Category Archives: Beyond Skiing

There’s so much more to our story than just skiing.

Remembrance Day in Whistler

This Saturday marks the 34th year of Whistler’s Remembrance Day observances, and the first not to take place at the Whistler Village Fire Hall.

Yesterday (Friday, November 10) Whistler’s cenotaph was revealed at its new home in Olympic Plaza in the monument’s second dedication ceremony.

Remembrance Day Ceremonies at the Fire Hall in the 1980s were small but supported by the Whistler community. Photo: Whistler Question Collection, 1984

The history of Whistler’s cenotaph is surprisingly murky – not much about its installation made it into the Whistler Question; far more has been written about moving the cenotaph than building it.  As part of the campaign to have the cenotaph moved, Anne Townley and GD Maxwell searched for any reference to the origins of the cenotaph but were still left with more questions.

The cenotaph was first installed outside of the fire hall in 1985.  It was commissioned by the Rotary Club of Whistler to “honour the soldiers of World War I, World War II and the Korean War.”

The stone came from a quarry off the Duffey Lake Road and was installed by Art Den Duyf and someone by the name of Wilson.  (If anyone knows more about the commissioning and installation of the cenotaph please don’t hesitate to contact the museum.)  The monument was unveiled on November 11, 1985 by Mayor Terry Rodgers and was originally dedicated by then-Rotary Club president Floyd Leclair.  The ceremony occurred just three days after the cenotaph’s installation was completed.

Before the installation of the cenotaph, wreaths were placed dug into the snow in the same location. Photo: Whistler Question Collection, 1984

Although Whistler’s cenotaph was not installed until 1985 the community had been holding Remembrance Day Services for at least two years previously.  These ceremonies also took place outside of the fire hall and wreaths were laid in the future site of the cenotaph, even if a spot for them had to be dug out of the snow.

Since 1985 Whistler’s Remembrance Day observances have grown to include the Colour Party and Parade, the Service of Remembrance, a helicopter fly over, and coffee and hot chocolate in the fire hall courtesy of the Rotary Club.

The Remembrance Day service starts at 10:30 am today (Saturday, November 11) in Olympic Plaza.

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Crevasses & Crags: Tales from the Coast Mountains

Join Glenn Woodsworth and Arnold Shives at the Whistler Museum for a discussion of mountaineering in the Coastal Mountains in the 1960s and 70s and the career of Dick Culbert.  Some of Arnold Shives’ paintings will also be on display at the Audain Art Museum as part of their upcoming exhibit Stone and Sky, opening November 11.

Doors open at 6 pm and the talk begins at 7 pm.  Tickets are $10 ($5 for Museum Members and Club Shred) and are available at the Whistler Museum.

How the VOC Built Its Club Cabin

In the mid-1960s the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC) was looking for a place to build a new Club Cabin as the Parks Board was opposed to privately owned cabins operating on Mount Seymour.  The Club set its sights on the newly developing outdoor recreation area, Whistler.  They saw the opportunity as a chance to further the club’s mandate by providing members with new mountaineering, hiking and skiing opportunities.

The VOC Cabin, located in Nordic. Photo: Leveson-Gower Collection

According to Karl Ricker there was no shortage of energetic youth willing to lend a hand.  Whenever there were more workers than could be put to task, which was fairly frequent, he recalls, they would head out on hikes or even on trail-building excursions.  It was during these outings that the old Singing Pass trail received major upgrades and the trail to Cheakamus Lake was built.

The VOC used their own funds and labour, including the services of architect Byron Olson, to build the new Cabin.  The construction of the Cabin took two years from 1965 to 1967.  The Cabin was an instant hit for VOC members and other budget conscious skiers.

The construction of the VOC Cabin involved many of the club members. Photo: Leveson-Gower Collection

By the early 1970s the VOC was struggling to keep up with the increasing operating and upkeep costs and an internal debate began with the Club on letting go of the Cabin.  Some members wanted to build smaller cabins like the Sphinx (later renamed Burton, after Roland Burton who was instrumental in its construction) Hut in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  Others wanted to create a sub-section of the Club that focused on downhill skiing that would takeover operating the Cabin but still keeping it as a Club asset.

To further complicate matters, the UBC Alma Mater Society claimed ownership of the Cabin because the Club had used the AMS, in name only, to acquire the land for the Cabin.  The VOC attempted to obtain $30,000 for the construction costs and efforts made to to build new huts and relinquish ownership to the AMS and ultimately the UBC Ski Club.  The Club battled for five years until a student referendum passed in their favour in 1980.

The VOC Cabin even made it into Ski Trails, a Vancouver based publication all about skiing in the 1960s and 70s.

With the money received from the AMS, the VOC built two Gothic arch huts.  The first hut was built on Mount Brew, located 40km south of Whistler, and the second hut, the Julian Harrison Memorial Hut, was built near Overseer Mountain, north of Pemberton.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks for stories related to the construction and use of these two Gothic arch huts.

Building the Gothic Arch Huts

For almost 50 years the Himmelsbach Hut has sat perched near Russet Lake at the head of Singing Pass.  The hut was built by the British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC) and named after carpenter and long-time Whistler local Werner Himmelsbach.

Construction of the hut was scheduled in September 1967.  Dick Chambers, a member of the construction party, remembered being flown to Whistler by Helijet at the time (for more about Dick Chambers, check here).

Materials for the Himmelsbach Hut, as well as workers, were flown in by helicopter. Photo: Chambers Collection

“The stuff was all in the parking lot – the old Whistler parking lot.  Blackcomb wasn’t developed then, it was still a garbage dump… so we land at the parking lot and the Park Ranger was there, waiting to organize this stuff, and so he flew me in, and the next morning I waited and waited and nothing was happening,” Chambers recalled.

The helicopter carrying a load of material to the site had lost it somewhere on the northeastern side of the peak of Whistler, across from Blackcomb.  The load had not been properly attached and triggered the release mechanism.

“Eventually we recovered that load of stuff by looking in the bush and it wound up at Werner Himmelsbach’s hut covering his firewood because it wasn’t good for anything, you know, it was beaten up,” Chambers said.

By the time the Club was able to rebuild the lost materials, snowstorms had started and members of the construction party decided to pack it up and store it until the following year.

The Himmelsbach Hut under construction. Photo: Chambers Collection

In August 1968 the Himmelsbach Hut was was built over a period of three days and began the busiest three-years of hut construction by the BCMC in its history.  Other huts built by the club include Wedgemount Lake Hut loacted north of Blackcomb, Pummer Hut on Claw Ridge near the Tellot Glacier and Mountain Waddington, and Mountain Lake Hut that sits east of Brittania Beach.

Along with the huts built by the Club, Werner Himmelsbach lent his laminating jig and expertise to the University of British Columbia’s Varsity Outdoor Club.  The VOC, led by Roland Burton, built a gothic-arch hut near the Sphinx Glacier in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  Years later, he assisted the Alpine Club of Canada Whistler Section in the construction of the Wendy Thompson Hut, located in the Marriott Basin.

The Himmelsbach Hut today. Photo: Spencer Jespersen

Over the past several months, I have been tasked with writing, researching and designing a virtual museum exhibit on the Coast Mountain Gothic Arch Alpine Huts for the Whistler Museum (for more on the virtual exhibit click here).  Once the exhibit is complete, the virtual exhibit will be hosted on the Virtual Museum of Canada Community Memories website and will tell the complete story of these iconic structures.  Look for the release of the virtual exhibit in Winter 2018.

The Origins of Whistler’s Interpretive Forest

After the arrival of the Great Eastern Railway in the fall of 1914, logging and other industrial activities started to develop in and around the Whistler Valley.

Logging was a vital industry in the Whistler area throughout the 20th century and evidence of its impact can be found throughout the valley, from the abandoned Parkhurst logging town on Green Lake to various patches of forest in different states of regrowth.

The forestry industry has a long history throughout the Whistler valley and many of the valley’s early settlers worked in logging. Photo: Fairhurst Collection

The Whistler Interpretive Forest, located off Highway 99 adjacent to Cheakamus Crossing, was created in 1980 as a joint project between the British Columbia Forest Service and Pacific Forest Products Ltd. to provide forest interpretation and education opportunities while demonstrating integrated resource management.  The area is approximately 3,000 hectares.

The earliest logging in the Interpretive Forest began in 1958 and continues into present day.  The area now consists of old growth stands plus a variety of plantations of differing ages.  The Forest Service manages this area to provide benefits for large numbers of people with diverse interests.  Many things are considered in planning for human needs in the forest: hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, biking, as well as continued logging operations.

This photo was taken by Don MacLaurin during his time working in BC’s forestry industry. Photo: MacLaurin Collection

The Whistler Interpretive Forest became part of the Cheakamus Community Forest (33,000 hectares) in 2009.  The Community Forest is managed under an ecosystem-based management approach and run jointly by the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and the Ministry of Forests.  This means that indigenous flora and fauna are given a chance to flourish and recreational opportunities and expand, while new sustainable forestry practices are explored and refined.  Under this management regime, an average of 40 hectare per year is harvested.

The area has become a favourite amongst locals and tourists, with many of Whistler’s most popular trails located in the area.  The trail network includes the Riverside Trail, which explores the Cheakamus River with the help of the MacLaurin Crossing suspension bridge.

Don MacLaurin, Isobel MacLaurin and friends hiking in the mountains. Photo: MacLaurin Collection

The bridge was named after Don MacLaurin, a local forester who helped develop, map and design the area to help people understand the forest and its importance.  Other popular trails include the Loggers Lake Trail, which climbs a rock bluff to a hidden lake and a wooden pier, and the Cheakamus Trail, which wanders through the forest to the glacier-fed Cheakamus Lake.

Scattered amongst the roads and trails in the area are interpretive displays about the local flora, fauna, geology and logging history, along with details about the forest types of the region and the replanting techniques used in the Interpretive Forest.

Peter Ackhurst and John Hammons at work in the Whistler Interpretive Forest.

The Whistler Rotary Club, with financial help from the Community Foundation of Whistler, have been updating the interpretation displays and signs in the Whistler Interpretive Forest over the past two years, as many have fallen into disrepair.  The Whistler Museum has been a supportive partner in this project, helping with the design and, at times, installation of these new signs.

More information on this project can be found at: cheakamuscommunityforest.com.

Naming Night: Finding the Stories Behind the Photos

You might have heard that the museum opened a new exhibit on the photographs of The Whistler Question yesterday (if you haven’t, The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985 opens at 6 pm on Friday and will run through November 30).  Thanks to everyone who came to celebrate the opening with us, especially our guests Paul Burrows and Glenda Bartosh!

While many of the photographs appeared in the newspaper with context provided by their respective captions and articles, there are many more that we don’t know a whole lot about.

While we know that this photo was taken at an Alta Lake Community Club Fall Fair, we have not yet been able to identify any of the people pictured.

The amount of information we have on photographs in our collection varies depending upon the photograph.  Often the person donating the photograph is able to tell us exactly who is in it, where it was taken and what was going on at the time; other times the photograph has a caption written on its back that provides some information.

Some photographs, however, are donated to the museum without any names or dates given other than those that can be identified by museum staff.

When this happens we rely on the community for help identifying people, places, dates and events.  If we are able to identify one or two people in a photograph then often we will ask them if they are able to identify anything else about the image.  Social media is also very useful, as those who follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and our blog are able to comment and add what they know, whether they took the photo, are in the photo or recognize something about the photo.

When this photograph was posted on Facebook Greg Griffith, the photographer, was able to name every person on the chair: Cheryl Morningstar, Eric Griffith, Pat Griffith & Dean Stone.

A (somewhat) recent article about Worlebury Lodge and the Burge family included a photo of a group hike to Rainbow Falls in the 1950s or ’60s.  Of the 15 people pictured only two had been identified.  Luckily for us, one of the members of the group read the article and was able to provide 10 more names, including his own (top, second from left).  He was also able to narrow the date of the photo to around 1959.  Being able to add information like this to the photograph’s entry in our database makes it much more likely that the photograph will be included when someone searches for a specific person, place or event in our database or online gallerie

A hike to Rainbow Falls: (top left to right): Jean Dove, John Burge, Joyce Gow, Tim Burge, Maurice Burge, Don Gow; middle: Florence Petersen, Jane Dove, unknown; bottom: unknown, Connie Gow, unknown, Stephen Dove, Karen Gow, Muriel Burge. From his absence it is possible Ray Dove took the photo. Photo: Dove

While recognizing and identifying subjects of a photograph on social media is incredibly useful to the museum, reminiscing is much more fun when you’re with other who share some of the same memories.

Whether you’ve recently arrived in town, have visited over the years or have lived here for decades, everyone is invited to Naming Night at the Whistler Museum at 7 pm on Thursday, September 21, to help us find out more about the photographs in our collection (there will be free admission for the evening and a cash bar).

We’ll provide the photographs, ranging from the 1950s through the 2000s (with perhaps an emphasis on the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s due to the overwhelming number of photographs in The Whistler Question collection), and we’ll be relying on you to provide names, places, events and stories of the photographs and their contents.

Generations of Alta Lake

Though there are some scattered throughout the valley, not many houses in Whistler have been passed down through generations, and fewer can claim to have been occupied by five generations of the same family.  The cabin of the Woollard/Clarke/Bellamy family, is one such home.

Grace Woollard and Grace Archibald in the Cheakamus Canyon on their way to Alta Lake, 1912.

Betty Woollard, later Betty Clarke, was the second teacher at the Alta Lake School, replacing Margaret Partridge in 1936.  Betty’s mother, Grace Woollard, first came to Alta Lake along the Pemberton Trail in 1912 with Grace Archibald.  Both nurses in Vancouver, the two Graces came to visit Ernie Archibald (who would later disappear into Alta Lake in 1938) and fell in love with the valley.  After her marriage to Charles Woollard, a doctor, Grace Woollard returned to Alta Lake and the couple preempted a quarter section of land.  Their two daughters, Betty and Eleanor, spent their summers at Alta Lake, along with the Clarkes, family friends of the Woollards who built a cabin on what is now Blueberry Hill.

Betty earned a combined honours in English and History at the University of British Columbia and then attended normal school to become a teacher.  She was visiting her mother at Grace’s cabin in the valley when the search was on for a replacement for Margaret Partridge, the school’s first teacher who had previously been a waitress at Rainbow Lodge, and Betty got the job.

The Alta Lake School where Betty Clarke taught in the 1930s.

Betty Woollard taught at the one room schoolhouse for a couple of years.  While at the school she, like Margaret Partridge before her, was devoted to the students and even went to great lengths to teach the The Sailors Hornpipe, a dance which imitates the life of a sailor and their duties aboard ship.  As her daughter Margaret Bellamy recalled, Betty had to write out the directions for her students but found the only way she could do that was by doing the dance herself.  She would do one step, write it down, do two steps, write down the new step, do three steps, write it down, and so on until she made it through the whole dance.  It took Betty hours and she was completely exhausted.

Betty Woollard (left) and her sister Eleanor along the tracks at Alta Lake.

Both Betty and her sister married men they knew from Alta Lake.  Eleanor married Mason Philip, the nephew of Alex Philip, and Betty married Douglas Clarke, one of the Clarke boys she had grown up knowing.  While Doug was overseas during World War II Betty and her young daughter Susanne bought their own cabin at the south end of Alta Lake.  Betty’s mother, Grace, sold her original cabin and moved to be closer to her daughter.  So far five generations of Betty’s family have spent summers in that cabin, including her mother, her daughter, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.