Category Archives: News & Events

WMAS in the community.

Crafts in the Park is Back for 2019!

Crafts in the Park is back!  Each week we partner with the Whistler Public Library to present a story and craft in Florence Petersen Park.  This year’s theme is “When I Was In Whistler, I Saw…” and each week will feature a different animal, activity or object that could be seen in Whistler, either in the present or in the past!

Crafts in the Park runs on Wednesdays from 11am-noon.  It is a drop-in program for all children ages 4-12, with a chaperone present.

Week 1: July 10

Have you ever seen a beaver in Whistler?  In making their home in the valley, beavers made dams along waterways and changed the landscape for many years to come.  Many of the rivers and streams in Whistler are still the way they are because of beavers.  For our first craft, we’ll be creating cone beavers and paper bag dams.

Week 2: July 17

Traveling to Whistler became a lot easier in 1914 with the arrival of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway.  Instead of 3 days, the trek from Vancouver now took about 9 hours (still a lot longer than we’re used to today).   The railway had a major influence on making Whistler a popular resort destination, and we’ll be making our very own train engines in any colours you want.

Week 3: July 24

For this week, we’ll be collaborating with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to make animal headbands!

Week 4: July 31

Alta Lake became a popular fishing destination in 1914 and people caught many different kinds of fish.  Just like those early visitors, we’ll be making our own mini fishing rods and fish.  You’ll even be able to catch these fish with your rod, and fish can be designed however you want!

Week 5: August 7

Before the train came to Whistler, it took 3 days to reach Alta lake.  The first day was spent on a steamboat from Vancouver to Squamish, and from there you would have to walk all the to Whistler, accompanied by a pack horse.  When fishing lodges began opening on Alta Lake, some lodges kept stables and would take guests on rides around the valley.  This week we’ll be making our very own horse, who can stand all by itself!  For ambitious crafters, we’ll also be making clothespin riders.

Week 6: August 14

Sailing has been popular in Whistler for over 100 years and Alta Lake residents enjoyed taking all kids of boats out in the summer.  We’ll be making our own sailboats out of sponges, corks and paper.  Just like real boats, these really do float!

Week 7: August 21

While Whistler is very well known for its winter sports, in the summer mountain biking takes over the town.  This week we’ll be making pipe-cleaner bikes and bikers!

Week 8: August 28

Downhill skiing came to Whistler in the 1960s and has been wildly popular ever since.  Snowboarding was introduced to the hills in the 1980s, and now both sports are found on the mountains each winter.  We’ll be making our very own skiers and snowboarders this week, as we look forward to another snowy winter!

We look forward to seeing you on Wednesdays!

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Talking Shop: Whistler’s Early Mountain Bike Shops

Not only do we have a trail-rich valley to call home in Whistler, but we are also spoiled with choice when it comes to bike shops.  This wasn’t always the case.

When mountain bikes first hit the logging roads in the valley in the early 1980s, most riders had to head to Vancouver for any mountain-bike-specific parts and maintenance, according to one or our oral history interviews with local mountain bike pioneer Steve Anderson.

Mountain biking steadily became more popular in Whistler from the 1980s but at the beginning there were few shops dedicated to the sport.  Whistler Question Collection.

A couple of shops were starting to pop up around that time.  In the newly constructed village Jim McConkey’s shop sold bikes in the summer months and Doris Burma operated a small bike shop, Summit Cycles, out of a trailer right above the commercial loading zone at the Delta Mountain Inn (today known as the Hilton).  Doris was passionate about mountain bikes and famed for her Cheakamus Challenge precursor race called “See Colours & Puke,” a wild mountain bike race reportedly meant to be completed on mushrooms.

In the autumn of 1985 Backroads Whistler owner Eric Wight opened a bike shop  in the basement of Creekside’s Southside Diner.  A short time later, the shop moved to the first floor of a house in Mons.

The new location was in the centre of the local mountain bike scene at the time, not far from new trails in Emerald and Lost Lake.  The shop sold, fixed, and rented mountain bikes, even building a small trials track outside their door.  Eric admits the shops didn’t make much money in the early days, as most of the clientele were locals who could only afford parts using “local deals.”  Big things were to come, however.

Whistler began hosting bike races in the early 1980s, creating even more demand for maintenance and shops.  Whistler Question Collection.

In 1989 Eric’s shop moved to Whistler Village, finding a spot in the base of the Delta.  The location was off the radar for visitors, however, and the clientele was still all locals.  The shop finally surfaced on the Village Stroll in the spot where Jim McConkey had sold bikes (currently Showcase Snowboards) around the time Backroads began working with Whistler Mountain to begin mountain bike tours down the mountain.  According to Eric, the new shop had a Santa Fe theme, a mechanic shop in the back, rentals and tours, and plenty of snazzy lycra on sale out front.

As mountain biking continued gaining traction the 1990s saw bike shops that are still kicking it today start up shop.

In 1994 John Inglis and Peter Colapinto opened the Whistler Bike Co., also in the underground portion of the Delta, for the summer months.  In 1995 they brought onboard Giant Bicycles and they eventually expanded to Pemberton, the Village Gate location, and, most recently, their Marketplace location to accommodate a growing population of bikers in town.

Molson’s Whistler Bike Race passes through the Whistler Village, where some of the earlier bike shops in town can still be found today.  Whistler Question Collection.

Bike Co. is currently the oldest independent bike shop in town, followed closely by Evolution, which was opened by Jenine Bourbonnais in 1995.  Many more mountain bike shops have opened up as Whistler has become the mountain bike mecca it is today: Summit Sports, Fanatyk Co., Garbanzo Bike & Bean, Coastal Culture Sports, Arbutus Routes, Whistler Village Sports, The Fix, Comor Sports, Fineline, Gateway Bikes – the list is long and continues to grow.  Needless to say, Whistler’s mountain bikers (and their bikes) are now very well serviced.

This week we’ve been celebrating Whistler’s mountain biking history with the museum’s 4th annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week.  You can find a full list of events here and join us for our final event on Wednesday featuring Chris Allen of North Shore Billet and Steve Mathews of Vorsprung.

Walking Tour Season Returns!

Summer walking tours are back!  This year we’re excited to be offering two daily tours through June, July & August.  Join us to explore our area’s history with our Valley of Dreams Walking Tour or learn more about the valley’s nature and biodiversity with our Discover Nature Walking Tour.

Whether you’re visiting Whistler, here to work for the season or a long time local we guarantee you will learn something new about Whistler’s history and nature.  Tours last approximately an hour.

Valley of Dreams Walking Tour: meet outside the Visitor Information Centre at 11 am

Discover Nature Walking Tour: meet outside the Lost Lake PassivHaus at 11 am

Whistler MTB Heritage Week 2019

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week

For more than 3 decades mountain biking has woven itself into the fabric of Whistler’s outdoor community. At the same time, our distinct biking scene has increasingly spread its influence throughout the MTB world.

In celebration of the trails, talent, and passion that makes mountain biking in Whistler special, from June 6 – 12 the Whistler Museum will be hosting a series of presentations, film screenings, workshops and more.

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week is produced by the Whistler Museum, with generous support from the RMOW, and in partnership with WORCA.

Event Rundown

June 6: Post-WORCA Toonie Retro Bike Show & Shine

If you’ve been hanging onto your old Stump Jumper, have a frame you used to ride the trails in the 1980s or just have a passion for old bikes, now is your time to shine! Bring out your old retro bikes to the post-Toonie apres in the Creekside parking lot and take a look at how much mountain bikes have changed in the past few decades. Prizes for best retro bike & outfit. This week’s Toonie is hosted by Coastal Culture Sports, Creekside Market, X-treme Organics, Sabre Rentals & Arts Whistler.  Sign In: Interpretive Forest Car Park; Après: Creekside Parking Lot.  Ride starts at 6:30pm.  More info on the ride here. For more information on participating in the Retro Bike Show & Shine give us a call at (604) 932-2019.

June 7: Speaker Series – Think Bike Conversations: Indigenous MTB

As part of Think Bike Whistler, Patrick Lucas (Director, BC Aboriginal Youth MTB Program) and Pat Montani (Founder, Bicycles for Humanity) will be at the museum to discuss indigenous mountain biking on a global scale. At the Whistler Museum.  Doors open at 7 pm; talk begins at 7:30 pm.  Entry included in Think Bike registration. Tickets for those not registered with Think Bike will be $5.

June 8: Speaker Series – The Story of the Cheakamus Challenge: Whistler’s Classic MTB Endurance Race (1989 – 2011)

The Cheakamus Challenge ran from 1989 – 2011 and became one of Whistler’s classic mountain bike endurance races.  We’ll be joined by race organizer Grant Lamont and past winners and competitors to explore the stories behind the race.  At the Whistler Museum.  Doors open at 6:30 pm; talk begins at 7 pm.  Entry by donation, with all proceeds going to WORCA.

June 9: Film Screening – Ride to the Hills

The Whistler Museum is hosting a screening of Jorli Ricker’s classic mountain bike film Ride to the Hills,  followed by a Q&A with Ricker and door prizes.  At the Whistler Public Library.  Doors open at 6:30 pm; film begins at 7 pm.  Free admission.

June 11: Bike Maintenance Workshop

Whistler Bike Co., Whistler Museum and the Whistler Public Library are teaming up to offer a bike maintenance workshop.  In this two-hour session, we’ll be talking techniques to keep your bike in working order and how to know when a trip to the bike shop is required.  At the Whistler Museum.  Registration is required (registration opens June 1).  Call the Whistler Public Library 604-935-8435.

June 12: Speaker Series – Manufacturing in the Mountains

Ever wondered about where your bike parts come from?  Some of them might be made right here in Whistler.  We’ll be joined by Chris Allen of North Shore Billet and Steve Mathews of Vorsprung to learn about why they believe in manufacturing in Whistler and how they make it work.  At the Whistler Museum.  Doors open at 6:30 pm; talk begins at 7 pm.  Entry by donation.

A huge thanks to all our sponsors of these events!
Partners and sponsors include: WORCA, Whistler Bike Co., the Whistler Public Library, Coastal Culture Sports, Pinkbike, Chromag, Vorsprung Suspension, Crankworx, Evolution, Creekside Market, X-treme Organics, Sabre Rentals, Arts Whistler, Whistler Blackcomb and the Province of British Columbia.

Finding A Place: A History of Housing in Whistler

Our newest temporary exhibit Finding A Place: A History of Housing in Whistler will be opening Friday, May 31!

Finding A Place takes a look at the different ways people have made a home in the valley over the past century, from constructing a fishing lodge to subdividing a neighbourhood and from squatting in the woods to the Whistler Housing Authority (and everything in between!).  The exhibit also features the photographs of Carin Smolinski’s Living the Dream, providing a glimpse of some unique living situations in Whistler’s present.

Doors open at 6:30 pm.  Cash bar & free admission.  The exhibit will run through July 31.

Remembering Jane Burrows

The integral role Jane Burrows played in the founding and operations of the Whistler Question, Whistler’s first newspaper, came through clearly at the opening of the museum’s temporary exhibit in September 2017 featuring photographs from the Question.  In the Question, as in so much else, Jane and Paul Burrows were equal partners.

Jane and Paul Burrows with their dog Simba upon their return from their world travels in 1984.  Whistler Question Collection.

Born Doris Jane Burrows in Kirkland lake, Ontario in 1941, Jane moved west to Vancouver in the 1960s after completing a degree in Marketing Research at Ryerson University and taking time to travel the world with a few friends.  While living in the city Jane obtained her teaching degree from the University of British Columbia and, in 1968, met Paul at the Dev Pub.

Jane began her teaching career with the Howe Sound School District (today Sea-to-Sky District #48) soon after her marriage to Paul.  After teaching for a time in the two-room school at Britannia Beach Jane transferred to Signal Hill Elementary in Pemberton where she taught primary grades.  Commuting from Alta Lake, where Jane and Paul lived in their Alpine Meadows A-frame, and Pemberton in the early 1970s was not for the faint of heart.  In a 2000 interview with Whistler Cable Paul recalled that stretch of Highway 99 as “nothing more than a glorified logging road.”  A spot was decided upon by the Burrows as “the point of no return” and if conditions became questionable Jane would decide to turn back or forge ahead depending upon whether she had passed that point or not.

Jane Burrows and her class show off their Halloween costumes. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

Alta Lake officially became the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 1975 and the next year brought great changes for both the Burrows and their growing community.

Following an unsuccessful run for Whistler’s first mayor on Paul’s part, the two sat down to decide on their next project.  They came to the conclusion that Whistler was in need of both a bus company and a newspaper.

Without the funds to purchase the requisite vehicles, the Burrows decided upon the latter.  The first edition of The Whistler Question was produced in their basement and published in April 1976.  Jane was an important influence on the Question, both in what was covered and who was hired.  When Glenda Bartosh (who would buy the paper in 1982) applied for a job as a reporter she had to pass two interviews, one with Paul at the Creekside office (by then the paper had moved out of the basement) and one with Jane at their home.

The staff at Myrtle Philip School, 1978.  Whistler Question Collection.

Five months after the Burrows became publishers Myrtle Philip School opened in September 1976.  Jane transferred from Signal Hill to form part of the school’s original staff.

At Myrtle Philip Jane was not only a kindergarten but the kindergarten teacher in Whistler, a position which held a great influence over an entire generation of Whistler children.  When the growth of Whistler’s population led to the need for a second kindergarten class there was great consternation that, for the first time at the school, students would start their schooling with a teacher who was not Mrs. Burrows.

Jane and Paul were also incredibly active in their community outside of the school and paper.  Both were involved in the Alta lake Ratepayers Association before there was an RMOW, joined the Whistler Ice Stock Sliding Club, sang in the Whistler Singers, contributed to the Whistler Museum and Archives and sat on the Whistler Public Library’s first Board of Trustees.  Despite these and many more commitments, the pair made time for extensive travels to almost every continent (as far as we know the Burrows did not got to Antarctica).

Publisher Paul Burrows and his wife Jane prior to a well-earned visit to the Caribbean.  Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

In 2000, now both retired, Jane and Paul moved to their dream home in Salmon Arm and quickly became involved in their new community.  They continued to travel, even after Jane was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2012, taking their 60th cruise in 2015.  Jane passed away December 29, 2018.

This past Saturday (April 27) there was a Celebration of Life held for Jane at the Myrtle Philip Community School.  This was an opportunity for everyone who felt her influence to remember an amazing woman who, whether teaching five-year-olds about Stone Soup, instructing Question employees on what to keep in their car for winter driving or helping shape the Whistler we know today, impacted so many people.

Records of Environmental Change: Why the Stories Matter

For our last 2018/19 Speaker Series on Thursday, April 11 the museum had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Ian Spooner of Acadia University for his presentation on environmental change in Alta & Lost Lakes.  The head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Spooner and his students, working with Cascade Environmental Resource Group, have been using lake sediment cores to study Alta Lake for the past five years.  In 2018 Spooner took a core from Lost Lake.

Alta Lake has seen a lot of change over the past 150 years, both around its shores and in its water and sediment. Fairhurst Collection.

Sediment cores provide a record, not entirely unlike tree rings, of minerals and organic matter found in the lake sediment.  The core taken from Alta Lake was about 40 cm long and went back around 500 years.  By dating the different layers, Spooner and his student Dewey Dunnington were able to tell a lot about how the lake has changed over time and, by connecting the dates to historical records and stories told by locals, what might have contributed to these changes.

During his talk, Spooner highlighted the changing presence of copper and arsenic in Alta Lake.  Though there is always some change over time, the presence of both copper and arsenic increased considerably from the 1880s, as the Pemberton Trail and PGE Railway were built and the area became more settled.  While both have shown a decrease in more recent years, a spike in copper sometime around the 1960s illustrates how important stories are to adding context to this data.

The building of the PGE Railway and the development that followed disturbed the landscape around Alta Lake, changing the presence of minerals in its records. Philip Collection.

From the data and records, it had been assumed that the spike in copper was part of the increasing and continued development around the lake.  However, during a talk Spooner did at the museum in 2016 one audience member offered a different reason.  He got up and informed Spooner, “No, you’re wrong.  We dumped that copper in the lake, back in the 60s.  We wanted to get rid of an invasive species.” (Copper is used in some places as a biocide as it effectively kills parasites such as those that cause Swimmer’s Itch.  It also, however, will kill all the fish.)

When asked where one might find records of or a permit for this action, the man told Spooner there was none, they “just did it.”

There is no doubt that as stories are collected to add context to the core taken from Lost Lake, this attitude of “just do it” will come up again.  After all, we already know of some such cases.

In 1977 a group of Whistler freestyle skiers made plans to build their own ski jump on the shores of Lost Lake.  With no development permit or any official permission from the district, Lost Lake offered an inconspicuous, out-of-the-way site.  To go with the lack of permission, the ski jump also had no funding for materials or labour.  Timber was scrounged from a number of sources and the plastic grass ski out from the Olive Chair was taken from the dump and given a second life as the ski jump’s new surface.  Once the materials were gathered construction took only two weeks.

A jumper unfolds their flip into Lost Lake.  Whistler Question Collection,

The finished ramp projected out 20 feet over the lake (not too far from where the sediment core was taken) and willing skiers could launch themselves up to 40 feet above the water.  According to David Lalik, one of the original workers on the ramp, “Injuries were commonplace but [an] acceptable risk in the sport and environment of the day.”

In 1981 the ski jump began hosting competitions and the next summer saw the first Summer Air Camp at Lost Lake.  Freestyle skiers came to Whistler to train with Peter Judge, the national team coach.  Far from being inconspicuous, film crews arrived to record events for television broadcasts.

Stories like these aren’t always included in the official records (permits weren’t always applied for in the 1960s and 70s) and so contributions from people who have been in the area are incredibly important for explaining the data.  As Spooner puts it, “The science isn’t worth anything without the stories.  We get it wrong.”

If you have your own stories to add, you can send them to Dr. Ian Spooner at ian.spooner@acadiau.ca or come visit us at the museum and we can pass them on.