It’s safe to say that we are very lucky in our valley. We can enjoy lush forest hikes or adrenalin loaded bike runs for our morning workout before heading into the office. However, a now-obsolete technological quirk used to require a unique mountain town profession that came with some special perks.
While we valley dwellers actually have to get in the truck, and drive a few kilometres to the lifts and stand in a line up, Janet Love Morrison and Gordy Rox Harder enjoyed the privilege of having their serene home nestled among the wildlife of the mountains right next to the top of the Red Chair. From 1978-1992, the lifts on Whistler Mountain actually required full–time caretakers to start them up each day, among other tasks. From January 1987 to November 1988, they were the alpine caretakers living on top of Whistler Mountain – in winter and summer.
“It was magic living up there and watching the seasons change” Janet enthuses. She remembers that the wildlife was very entertaining in summer. They heard the grouse and the hoary marmots, and they saw little pikas (rock rabbits) race here and there. In the summer months, Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation would let them use the building maintenance truck to drive from the valley to the alpine on the service road. “A real treat” as they call it because it was so much easier to get groceries home if you didn’t have to transport them on the lifts.
In the summer of 1988 Hollywood came to the alpine. A scene in the movie Shoot to Kill, starring Sidney Poitier and Tom Berenger, was being filmed just past the top of the T-Bars at the bottom of Little Whistler. Janet and Gordy blasted up on the skidoo to watch them film. They recalled: “Mr. Poitier came over and chatted with us. He was so surprised to learn that someone lived up on the mountain. It was an absolute thrill to meet him. He suggested a film assistant take a photo with a Polaroid camera. It was so kind.”
They watched them film a blizzard scene where Sidney’s character starts to dig a snow cave. Gordy helped out by passing someone on the set huge bags of mashed potato flakes that were dumped in front of a large fan to simulate driving snow.
Janet and Gordy have a lot of golden memories to share, and we will post them to this blog in the coming months.
The position of alpine caretaker first began in 1978 with the completion of the Alpine Service Building close to the top of the Red Chair. From January 1987 to November 1988, Janet Love Morrison and Gordy Rox Harder, both in their early 20s at that time, were the alpine caretakers living on top of Whistler Mountain. There were actually three teams sharing the positions: Gordy and Janet lived in the alpine (1,850m); their neighbours Laird Brown and Colleen Warner lived at mid-station (1,350m); and Sandy and Molly Boyd lived in the valley (650m). In the summer of 1988, the Whistler Village Gondola was installed, and the alpine caretaker position was terminated. The mid-station position remained for another winter, and the valley caretaker position until 1992.