hit North America in late 1981, with interest rates reaching up to 20%. While some buildings in the Whistler Village were completed, much of the first phase was still under construction. Construction of the Resort Centre (known today as the Conference Centre) began in March 1980 and was still ongoing in 1982. The original plans included an Olympic-sized ice rink, swimming pool, whirlpool, saunas, racquetball courts, squash court, restaurant and more. The proposed budget (not including operating costs) was in the $5.5 to 5.8 million range. In January 1983 the provincial government formed Whistler Land Co. Developments, a Crown corporation chaired by Chester Johnson to take over the liabilities and assets of the Whistler Village Land Company. Under Johnson the Resort Centre was reconstructed as a conference centre without the extra recreational facilities and construction was completed by 1986. You can find more information about the Resort Centre here.

Question: Would you be adverse to having any portion of your property taxes go towards finishing the Resort Centre?

Jim Crichton – Carpenter – Alpine Meadows

Yes. The original plan for the convention centre stipulated that the taxpayer was not to pay for it. Think it will be years before that thing is finished and I don’t want to be subsidizing it.

They should get a private developer to take it over and run it.

Barry Johnston – Social Psychologist – Alpine Meadows

I think everyone would say it depends on how much extra we have to pay in taxes.

If they did use our tax money, the Land Company would have to make a much closer accounting to property owners on how the money was spent.

David Kirk – Whistler Village Sports/Whistler Creek Ski Shop – Alta Vista

I would like to see a referendum held in order that some direction – whether it be positive or negative – be given the Land Company and municipality on this issue.

Charlie Doyle – Commercial Artist – MDC

I would be against having any portion of my property taxes going for that purpose.

It was a mistake on the part of the Land Company in estimating costs. Why should we bail them out? They certainly don’t bail out my mistakes.

The centre means something to them only as developers. If they were really interested in the community, they wouldn’t have made it such an epic of a building.

If we were given some benefit, maybe we should consider it. But we’ll end up paying both as taxpayers and as customers once the centre’s finished.

Mark Sadler – Contractor/Developer – Multiple commercial & residential property owner

That’s a difficult question to answer. My basic answer is yes, I would be against having any portion of my residential taxes used to finance the sports centre.

I would like to see the major users – namely commercial establishments which benefit the most – pay towards the completion of it, and that statement comes from me as a property owner in the Town Centre.

Why should we taxpayers be responsible for problems incurred by poor management, inflation and other factors?

Drew Meredith – Real Estate Agent – Alta Vista

No, not at all. I’ve been waiting a long time to see that building finished and I’d be willing to put out out of my own pocket for it.

The addition of a full ice area and squash and racquet-ball courts will be a definite asset to the community. It’s not going to be any cheaper in the future.

I wouldn’t be against having my taxes go towards it, providing the Land Company repays the municipality in the future when the real estate market perks up again.

The End of Brio House

When looking through reports on the 1991 fire in Function Junction that damaged many of the Whistler Question photographs (and more) last week, we came across another fire that took place at the very end of 1990, destroying a property known as Brio House.

This fire was not the first to mark the Hawthorne Place property. The house had already experienced a major fire in April 1987. It was believed that the fire had started with a smouldering couch cushion that spread to a cedar wall and up to the wood ceiling and cedar roof, leaving half of the duplex a “blackened shell.” The other half was saved by the building’s fire wall. Firefighters were on the scene only four minutes after they received the call and within an hour had the fire under control. The flames, which at one point rose up to twenty metres into the air, could reportedly be seen by those leaving the late show at the Rainbow Theatre, including some residents of the house.

Unfortunately, the prints or negatives of the photos from both the 1990 and 1987 fires that were originally published in the Whistler Question were destroyed by the fire in Function Junction just a few weeks later. Whistler Question, 1991.

Almost four years later, the Question reported on another fire at the same property that began on December 30, 1990. Unlike the fire of 1987, however, this fire left the Brio House gutted.

On that Sunday afternoon the Whistler Fire Department responded to a call after residents noticed black smoke pouring through the air vent above the fireplace. The residents tried to put out the fire but then noticed flames in the wall. By the time they realized they would not be able to contain the fire, it was too late for the residents to attempt to save their belongings. Though firefighters were able to control the fire, it was decided that it was too dangerous to send firefighters inside and the main concern was to protect the neighbouring houses.

This and the photo before were submitted by Jan Holmberg, a neighbour in Hawthorne Place and the owner of the building in Function Junction that burned down later in January. Whistler Question, 1991.

One reason both fires were considered so newsworthy was because of the number of people they affected. In 1987 the property was described in the Question as “Whistler’s most controversial and popular multi-resident home,” due to the number of people living in the large duplex and its use as temporary housing for visitors and recent arrivals to Whistler. The owner, Dave Whiffen (who in 1987 lived in a suite in the basement), was trying to have his property rezoned as an eight bedroom pension; the municipality had previously fined Whiffen for using the building’s basement and loft when the main floor already used up the permitted 360 sq. metres. The municipality stated that Whiffen had overbuilt and was running a “hotel” on his property, while Whiffen maintained that the duplex was “a necessary source of low-cost accommodation for Whistler service-industry personnel.”

By the evening of December 30, 1990, twenty residents were left homeless. Some were temporarily put up by neighbours while others were lodged in Blackcomb Mountain staff housing. According to then-Question editor Bob Barnett, “Offers by Whistlerites and businesses to house and feed the Brio residents and to hold a benefit for them were made before the fire was completely extinguished.” Whiffen, who by that time had moved out of Whistler, told the paper that he planned to rebuild “a regular duplex” and sell the property, putting an end to Brio House.

Naming Night (NOT) at the Museum: April 2021

The Whistler Museum is looking for your help again! As part of this interactive event, we’re seeking assistance in putting names to faces and places that appear in the Whistler area’s history. Whether you’ve been in the valley for decades or are new to the area, have lived here or visited over the years, are staying home in the valley or haven’t been back in an age, we’ll be displaying a collection of photographs that we are searching for more information on. Help us identify your friends, family, and anything in between!

Naming Night continues to be a little different – instead of having you all come to the museum, we’re continuing to bring the photos to you! We will be posting an album of photos on our Facebook page (find it here) at 7 pm PST on Thursday, April 29. Names and information can be added to each individual photo in the comment section, or you can even tag your friends in the photograph. Despite the physical distance, we hope the photos will still generate the discussions and debates about their who, what, where, when and why that we have enjoyed so much at our in-person events.

Whistler’s Answers: April 22, 1982

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 1982.  Please note, all names/occupations/neighbourhoods represent information given to the Question at the time of publishing and do not necessarily reflect the person today.

You may notice that this week is missing some photos for those who provided answers – not all of the Whistler Question negatives that were rescued from a fire in 1991 were able to be repaired and so some photographs are still missing. We are considering ways to include photographs when this happens, such as scanning physical copies of the paper, but for this week at least their words must stand on their own.

Some context for this week’s question: Not all questions asked to the public were Whistler specific. In 1981, the Parliament of Canada requested that the British Parliament remove its ability to amend Canada’s constitution. This power was transferred to Canada through the UK’s Canada Act 1982 in March 1982 and on April 17, 1982, the proclamation was signed to bring the Constitution Act, 1982 into force.

Question: Do you think bringing the constitution home will make any difference to Canadians?

Ann Marie Warren – Sales Clerk – Tamarisk

Not immediately. I think the effects are going to be felt in the future.

As with a change in any rules, people won’t be aware of all the implications and finer points until they see how the Constitution fits into the entire picture.

It’s a good thing, though – another step in the emerging Canadian identity.

Hermel Rioux – Waiter – Gondola Area

Actually, it hasn’t made any difference to me. But I think it’s a good idea to have our own constitution and I think French Canadian people feel much better about it.

There are a lot of Quebecois who are French, but still want to see the country together, although they would like it to be bilingual.

I think having the Constitution here will definitely help the country to stay together. I don’t want to have to cross a border to go home.

Curtis Beckon – Bartender – Brio

No. I think the whole thing is a waste of taxpayer’s money. They should be trying to create more jobs for people or encourage new industry instead of messing around with this.

It’s not going to help people out to have the constitution here. As a matter of fact, I think it’s turning things upside down. It’s almost like starting over again.

Dave Sillmans – Ski Tech – Tamarisk

It makes absolutely no difference to me. And I don’t think it will make much difference to anyone.

It’s not going to make anyone prouder to be Canadian. It’s been over there so long that bringing it back isn’t going to make one bit of difference.

Brent Gilker – Seaman – Alpine Meadows

Of the people who are already mature, none will notice or care, except those who are in trouble with the law or their rights.

But for younger Canadians who are studying the constitution in school, I optimistically believe they will take that information and help make this into a far better country.

Rick Chandler – Liftee – No fixed adress

It’s possible. It depends on how many know what’s in the constitution. And you know what? I’d guarantee that 90 percent of the people have no idea at all.

I don’t, and I read the paper.

Fire in Function Junction

A few weeks ago during our Speaker Series on journalism in Whistler, technical difficulties unfortunately prevented a question being asked about a fire that destroyed the production office of The Whistler Question in Function Junction in 1991. As we weren’t able to learn more about the fire from the knowledgeable people at the speaker event, both presenting and in the audience, we thought we’d start by taking a quick look at what the Question had to say about it.

The fire was actually only one of two large fires in Whistler on Friday, January 18, 1991. At Rainbow the building housing Rainbow Rentals, Rainbow Paint and Supply, Whistler Woodheat, Whistler Welding, Allan May Project Management and the truck division of Budget Rent-A-Car also had a fire. As there were no hydrants in the area and the building contained tanks of propane, oxygen and acetylene as well as cans of oil-based paints and industrial solvents, the decision was made that it was too dangerous for firefighters to go into the building. Instead, the highway was closed and the building was allowed to burn.

The rubble left after the Rainbow fire burned out, including a woodstove. Whistler Question Collection, 1991.

In Function Junction, around 2:30 am, Kevin Swanlund was the only employee in the building that housed Yurrop Trading, Mountain Crests, the kitchen of The Gourmet, Little Mountain Bakery, and the Question production office when he noticed a fire. Swanlund attempted to put out the fire with an extinguisher but it kept coming back stronger. His actions alerted Carrie Waller and her daughter Amanda, who lived in the apartment upstairs, to the fire. The pair found the stairwell blocked but were able to use a ladder to climb down from the balcony.

Fire Chief Tony Evans described the fire as “a tough one to fight,” though the fire department responded promptly and were able to control the fire. A fire hydrant on the property was not connected to the municipal water system and had reportedly frozen, though luckily there were municipal hydrants nearby. The fire department did not confirm a cause of the fire, but were able to say that it appeared to have started near the building’s electrical panel.

The Whistler Question production office after the fire. Whistler Question Collection, 1991.

By the time the Question came out the next Thursday, most of the businesses affected already had plans to reopen. Jan Holmberg, who owned the building and co-owned Yurrop Trading and Mountain Crests, told the Question that Mountain Crests had already located an embroidery machine in Seattle and rented space in another building and would soon be at half their usual production. Rick and Doris Matthews, the co-owners of The Gourmet, had begun cooking at home and in another kitchen while setting up in another Function Junction building, though they expected that for the next month they would be able to produce only about half of their “signature products.” Luckily for The Gourmet, most of their kitchen equipment was saved.

The co-owners of Little Mountain Bakery, Pierre LePage and Andy Schoni, both decided to use the fire as an opportunity for short vacations before beginning operations at 1212 Alpha Lake Road in February. Like The Gourmet, most of Little Mountain Bakery’s equipment was saved but the bakery lost all of their supplies.

Patrick Sarrazin helps baker Andy Schoni clean up trays after the fire at Little Mountain Bakery. Whistler Question Collection, 1991.

The Question production office was not burned but was heavily damaged by smoke and water. The Question lost computers, a laser printer, a photocopier, darkroom equipment, and five years worth of irreplaceable photographs. The paper was able to set up a temporary office in the Blackcomb Ski Club cabin and, thanks to the help of Rick Clare, Whistler Printing and Blackcomb Lodge, were able to stick to their normal publishing schedule.

The fires of January 18, 1991, affected eleven businesses in Whistler in Rainbow and Function Junction, though most were able to reopen. Firefighters were able to save a collection of negatives from 1978 to 1985 from the fire. Thanks to Question photographer Brian Smith, these negatives were restored and are now housed in the archives where the Whistler Question Collection is an invaluable resource that is used almost daily at the Whistler Museum. The Whistler Question Collection now includes photographs of different facets of life in the Whistler area from 1978 to 1986 and from 1991 to 1996. Unfortunately, due to the photographs lost in the fire the years between 1986 and 1991 are not as well represented.