Snow Way to Get Around

While we may not know how much snow Whistler will get each winter, one thing that can be relied upon is that snow makes travelling within the valley more interesting.  Historically, snow and ice greatly affected people’s mobility through the winter months.

While the snow could slow down the train (one year the railway snowplow reportedly got stuck in the snow near Pemberton for two weeks), the frozen lakes provided the early residents with another way to travel around the valley.

Myrtle Philip and Jean Tapley on their way to Tapley’s Farm over the snow. Philip Collection.

Bob and Florence Williamson moved to Alta Lake in 1930.  One year, Bob remembered, it snowed over two metres in just 48 hours at about -25°C.  According to him, “The snow was just like sugar.  When we got the roof shovelled off, the snow level was higher than the eaves and we had to shovel out the doors and windows.”  On occasion, the couple would skate to the end of Alta Lake, walk over to Green Lake, and skate over to visit with those living at the mill at Parkhurst.

By the late 1960s, when Trudy Alder arrived in the valley, the area had roads and automobiles weren’t such an uncommon sight.  In the winter, however, cars were still not an entirely reliable way to get around.  Trudy worked as a caretaker at the Tyrol Lodge on Alta Lake Road.  Because the road was not always cleared of snow, she would park the car at Alpine Village and walk home across Nita Lake.  To attend movie nights at the community hall, Trudy walked, often in the dark through deep snow (her first winter season at Alta Lake had 1.5 to 2.5 metres of snow in the valley) and accompanied by a pack of coyotes in the distance.

Ice skating across frozen Alta Lake was one way to get around the valley. Philip Collection.

For another group, the snow could be a bit of a burden.  Not too long after Whistler Mountain opened for skiing, Dorothy and Alex Bunbury purchased property almost a kilometre up the old Microwave Road (now known as Gondola Way) and built their ski cabin there.

The dirt road up to the cabin was used by BC Rail about once a week to access the microwave station.  In the winter, the Bunburys were fortunate if BC Rail’s trip had taken place on a Friday as that meant they got an easy walk up a packed-down road before their weekend of skiing.  If BC Rail hadn’t gone up recently, the skiers could be in for a long walk.

The development of Creekside and the surrounding areas as of 1970.   While there were roads, they weren’t alway plowed and some weren’t very drivable.  Whistler Mountain Collection.

On one memorable evening, the worst night Dorothy could remember, they arrived in Whistler to find 38 centimetres of powder with “an icy, breakable crust.”  Even snowshoes were no use on the icy surface.  Dorothy wrote, “There were four of us, all heavily burdened with packs, and we took turns breaking trait.  It took us about an hour and a half to walk into the cabin that night, and in the morning all awoke with bruised and painful shins.  That was one night when I would have gladly sold the whole mess for a train ride back to Vancouver.”

As we hope for more snow this season, consider your own favourite way of travelling through the cold, whether with skis, skates, snowshoes or very warm boots.

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This Week In Photos: December 6

If there’s one thing most of the photos from this week have in common, it’s snow!  Seeing these images, we’re hoping for some more in the valley soon.

1978

Only at Whistler – local top-hatted chimney sweep at work in the snow!

Thursday was not a good day for some! Above, Squamish Freightways truck tangles with the school sign.

Municipal 4×4 tries to get a motorist out of a ditch on Thursday.

All smiles! John Howells (left) receives the Citizen of the Year award from Paul Burrows while Drew Meredith looks on.

The Rotary Exchange students on the steps of the Roundhouse.

The new municipal skating rink recently constructed adjacent to the school.

1979

Kindergarten students build their first snowpeople of the season – left to right: Brie Minger, Joanne Den Duyf, Nonie Bredt, Beau Jarvis, Andrew Hofmann.

The gondola area showing the early arrivals in the parking lot – the Wosk lot is the empty one centre right.

Bridge abutments for the new bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek to service Blackcomb Mountain.

RCMP officer Terry Barter and Major with students at Myrtle Philip School.

1980

The giant cake prepared for the Fourth Inaugural meeting of the Resort Municipality of Whistler Council.

The Blackcomb Snowhosts: (l to r) Cathy Hansen, Shelley Phalen, Tom Kelley and Charlotte Sheriff.

The balloon shape is covering Whistler Resort & Club’s pool from Whistler’s harsh winter.

The new sign at the entrance to the Town Centre is completed.

An unidentified fireman, Chief Lindsay Wilson and Rick Crofton hose down a fire damaged cabin in Alta Vista.

Leo Lucas checks out the newly refurbished Roundhouse before the crowds arrive. New appointments include carpets, roll-away seating and various touchups.

1981

Barb Newman, of Whistler Tops, models a cap and one of the many rugby shirts available in the new Village Square store.

Jason, Harley and Dylan Stoneburgh stand proudly in front of the snowmen they built in Alpine Meadows after the first storm of the winter.

Sandy Boyd, the new Gondola Area Co-ordinator for Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. Sandy, who has twelve years experience in the ski industry, will be responsible for the organization of all systems at the Gondola base.

Bearing gifts and a song, Susan Jacks, formerly of the Poppy Family, will be one of the stars in an upcoming CBC special partly filmed in Whistler.

Myrtle Philip students take part in a ‘Western Day’ at the school.

A sneak preview of the new Black Forest Restaurant in the former White Gold Inn.

1982

Highways crews clear up the debris left by a December 3 rock slide on Highway 99 near M. Creek.

Slim and Margaret Foughberg open a gift presented to Slim for his service to the Howe Sound School Board. Together they have served Howe Sound continuously (except for two years) since 1946.

Mayor Mark Angus is sworn into office by Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup-Robinson at Council’s inaugural meeting December 6.

A young batch of new skiers shapes up for the slopes under the rigorous command of ski shop owner Jim McConkey, who put them through their paces December 6.

Myrtle Philip School library helpers enjoy a well-earned lunch. Irene Pope, Judy Fosty, Kelly Macwell and Candy Rustad. Missing is Mrs. Demidoff.

1984

Twyla Picton and Rolf Zeller were out cross-country skiing in the sub-freezing temperatures Whistler has experienced for the previous week. Cross-country skiing in the valley is the best in years with a total of 195 cm of snow fallen in November.

Work on the Conference Centre continues with the construction of a wall partition above the second floor. The wooden frame structure behind the scaffold will be attached to a moveable partition that will allow Conference Centre organizers to divide the main hall into two separate meeting areas.

Ski instructor Stephanie Sloan from Whistler Mountain was the grand prize winner in the Beaujolais Nouveau contest. Sloan will receive a trip for two via CP Air and KLM plus two days in Burgundy hosted by Rene Pedauque. Select Wines representative Wendy Taylor, Sarah Kuhleitner from Citta’s and the WRA’s June Paley picked the winners Sunday in Whistler’s first ever Beaujolais Nouveau celebration.

BC Supreme Court Justice Samuel Toy swears in Whistler’s four new aldermen in council chambers Monday. Moments before, Judge Toy also officially authorized Mayor Terry Rodgers as the municipality’s third ever mayor. The four new aldermen are (left to right) Doug Fox, Paul Burrows, Diane Eby and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. A reception followed the inaugural meeting of council.

Everything is Connected

You never know when you’ll find a connection in Whistler’s history between two seemingly unrelated subjects.  A recent donation to the museum showed an unexpected connection between the Chateau Whistler Resort and the topic of last week’s post, Toad Hall.

While clearing out some offices, staff at the Chateau came across a large book full of press clippings dating from 1987 to 1993.  This book was donated to the museum and provides a pretty comprehensive picture of the proposal, development and opening of the Chateau Whistler Resort, as well as Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler Village and the resort in general (it even includes an article on the historical bus tours that used to run in Whistler).

From the contents, the book appears to have been compiled by Debbie Williamson, then the director of sales at the Chateau.

In 1987, when the clippings begin, Intrawest Properties Ltd. was actively developing the 254-acre (103-hectare) site at the base of Blackcomb, now known as the Benchlands.  As part of this larger development, Canadian Pacific Hotels had plans to build what would become Whistler’s biggest hotel.

The Chateau Whistler Resort in 1996, after the addition of 221 rooms and the well-known Macdonald Ballroom. Whistler Question Collection.

With a budget of $50 million, the Chateau Whistler Resort was to include a ballroom, banquet room, meeting rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, six tennis courts (including two covered courts), a dining room, restaurant and a 200-seat discotheque, all scheduled to be open for the 1989-90 ski season.  An 18-hole golf course was also to be built, though it was not expected to open until the summer of 1990.

The Chateau Whistler Resort was officially given council’s conceptual approval in August 1987.  Despite some problems with the asphalt tiles of the roof (John MacKenzie, in the Whistler Question, thought that “The roof looks like it was designed by Jimi Hendrix, with the mottled green and white”), the Chateau was ready to open on schedule in November 1989, with almost everything from the original plans (unfortunately there was no discotheque).

The Chateau’s opening on November 17 was well covered by The Province, and it is here that the connection between the grand hotel and Toad Hall appears.  The first guest to be presented a key by general manager Dave Roberts was a Mrs. Winnifred Mather Hillman, who was given the stay at the hotel as a surprise birthday gift by her husband Charles.  Charles Hillman (as mentioned in last week’s article) was the owner of the first Toad Hall, a small cabin originally built by Alf Gebhart.

The first Toad Hall, 1969. Benjamin Collection.

The clipping continue on until 1993, including a piece from August 1990 about the issue of the roof.  There had been concerns about the use of asphalt tiles instead of slate or another material from the beginning, and council was not too happy with the resulting “mottled green colour”.  The Chateau had been ordered to re-shingle, but the process was deferred and the hotel was later given the option of paying a “fine” of $140,000 to be used for community projects instead.

The museum would like to thank the Chateau for their donation.  If you find a piece of Whistler’s history while clearing out an old office, garage or attic come visit us at the museum.

This Week In Photos: November 29

1979

One of the many new international symbol signs at Garibaldi Lifts.

Mr. Bob Ainsworth, the new general manager of Garibaldi Lifts Ltd., Whistler operation.

The pillared form of package no. 2 rises at the Town Centre looking like a southern mansion.

A study in concentration – Trev Roote carves out house number signs at the Fall Fair.

The new first aid room in the old garage building at the lift base.

New signs for winter parking regulations were revealed this week.

One of Whistler Disposal’s new front-loading garbage compactor trucks at work at the Mons site.

1980

Evelyn and Harold Cullen cut their 40th anniversary cake.

The products of the Mountain Cake Bake – part of the annual Fall Fair.

The snow arrives – an early scene in Alpine Meadows.

Mayor Pat Carleton shows off Town Centre to Jim Lorimer, Charles Barter and Bob Williams.

1981

The proposed course for the 1982 World Cup was discussed at the latest meeting.

Pottery of all kinds was for sale at the Fall Fair over the last weekend.

Eager skiers head up for the fresh snow on Blackcomb…

… while skis pile up at the base.

The latest winter fashions were on show in the Myrtle Philip School gym.

1982

A dozen of the finest roses is presented to Kay Carleton, the woman behind the man during Pat Carleton’s seven-year term as Whistler’s mayor. One of the municipality’s first aldermen, Garry Watson, presented the gift to Mrs. Carleton during a surprise party held at the Delta Mountain Inn November 29 for the retiring mayor.

Ahoy there mate! November 27 was moving day for the sailboat being built by Cress Walker and Paul Clark in Alpine Meadows. Her maiden voyage took her to a new berth in Whistler’s Industrial Park.

Diane Smith (left) and Karen Benoit smile from their ticket wickets where they offer new two-mountain passes for $20/day. Youth can ski both mountains for $15/day and children for $5. These tickets are also available in two, three and five-day packages.

Superset for a super skier. Blackcomb’s Hugh Smythe sits in ‘the chair’ at the Downhill Shop while skitodics expert John Colpitts fits him out with a pair of Superset footbeds.

Whistler’s newest citizens join their moms for a well-baby clinic with Public Health Nurse Marilyn McIvor. From left to right in the front row are Brock Crofton and mom Yvonne, Jaclyn and Suzi McCance, Andrew and Lee Bennett and Alexandra and Donna Liakakos. Behind are Robin and Tamsin Miller, Marilyn McIvor and Trevor and Jean Dally.

What’s new in ski wear this season? Whistlerites got a chance to find out November 26 at the Winter What to Wear fashion show,held at Delta Mountain Inn. Above Andrea Maw and Nigel Woods – a dazzling duo – show off the latest in winter wear.

Betty Jarvis greets visitors Rich, Robin and Tamsin Miller to the opening of Beau’s Restaurant Wednesday.

1984

Trev Roote, chairman of the Advisory Parks and Recreation Commission, became Whistler’s fifth Freeman Monday, in recognition of his five years at the helm of municipal parks development – as a volunteer. Roote, 55, is a West Vancouver businessman, but spent considerable time here first of all finding out what recreation needs are and then, in 1981, gaining referendum approval of $2 million parks spending.

Mike Snetsinger, Whistler Mountain lift attendant, helps a youngster onto the west side rope tow.

Whistler Mountain lift attendant Heather Watson loads ’em on Sunday at the Olive Chair. About 13,000 people skied the mountain on the first big weekend of the ski season.

The owner of the car municipal works foreman Gord Voncina unearthed on Mountainview Drive Monday learned an important lesson: don’t park on the road allowance, and doubly don’t let your car get buried in snow. A grader using back banks Monday morning discovered the car by accident, and it appeared some other driver had already smacked the car.

Wednesday marked a long evening at the Black Forest of roasting and toasting Jenny and Nello Busdon – more fondly known as Nelly and Jello. Representatives from virtually every community group paid tribute to the 17 years of service and dedication the Busdons have contributed to the valley. They leave this week with their children Nicholas and Melanie for Sun Valley.

Remember the huge exposed boulder near the front entrance of The Highland Lodge? Well, now it forms one of the walls inside the entrance way following a $500,000 facelift of the oldest continuously operated lodge in Whistler.

In one of his last official duties as mayor, Mark Angus cuts the ribbon to officially open the Whistler Valley Housing Society Project at the gondola Saturday. He is flanked by John Nicholls, Vancouver branch manager for Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the three ribbon holders: Lisa Koby, Stephanie Simpson and Michele Zinsli. A reception followed in The Keg.

Management consultant David Golinsky spoke last week to Blackcomb Skiing Enterprises’ 120 employees with an eye to upgrading their skills in dealing with customers. Golinsky’s main theme is that employers and employees have to work as a team. He said there are certain basic guidelines for dealing with customers, but at the same time not all tourism programs offer skills needed for specific industries, such as skiing, and part of his purpose is to offer seminars to fit that need. Whistler Mountain has also introduced a similar program for its employees.

Toad Hall: The Poster Returns

With the holiday season fast approaching we’ve started taking particular notice of holiday-themed photos in our collections.  These photos can vary from Whistler Mountain ski instructors dressed up as reindeer to Santa finding hidden powder to Season’s Greetings from the Philip family.  One of the more interesting holiday photos shows a roasted turkey in a wood burning stove called “Master Climax” (so named for the make of the stove).

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

This stove was part of the kitchen set up at the first Toad Hall, one of Whistler’s most famous (or infamous) lodgings.  This Toad Hall was built by Alta Lake resident Alf Gebhart, who first came to live in the area in 1936.  In the mid-1960s, Alf sold his property to Charles Hillman, a high-school teacher working in Vancouver.  Charles, in turn, rented his property to a “respectable-looking” father with two daughters.  The rent was paid consistently and on time, though after a while the names on the cheques started to change.

By the time Charles Hillman decided to start using his cabin to ski, unbeknownst to him, the property had been renamed Toad Hall and was gaining a reputation across the country.  Charles arrived to find a young resident from Montreal cooking breakfast, evidence of a campfire in one of the bedrooms, and sleeping quarters set up wherever possible, including the chicken house.

The first Toad Hall, 1969. Benjamin Collection.

With help from the RCMP in Squamish and a court order, the residents of Toad Hall were amicably evicted, with enough time given for a farewell party.

By the 1970s, the Soo Valley Logging Camp, near the northern end of Green Lake, was no longer in use by the forestry industry.  This became the second incarnation of Toad Hall.  Perhaps the best known image of Toad Hall, the Toad Hall Poster, was taken here.

The second Toad Hall was scheduled for demolition in the summer of 1973.  (Though no buildings remain today, some photos of Parkhurst donated by the Clausen family show the in-use camp across the lake.)

The Toad Hall Poster.

That spring, knowing their time there was limited, residents gathered with their ski gear and little else for a memorable photo shoot set up by photographer Chris Speedie – 10,000 copies of this poster were printed and sold for two to three dollars each.  Copies were distributed along the World Cup ski circuit by Terry “Toulouse” Spence.

Over the decades, copies of these posters became harder to obtain.  Then, in 2013, Terry brought a box to the museum.  The museum officially sold out of the original run of Toad Hall posters this past January, almost 45 years after it was first printed.

The first official reprint of the Toad Hall Poster is now available to purchase at the Whistler Museum.

This Week In Photos: November 22

From the photos, it looks like snow in the valley this week isn’t a given but certainly a possibility.  We hope everyone enjoys opening day today, whether heading up the hill or not!

1978

Highways’ truck gets stuck by the yard on Thursday.

Lone Highways’ worker pushes snow off of the overpass after the snowstorm.

The Gardiner vehicle as it ended up in Green Lake.

1979

No door on the helicopter allows a crystal-clear view of the Town Centre, Public Service Building and Myrtle Philip School.

Large pile of construction garbage at Mons dump indicates total disregard for sign by garbage dumpers.

Mayor Pat Carleton and Frans Carpay of Whistler Village Land Co. lead one of many media groups on a walking tour of Whistler Town Centre on Wednesday.

Border Lake has spring ice blasted away…

… while 60,000 metric tonnes of ice is dislodged to prevent future disaster to work crews.

The presentation of the Pemberton Community Plan, left to right: Zoltan Kuun, Clerk Tom Wood, Mayor Shirley Henry, Planner John Connelly.

1980

Phone system change hits snag.

Voters line-up to decide Whistler’s future last Saturday, November 15. A record turnout was recorded by the Municipality.

Valley employees begin a Hospitality Seminar.

The interior of the totally revamped Creek House Restaurant.

1981

Don’t recognize this building? It’s the new 54-unit Crystal Lodge, complete with observation decks and 20,000 sq. ft. restaurant. Of course, this is just a model, but the real thing is scheduled for completion by August ’82.

Municipal workers divert water around an area contaminated by creosote, which was washed off power poles in the background by heavy rains. The area is 200m north of Scotia Creek on Westside Road.

Hold it! Two models from Dominion Creative Consultants take advantage of Whistler as a backdrop to model some of the latest ski fashions for an upcoming catalogue for Jones Leisurewear of Vancouver.

1982

Hearty congratulations were in order for Mayor-elect Mark Angus Saturday, November 20 at his well-attended victory party.

Mayor Pat Carleton unveils a plaque commemorating the opening of his namesake, the Carleton Lodge, which opened November 21.

Lead singer from Willie Catfish belts it out into the mouth of the mascot at the Brass Rail Saturday, November 20.

After a long time away from slippery slats skiers ventured cautiously on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains’ opening day Friday, November 19.

Viv Jennings and family survey the remains of their Mercury wagon that was partly demolished on November 18 by a large snow removal machine in Whistler Village.

Blackcomb’s 1982/83 Snow Hosts – the on-mountain PR people that provide information, guided tours and much more to Blackcomb Mountain visitors. Shown here are Mike Rodgers, Deb Gurlach, Linda Turcot (Assistant Supervisor), Shelley Phelan (Public Relations Co-ordinator), Valerie Lang (Racing and Special Events Co-ordinator), Megan Armstrong, Andrea Houston, Bob MacIntosh. Not shown is Kent Rideout.

1984

Bill Herdman of North Vancouver takes major airtime on Blackcomb Satruday, just off Catskinner. There was some new snow over the weekend and skiers responded by hitting the slopes in favourable numbers – Whistler and Blackcomb report that in the first 10 days of skiing, more than 27,000 skier-days were recorded. Both lift companies are this winter offering a number of special programs, including lessons, orientation days for destination tourists, and speciality clinics for already accomplished skiers. Blackcomb is still offering a special discount rate on season’s passes for valley employees. Conditions to qualify for the $340 pass ($100 off) are that the employee works for a member of the Whistler Resort Association and Chamber of Commerce, and works a minimum of 20 hours a week.

Five models – four women and a man – modelled 30 new outfits at a fashion show at the Sundial Friday night. The models came from Blanche MacDonald modelling agency in Vancouver, and according to owner Sharon Donair, they were the best available, one of them recently returned from Japan, another from Milan and others destined for great success in the modelling world.

The Whistler Winterhawks raised more than $1,800 at an overwhelmingly successful fundraiser Friday in Dusty’s. One hundred and fifty team supporters turned out for the event and danced to the music of The Questionnaires. Nearly one quarter of the supporters also went home with prizes ranging from a Whistler Mountain season’s pass and ski lessons to computer courses and hats.

Seppo Makinen won a prize at Friday’s Whistler Winterhawks Benefit at Dusty’s but decided to let organizers draw another name for ski lessons on Whistler. That’s the spirit Seppo!

Nello and Jenny Busdon, as well as their two children, Nicholas and Melanie, bid farewell to Whistler November 30 when the family moves down to Sun Valley in Idaho. After 17 years in Whistler, where the couple saw the community develop from 100 residents to more than 1,800, the couple caught the travelling bug after seeing many of their friends in Whistler move to other areas.

Saunas of Whistler

Looking through Whistler publications from the 1970s, it’s easy to see that building and design in Whistler has changed a lot over the decades.  It’s rare today to see a newly constructed A-frame, Gothic arch cabin or a condo advertised using wall-to-wall shag carpeting as a selling point.  Like the shag carpeting and A-frames, saunas also seem to be disappearing from town.

Not all saunas built in Whistler necessarily met the criteria of H.J. Viherjurri, one of the founding members of the Suomen Saunaseura (Finnish Sauna Society), to be considered a true sauna.  He and other members defined a sauna as a room or hut built of wood and containing stones heated by some kind of stones.  These stones heat the air to upwards of 160°F and water can be thrown on the stones to produce steam, called löyly.  Viherjuuri explains that, unlike steam rooms, the air in a sauna remains dry as the moisture is instantly absorbed by the wooden walls of the room.

It’s not clear whether the products in this 1980 California Pool & Spa ad from the Whistler Answer would meet the requirements of a sauna.  Whistler Answer, December 1980.

Also important to be considered a true sauna is the multi-round process of alternately heating and cooling, whether by a cold shower, jumping in a lake or even rolling in snow.  The process often also includes light beating with leafy birch branches to clean the skin.  Without known how saunas built in Whistler were used in the 1970s it is impossible to assume they met the requirements of this definition.  The term sauna was, however, used to attract buyers and visitors to various properties.

In advertisements placed in Garibaldi’s Whistler News the Christiana Inn, Highland Lodge, Cheakamus Inn, Ski Boot Lodge and Whistler Inn all featured the word sauna among their various assets.  The Whistler Inn, described as “an ultra modern, yet rustic lodge” listed their sauna first among their attractions “available for your added enjoyment and comfort”.

Many of the condominiums built around Whistler at the time also included saunas, whether private or shared, for the use of guests and residents.  Blackcomb Condominiums, Telemark Townhouses and Alpenforst condos all had saunas available and the “very deluxe units” of Adventures West included “dishawashers, saunas, washing machines and dryers”.

This living room was used to sell Tamarisk units in 1973; see the massive fireplace and wall-to-wall shag. Garibaldi’s Whistler News, Fall 1973.

Perhaps best known is the example of Tamarisk.  The first phase of Tamarisk, built in 1973, included 146 units, each featuring a sunken living area, a “massive stone fireplace”, shag carpet and a private sauna.

Saunas remained a popular part of aprés-ski culture into the 1980s.  For those who didn’t already have their own sauna Wedge Mountain Construction advertised in The Whistler Answer in December 1980 that they could build one for you.  You could also purchase a freestanding sauna kit from California Pool & Spa for $900.

For a price Wedge Mountain Construction would build a sauna for you. Whistler Answer, December 1980.

Though houses may still contain saunas, many of these rooms are now used for purposes other than bathing.  Growing up in 1980s house built with one of these wooden rooms, some small children thought sauna was just another word for storeroom.  Rather than attract buyers with the promise of their own private sauna, house listings today are more likely to advertise a Tamarisk unit with a converted sauna.

While saunas may not be nearly as prevalent as during their 1970s ’80s heyday, they can still be found in Whistler at Meadow Park Sports Centre, various hotels, the Scandinave Spa and even some private residences.