Over the past few weeks, as we’ve been working on our temporary exhibit Construction of Whistler Village: 1978 – 1984, we’ve also been thinking about Whistler Village could have looked like if earlier proposals had gone forward. Before development of the village we know today began in earnest in 1978, town centres for the Whistler area were proposed in various different styles and locations. Three of the earliest of these plans predated the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), and were proposed by the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA), purpose designed to host the Olympic Winter Games.
GODA first put forth an Olympic bid in 1963, with hopes of hosting the 1968 Olympic Winter Games. At the time, they proposed to build a town centre at the base of the lifts planned for Whistler Mountain, today’s Creekside. This idea of a planned town centre continued to be developed by further bids.
In 1968, GODA submitted a bid to host the 1972 Olympic Winter Games. The plans from this bid placed the town centre at the same location as today’s Whistler Village. According to a painting currently on display at the Whistler Museum, this town centre would have included a large plaza area with a view of the proposed ski jumps on Whistler Mountain, an airport, and a landing area for helicopters, as well as lodgings and retail spaces.
Neither bid was successful, in part because Whistler Mountain had not yet become firmly established as a ski resort. By 1970, however, when GODA was putting forth a bid for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, Whistler Mountain had become better known and the available amenities had increased significantly since 1963. Garibaldi/Vancouver was selected by the Canadian Olympic Committee as Canada’s official national bid for 1976 and a full IOC bid was developed. This has left behind lots of official material that gives insight into the Canadian Olympic organizers and their vision of the Whistler areas as an Olympic venue, including architectural drawings for a proposed town centre in the official 1976 Vancouver/Garibaldi bid book.
According to the bid book, a prominent selling point for this proposal was the idea of a single-host area, with all events held within four kilometres of the town centre at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
The town centre envisioned in the bid book is not too different from the 1972 bid. Ski Jump Plaza provided views of the ski jumps on Whistler Mountain and was accessible through a pedestrian concourse. The concourse was to be lined on either side by tall, angular buildings and lifts beginning at the concourse would carry skiers and spectators up the hill. Close by would be an ice rink, biathlon course and other Olympic venues.
The proposed town site for the 1976 Games was very different from the village that was designed just eight years later, but certain elements, such as a focus on pedestrians and lift access to Whistler Mountain are defining features of the village we know today.
We’ll be learning more about how Whistler Village came to be this Thursday (October 24) during the first of a three-part storytelling event on Whistler’s history. You can find more information about the Legends of Whistler event here.