Category Archives: Beyond Skiing

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

The Great Toad Migration

Whistler Western toad migration is almost done!

If you’ve been up at Lost Lake recently, you may have seen these tiny toads behind the black carriers in the wetlands or crossing the paths around you.  You may have even helped us move them off the path (thank you!).

Just in case you didn’t have a chance to see them or to speak with one of the Nature Interpreters at our Discover Nature booth, we’ll be providing answers here to some of the questions people have about the toads and the steps taken to protect them.

The great Western toadlets on their annual migration at Lost Lake. Photo: Kristina Swerhun

Every spring, a female Western toad will lay approximately 12,000 eggs in shallow water.  These eggs become tadpoles in just three to 12 days and are ready to leave the water after six to eight weeks.  At Lost Lake, this means crossing the beach, the Valley Trail and the road to join the adult Western toads in the forests and grasslands.  In nature, less than one per cent of these toads make it to breeding age.  It is our responsibility to make sure human activities don’t increase their mortality rate.

To help the toads survive this journey, the RMOW is working towards a more “toad friendly” environment around Lost Lake Park.  Barriers and fences have been put in place to direct toads towards the forest and nature interpreters from the Whistler Museum’s Discover Nature program educate passersby about this sensitive and protected species.

The toads are helped across the trail by volunteers who also encourage people to walk their bikes and step carefully.

At some point, the toads must cross the Valley Trail and Lost Lake Road on their way to the upland forest areas where they will hibernate for the winter.  To protect them on their journey, Lost Lake Road is closed and people are asked to please watch their step and walk their bikes.

Although the toads are pretty cute, visitors to Lost Lake are asked not to touch the toads with their bare hands as the toads’ skin is very sensitive to human oils and sunscreen.  Picking up the toads or poking them can cause them serious harm or even kill them.

The toadlets blend in well to their surroundings, making them easy to miss.

These steps, which may seem inconvenient, are taken not only to protect a sensitive species but also because Whistler is home to many different creatures, including people.  All of these creatures deserve to be respected.

If you are interested in the Great Toad Migration and would like to help, come visit the Whistler Museum Nature Interpreters at Lost Lake.  We can supply you with gloves and cups and teach you  how to handle the toads without harming them.

If you see the toads anywhere other than Lost Lake, we would love to know!  To report sightings or if you have any questions, please contact us at DiscoverNature@WhistlerMuseum.org.

Kara is a Nature Interpreter with the Whistler Museum’s Discover Nature Program and a recent graduate of Whistler Secondary.  Find her at Lost Lake under the white tent by the concession or on our Nature Walks meeting at the PassivHaus at 11 am Tuesday to Friday until the end of August.

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Remembering an Iconic Whistler Venue: The Boot Pub

With all the bands, concerts and events going on in Whistler in the summer, it’s easy to forget about the Boot Pub and all its past glory in laying the groundwork for the entertainment scene we know today.

The Ski Boot Motel and Bus, still under construction. WMSC Collection

For those who haven’t heard about it, the Boot Pub opened its doors in 1970 as part of the Ski Boot Lodge Motel at the corner of Highway 99 and Nancy Greene Way and soon became legendary.  It was a place where ski bums could lay their heads for just $5 a night, where travellers on a shoestring budget could find a relatively cheap place to stay in an increasingly expensive resort.

Sadly, the Boot served its last customers in 2006, but to this day nearly every longtime resident of Whistler has a story to tell about the bar and live-music venue – it even hosted the Tragically Hip along with other performers such as She Stole My Beer, The Watchmen, Michael Franti & Spearhead, D.O.A. and SNFU.

The Boot Pub hosted some incredible bands in its day, including The Watchmen pictured here (date unknown). Evans Collection

The Hip, one of the most popular bands in Canada, played a surprise concert at the Boot in 2003 – they had booked the venue under the band name The Fighting Fighters and their performance was top secret until they came out on stage to raucous applause.

While the design of the building and the weathered, cedar-shingle siding didn’t have any particular appeal to the eye, it became a place that captured the local lore of Whistler in its over three decades of operation.

Nicknamed the locals’ living room, it was comfortable and lively, a place where you could drink cheap beer and listen to great live music.

Brothers Peter and Stephen Vogler playing at Whistler’s famous Boot Pub in the late 90s. Photo: Chris Woodall, published in Stephen Vogler’s book “Only in Whistler. Tales of a Mountain Town”

It soon became one of the main social and cultural attractions of the growing town, helped by a few rowdy stories to lock in its notable reputation.  Many of these stories seem to include unique entrances, such as an Aussie bartender who rode into the pub on his horse (rather than hitching it to the post outside like others did), an ex-coach of the Crazy Canucks ski team riding his motorcycle in, and even someone arriving by snowcat.

While the Boot Pub operated mainly as a pub and a venue for live music, it was also notorious for hosting a different kind of live entertainment: the infamous Boot Ballet.  Yes, it was for many years Whistler’s exotic dance venue.

After over 25 years in business and a few ownership changes, the Boot closed just a few years after it was purchased by Cressey Development Limited, a Vancouver-based company.

The Boot Pub hosted a variety of acts, including Rainbow Butt Monkeys, today known as Finger Eleven. Evans Collection

It may have been inevitable that the Boot Pub would be subjected to redevelopment given its location within walking distance of the village, but there is little doubt that places like the Boot Pub were vital in helping to nurture Whistler’s famed ski culture, which attracted skiers and travellers from all over the world.

Whistler is a dynamic and compelling place and comparing the Whistler of today to the Whistler of the ’70s is almost impossible.  The resort is constantly undergoing changes to meet the demands and investments of an international destination resort, but looking back, it is clear that during the resort’s early days, the Boot Pub was more than just a local watering hole – it was where Whistler came to relax and share the stories that have become our history.

Angela Leong is one of two summer Collections Assistants at the Whistler Museum.  She will be returning to Simon Fraser University in the fall to continue her degree in Health Sciences.

DeBeck Letters: Life After Parkhurst

When going through accounts of life at Parkhurst one name that keeps coming up is Denis DeBeck.

Denis DeBeck poses with some ties and the dog Micky. Photo: DeBeck Collection

Denis DeBeck was the eldest of six siblings.  Two of his younger brothers, Ward and Keary, also worked a few summers at Parkhurst.  It was during those years that their mother brought the younger three children, Betsy, Nedra and Fred, to stay on Green Lake as well.

The DeBecks came from the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver where the children all attended school.  Denis graduated from Magee High School in 1928 and got his first job at Coast Quarries.  Over the next few years he worked various jobs, including a stint as his father’s office boy.  In 1932 he began working for B.C. Keeley (who bought Parkhurst in 1933) at his mill in Marpole.  A year later Denis was on the train bound for Parkhurst (in a snowstorm, according to his letters) where he would work on and off for the next five years.

Dorothy DeBeck outside Parkhurst. Photo: DeBeck Collection

During these years he married Dorothy, a friend of his cousin Barbara.  After the original mill burnt down in 1938 the DeBecks left Parkhurst and in 1940 Denis and his partner John Brunzen opened their own small portable mill at 43.5 Mile on the PGE Railway.  This was also the year Denis and Dorothy had their first daughter, Wilma.  Their second, Barbara May, came after they moved the mill to 48.8 Mile.

We are fortunate at the museum to have copies of letters written by Denis to his brother Keary between 1943 and 1944, when Keary was serving in the RCAF overseas.

The letters provide a glimpse into life in British Columbia during the Second World War and into the DeBeck family.  Denis provided his brother with family news and commented on the updates Keary sent about their brother Fred who was recovering from a plane crash.  When Fred returned to Canada their roles switched and Denis provided the updates.  While living at 48.8 Mile the DeBeck family appears to have communicated often through letters and visits, described once by Denis as “a three week raid on Victoria” where their parents had moved.

Wilma DeBeck and another girl on the PGE tracks. Photo: DeBeck Collection

Denis also sent his brother news of the mills in the area in his first few letters.  By November 1943 he was already looking for the next location for his portable mill, expecting to finish the timber at 48.8 Mile by the next April.  Locations mentioned were Nita Lake, D’Arcy and Squamish.

Alf Gebhart’s house in the 1930s.  The Gebharts had a mill in the valley, but weren’t necessarily having the best year. Photo: Debeck Collection

From his news, mills did not appear to be having the best year.  As Denis put it, “Poor old Parkhurst.  Same old story, out of logs.  They are only running a 7 hour day and still run out of logs.”  There was also trouble with logs at Lost Lake and for the Gebhart’s mill.

In a letter from March 1944 Denis describes the new tool being used to fell the last of the timber at 48.8 Mile.  “We bought one of those power chainsaws and it works pretty good but not as well as we thought it would.  Very good for falling but no good for bucking in the woods.”  Despite taking awhile to start up, he claimed the sawing was “4 or 5 times as fast as hand sawing.”

Despite his predictions of moving soon, the DeBeck family was still at 48.8 Mile in October of 1944.  Though the letters we have stop there, the family moved to Squamish in 1945 and Denis continued to operate his own sawmills.  He lived there until his death in 2007 at the age of 96.

Walking Tour Season 2018

Ever found yourself lost in Whistler Village?  The unique flow of Whistler Village was actually one man’s specific intention!  On our one hour tour you can learn more about him and many others who have helped to shape Whistler as it is today.  As we wander through Whistler Village you’ll uncover Whistler’s start as a fishing lodge, tales behind the mountain development, and our long journey to the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The tour is approximately one hour long.  Each tour is led by a long-time local, each with their own personal knowledge to add to Whistler’s story.  Whether you’re visiting us, here to work for the season or have lived here for years we guarantee you’ll be sure to learn something new.  Do you know how Whistler and Blackcomb mountains got their names?  Or when the first Olympic bid was placed?  This is your chance to find out the answers to these questions and so many more!

Valley of Dreams Walking Tours occur every day at 11 am in June, July and August.  Meeting outside the Whistler Visitor Centre on Gateway Loop, these daily tours are offered by donation.

We are more than happy to provide private tours outside of these times or for groups.  Simply contact the museum to book a private tour, preferably at least a week in advance.  With sufficient notice we can also customize content and routes to meet your group’s specific interests and needs.
For all tour-related inquires please call the Whistler Museum at 604-932-2019 or visit us behind the library.

This Week In Photos: July 5

1978

Sherri Bilenduke smiles during the Pemberton parade on July 1st.

Workers (currently on a break) sweat under the sun at the scene of the new Hydro substation expansion project. Some locals are involved.

The BC Rail bridge over the Fitzsimmons Creek showing how the gravel buildup has drastically reduced the space between the water & the bridge.

1980

The Valleau Logging Truck float rounds the bend carrying the new Miss Pemberton, Kristi King.

Ron Jensen and Larry Packer pause before continuing their Utah to Alaska bike or two years on the road, whichever comes first. Malmute huskies carry their own food and water.

(L to R) John Derby, Andrew Nasedkin and Jeff Stern enjoy the Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camp now in progress.

(L to R) Narumi Kimura, Al Karaki and Masahito Tsunokai stand beside the Subaru-donated vehicle for their use while they train in Canada for the FIS freestyle circuit.

Sid Young hoists one of his 120 East Coast lobsters he had airlifted in for his summer party. Each one of the crustaceans weighed near 1.5 pounds.

Too many trucks and cars parked in “no parking” areas means no clear sightlines for drivers trying to enter Highway 99 from Lake Placid Rd.

1981

Picnic site at Daisy Lake – soon to be one of the many recreational facilities closed by the provincial government.

The sunworshippers poured out of the shadows and onto the wharf of Lost Lake on July 5 to enjoy a bit of Old Sol, whom some believe to be on the endangered species list.

Diver leaps from “swinging tree” at Lost Lake.

Paving helps smooth things out in the Village entrance.

Florence Corrigan, Whistler’s new pharmacist.

Looking like the stark rib cage of a whale, the support beams to the roof of the Resort Centre are put in place.

Stuart McNeill and 16 of his sunny students take to the shade on the first day of Camp Rainshine. McNeill is assisting Susie McCance in supervising the program.

The first Miss Bikini of Whistler, Keli Johnston, 19, of Whistler won herself a crisp $100 bill in the Mountain House’s first bikini contest held July 6.

1982

Alta Lake hosted the District 11 Windsurfing Championships over the weekend. First overall went to Thierry Damilano.

Strike up the band and pedal a brightly-decorated bike for Canada Day! These kids were only too eager to parade their creations around Village Square July 1.

Wow! Eyes agog, patient cake lovers were distracted for but a split second by a passing batch of bright-coloured balloons at Canada’s birthday party. The wait in line proved well worth it.

A birthday party deserves lots of bright colours and fun, and these kids weren’t disappointed by the Happy Birthday Canada celebrations held July 1 in Village Square. Const. Brian Snowden in full dress uniform gave Willie Whistler a hand passing out balloons.

Any explanation of this photograph would be greatly appreciated.

1984

Whistler Mountain’s Village Chair is now open for rides aloft for picnics and sightseeing. The chair opened Saturday, and will be running Thrusday to Monday, 11 am until 3 pm all summer.

Mountain bike racers competed Sunday and Monday in a pair of contests around the valley.

Tony Tyler and Linda Stefan, along with the invaluable help of Willie Whistler, drew the names of two lucky North Shore Community Credit Union customers Tuesday morning. Winners of the credit union’s opening draw are Fred Lockwood and Heather McInnis, both of Whistler. Lockwood receives a dual mountain ski pass and McInnis a summer’s windsurfing.

Canada’s birthday didn’t go unnoticed in Whistler, where a Maple Leaf cake baked by The Chef & Baker was distributed after birthday celebrations. RCMP Constable Rocky Fortin managed to take a moment away from posing for tourists’ snapshots in his full dress uniform and cut the cake.

It’s not just what you make, it’s how you make it! Winner of showmanship laurels for Sunday’s chili cook-off went to the Medics, whose chili didn’t go down well with the judges, but at least stayed down.

Winning team (The Gambling Gourmet) consisting of (l to r) Ted Nebbeling, judge Dean Hill, Wendy Meredith, Sue Howard, judge Phil Reimer, Val Lang.

This Week In Photos: June 14

This week in June has hosted a variety of events, including high school graduations, construction of summer attractions (and the Village), bicycle rodeos and picket lines.

1978

The Valleau Logging Camp Cookhouse near Mons Station stands deserted but not for long. Local residents plan to renovate the building and operate a food service for the valley this summer.

Pemberton Secondary Class of 1978. Not in order, the students are: Sherry Bilenduke, Hugh Blackstock, Kim Blundell, Helen Bush, Pat Bush, Lois Carson, Gary Decker, David Fairhurst, Carol Gilmore, Ken Gilmore, Laurie Hamula, Cathy Heine, Polly Jang, James Kernaghan, Norman LeBlanc, Anita Lever, Spencer Lowenberg, Edward Mah, Carola Marinus, Selma Miller, Bert Perkins, Ann Peterson, Doris Rollert, Kelly Ross, Philip Tourand, Conroy van der Lee, Peter Vogler, Celeste Watson, Michael Wetti, Michael Wilson, Joanne Wood.

The graduating students from the Garibaldi/Whistler area with their parents at the Pemberton Secondary Graduation on Friday.

Whistler students from Myrtle Philip School participated in a district-wide track meet held in Squamish.

1980

Whistler Land Company’s new office is barely occupied last week as the first town centre offices are occupied.

Work on the golf course as seen from the bluffs where the building lots are situated.

Sandra Pollock and Kathy Francis prepare the models and… KABOOM!…..

Attorney-General Alan Williams, MLA for West Vancouver-Howe Sound, discusses the Barrier report and the BC Government’s Order in Council that froze all land in Garibaldi with area residents.

Lift Co. employee seeds lower northside runs to help cut down erosion. Runs are almost completed at lower elevations.

All that remains of a ’77 Ford pickup after it left the road early Saturday morning.

1981

The first glulam being hoisted into place over the swimming pool area of the Resort Centre.

Al Raine (left) takes publishers from around the province on a tour of Whistler Town Centre.

Betty Chaba strums a tune while relaxing at Alta Lake in front of JB’s.

Garibaldi Building Supplies’ expanded new yard is ready for a busy summer season.

Some members of the Whistler Rotary Club.

1983

The most prudent bikers in the RCMP bicycle rodeo held Saturday, June 12 in Village Square (l to r) Simon Bellar, Samantha O’Keefe, Jody Rustad, Nicolas Busdon (overall winner). Melanie Busdon, Dave Den Duyf and Davey Blacklock who won the bicycle donated by Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

Municipal trail crews cut through the brush to make the final connection between the Alpine Meadows trail and the Meadow Park trail (under construction). Paving to complete the trail system will begin at the end of July.

These three answered this week’s question: Graeme Mounsey, Traveller, Sydney, Australia; Walter Therrien, Caretaker – Capilano Mobile Park, North Vancouver; Anne Crocker, Travel Counsellor – North Van Chamber of Commerce, West Vancouver.

If you attend the Sea Festival parade July 23, you’ll be able to enjoy the final results of this artist’s rendering for a Whistler float. The illustration will be used as a guide for constructing the float, estimated to cost $2,500.

1984

Kids, cars and parents turned out Saturday for a car wash and bake sale that netted over $200 for the school’s parent/teacher group. Police cars, a fire truck and a whole flotilla of private vehicles stopped for spring cleaning.

Emergency Services (last year called Tri-Services) overcame a mid-game spurt by the team from Citta to post a 17-12 victory on Monday in Whistler Beer League slo-pitch softball league action. Emergency Services now has a sparkling record of three wins and no losses.

Three (two pictured) locked-out truckers picketed The Grocery Store in the village Tuesday, preventing other union members from bringing supplies to the store. Picketing trucker Dayton MacKenzie said they are protesting their employer’s decision to use “scab” drivers for food deliveries. Employer Slade and Steward Ltd. has locked out Vancouver employees, and other employees in BC are on strike as of Tuesday. Grocery Store owner Geoff Power was unavailable for comment at press time.

An Alpine Paving crew was hard at work last Wednesday paving the mini golf course just behind L’Apres at the gondola. Whistler Mountain hopes to have the Tattersfield and Associates designed course ready for operation by Saturday, June 16, but promise to have it ready for play by the following weekend. Eighteen holes will cost players $2.

No one skis anymore at the former Rainbow Ski area just off Highway 99 between Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates but at one time it was the only place in Whistler open for night skiing. The ski jump was built by volunteers in the mid-1970s (though the date was recorded as mid-1970s in the Question accounts told to the Whistler Museum put the building of the ski jump earlier in the 1960s; the last competitions held on the ski jump occurred in the mid-1970s.).

Settling on Wedge

With the successful completion of the Himmelsbach Hut in 1968, the British Columbia Mountaineering Club (BCMC) began looking for another location to build a Gothic arch hut near Whistler.  They already had a couple of ideas for their next location; one was near Mt. Trorrey along the Spearhead Traverse, the other was an alpine meadow on Mount Brew.  The BCMC decided to ask the mountaineering community for suggestions and advertised through a mountaineering paper and a few leaflets.

Werner Himmelsbach recalled, “So this logger, he contacted me and said, ‘I hiked up the peak beside Wedge Mountain and I saw a nice lake don below,’ so I thought that would be a place.”

The Himmelsbach Hut, named for Werner Himmelsbach, as it appears nowadays. Photo: Jeff Slack

Werner, along with three other BCMC members, decided to hike up Wedge in hopes of finding the lake the logger mentioned.  “It took us five and a half hours to get up there because we got lost in there because it was bush.”

This exploration of Wedge also involved finding a way across the river as there was no bridge access.  “Wedgemount Lake… was beautiful and when you come over the rise… there is this lake, turquoise colour and the glacier right into the lake,” Werner reminisced.

The idyllic Wedgemount Hut, with Wedge Mountain looming above left.  The glacier has noticeably receded as Werner remembers the glacier coming right into the lake.   Photo: Jeff Slack

The BCMC held a meeting to decide the new location and the vote was decidedly in favour of building the hut near Wedgemount Lake.  At Mount Brew, as mentioned in a previous article in The Whistler Question, the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club would later struggle with their own Gothic arch huts in the 1980s and the Spearhead Traverse would be revisited in the future by the BCMC.

The BCMC was granted building permission by BC Parks on October 9, 1970 and quickly organized a work party to construct the hut over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Werner was away on a trip to the Kootenays, so “master-builder” Manfred was in charge of putting the hut together.  The majority of the hut was built on the Saturday and the finishing touches and aluminum siding were added on Sunday.  The outhouse was built on the Monday but no trench was dug because the snow had already started to fall.

The Wedgemount Lake Hut. Photo: Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia.

Brian Wood, a BCMC member and former President of the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia, recalled the BCMC assembled a work crew to go back to Wedgemount Lake to complete the construction of the hut in 1971.  When the crew arrived wind and snow creep had pushed the hut off of its foundations.  The crew used fallen logs to help maneuver the hut back into place and attached a couple of guy wires to help keep the hut on its foundations.  The crew dug the pit for the outhouse and the hut was ready to officially open that summer.

The Wedgemount Lake Hut remains a popular destination for hikers, rock-climbers and ski mountaineers to this day.  Because the hut only accommodates eight people. BC Parks has build camping spots and a bear cache nearby.  Reservations are required to camp or use the hut year-round.  If you’re interested in heading out, visit the BC Parks website for more details.