Category Archives: Recreation

Whistler’s Very Own Easter Parade

This past weekend, with the Easter holidays, the closing events of WSSF, the Whistler Cup and still more snow on the mountains, there certainly wasn’t a lack of activities to occupy residents and visitors of any age.

Despite the snow, the Easter bunny put in an appearance on Blackcomb Mountain, 1982.

The Easter holidays have a history of being a busy weekend in Whistler.  In the 1970s the list of Easter activities offered by the Chamber of Commerce and Garibaldi Lifts was an impressive one for such a small town, including fireworks, Easter egg hunts and various skiing events such as skiing displays and obstacle and costume races.  Residents and visitors to the area alike could enjoy a torch light parade ending with a bonfire and hot dog roast in the parking lot at the bottom of the mountain.  The weekend also included dancing and live entertainment at local establishments such as the Christiana Inn, L’Apres and the Mt Whistler Lodge.  For those who chose to attend, all Easter services were held at the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel on the mountain, Canada’s first interdenominational church.

Easter services were held on the mountain in the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel, Canada’s first interdenominational church.

Events varied from year to year.  Some years advertised prizes for an Easter Bonnet contest and in 1970 the Vancouver Garibaldi Olympic Committee was actively promoting a bid for the 1976 Olympics and used the popular weekend as an opportunity to get more people on board with a slide presentation on the bid at the Roundhouse.

The 1976 bid for the Winter Olympics was one of the most promising early bids put forward for Whistler.

One of the most popular events over the Easter weekend was Whistler’s own Easter Parade.  When thinking about parades in Whistler the first to come to mind is usually the annual community parade on Canada Day.  During the 1970s, however, the Easter Parade was not to be missed.

Traditionally an Easter parade was an informal and somewhat unorganized event in which people dressed in their new fashionable clothing in order to impress others.  Irving Berlin wrote “Easter Parade”, a popular song inspired by the Easter parade in New York, in 1933 and a film by the same name starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland was later constructed around the song in 1948.

Though the Easter Parade in Whistler may not have been designed to showcase anyone’s new finery, it did include carefully thought out floats and some illustrious leaders.  In 1971 the 52 floats were led by Miss Vancouver Ardele Hollins, Miss PNE Judy Stewart and members of the RCMP.  The following year the parade was led by none other than then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Coral Robinson, Pierre Trudeau and Dennis Therrien at the Easter Parade in 1972 sitting in a security detail car.

Whistler’s parade was open to anyone who wanted to participate.  Interested parties were told to “plan a float, come as a marching group, or just get dressed up in a crazy costume and join the fun.  The more the merrier!”  Community groups and local businesses, as well as individuals, created elaborate floats and costumes such as the Jolly Green Giant and the original gondola.  The 1974 parade was captured on film by the Petersens and can now be watched on our YouTube channel as part of the Petersen Film Collection along with other unique moments in Whistler’s history.

Speaker Series: 30 Years of Flying Over Whistler

If the idea of soaring above Whistler held aloft by a polyester or nylon canopy and a harness appeals to you, paragliding might be just the sport for you.

Described as a cross between hang gliding and parachuting, paragliding evolved through the 2950s and 60s before first being marketed as a sport and recreational activity in 1965 and gaining popularity through the 70s and 80s.  Unlike hang gliders, paragliders have no rigid structure, using instead a wing or canopy made of fabric and forming cells which are inflated by the incoming air.  Suspension lines from the wing are attached to the harness in which the pilot sits and the pilot steer using brakes attached to each side of the wing.

A paraglider flies over Whistler Village.

Though invented by an American, the sport of paragliding was quickly adopted by Europeans while gaining far fewer early converts in North America.  Like most sports, however, it was only a matter of time before paragliding was introduced in Whistler.

A paraglider with Blackcomb Mountain in the background.

Janet and Joris Moschard, already accomplished paragliders, moved to Whistler in 1987 and began flying in the valley.  A year later Janet and Joris opened Parawest Paragliding and in December of 1988 they began teaching the sport on Blackcomb Mountain, the only mountain resort in North America to offer lessons on this “exciting new aeronautical sport”.  If you skied Blackcomb in the late 1980s and 90s, you may have seen the brightly coloured paragliders spread out on a run and watched as beginners and experienced pilots took off on their skis and soared down the mountain above you.

Operating in both the summer and winter months, Parawest Paragliding offered tandem flights for those wishing to simply experience flight and one-day beginner courses for those looking to fly themselves.  Students began at base-camp with an introduction to the harness, described by one as sitting in a Jolly Jumper®, before gradually learning the steps to flying on the hill and ending the day having taken two or three short flights.

Janet and Joris recently donated several videotapes of media coverage of Parawest Paragliding and local paragliding events to our archives.  Including media interviews with Whistler locals, stunning views of the Whistler valley in the 80s and 90s and coverage of Parawest’s Annual meet and Costume Events, these tapes are currently being digitized and will provide a great visual aid when discussing paragliding in Whistler.

A paraglider comes down to land near Whistler Village.

Wednesday, April 19 the Museum will be welcoming Janet and Joris Moschard, as well as other paragliding pioneers in the area, to share tales, knowledge and footage from their thirty years of flying over Whistler as part of our Speaker Series.  Doors will open for the event at 6 pm and their talk will begin at 7 pm.  Tickets are available at the Whistler Museum.

Why Curl When You Can Ice Stock Slide?

Over the decades Whistler has been home to clubs and teams for pretty much any sport you can name – skiing, swimming, squash, soccer, hockey, field hockey, baseball, tennis, rugby – you name it and someone in Whistler has likely played it.

Ice stock sliding, a sport more commonly associated with European countries such as Germany and Austria than a Canadian ski resort, was introduced to Whistler during the cold and dry winter of 1976/77 by Stefan Ples, a long-time resident and member of the Tyrol Club who started skiing Whistler Mountain before Franz Wilhelmsen even envisioned it as an Olympic venue.

“Ice Stock Sliding” on the River of Golden Dreams (Whistler News Winter 1979-80)

Ice stock sliding (also known as esstock sliding or Bavarian curling) is similar to curling, though an ice stock and a curling stone differ in weight and ice stock sliding uses a different kind of running surface.  Ice stocks are made from wooden blocks with an iron band and a handle on top.  Teams of four slide ice stocks over a surface (usually ice though asphalt can also be used by adding a special plastic surface to the bottom of the stocks) aiming either for a target called the daube or for the longest distance.

In Whistler ice stock sliding began, as many thing have, on Alta Lake, which was particularly smooth and clear due to the weather that winter.  Ice stocks were supplied by Ples, who built them himself.  The sport was enthusiastically received and became so popular that a tournament was incorporated into the Whistler Winterfest events of 1977 and the Whistler Ice Stock Sliding Club (WISSC) was formed to organize and control the growing sport.  Games continued as long as the ice on Alta Lake was suitable and floodlights enabled play to go on into the nights.

Ice stock sliding on Alta Lake in the 1970s.

Though one might assume that the coming of spring would have meant a dwindling interest in the sport, members of the club continued to play using an area of blacktop at Valleau’s logging camp that was set aside for them.  That spring the club applied to the school board to have an area for two rinks paved by the tennis courts at Myrtle Philip School.  The asphalt rinks were approved and constructed for September 1977.

The old master, Stefan Ples, who introduced ice stock sliding to the Whistler area, sending one of the “rocks” down the recently blacktopped course next to the school at Whistler. (Garibaldi Whistler News Fall 1977)

The WISSC incorporated as a society in October of 1977 (three years before the formation of the Canadian Ice-Stock Federation) and included many long-time residents and visitors to Whistler, such as Kay and Pat Carleton (Whistler’s first mayor), Paul and Jane Burrows, Dick and Kelly Fairhurst, Hans and Margaret Kögler, Bill and Elaine Wallace and Andy and Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum) in addition to Stefan Ples.  The mission of the society was to “develop, maintain and manage all kinds of activities of the Whistler Ice Stock Sliding Club which may benefit in anyway the residents of, and visitors to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.”

In their first year the WISSC played regularly twice a week, sent representatives to Vernon to demonstrate the sport at the Vernon Winter Festival (and were even invited back the next year) and organized tournaments through the winter and spring.  The club continued to be active into the 1980s but we have no records of the sport being played in Whistler in the past few decades, perhaps partly due to the relocation of Myrtle Philip School (and the demolition of the asphalt rinks) in 1992.  During a winter without much snow, however, ice stock sliding provided a welcome alternative to skiing for residents and visitors alike.

A Look Back at Whistler in 1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four.  No, I’m not referring to George Orwell’s seminal work of fiction, nor am I referring to the album released by Van Halen with songs like “Jump”.  1984 was a significant year in the development of Whistler as a year-round resort destination.

In 1982, Whistler Mountain successfully hosted a World Cup Downhill race after several early attempts were thwarted due to bad weather and poor snow conditions.  Two years later, in March 1984, the second successfully held World Cup race would draw thousands to Whistler Village.  It was one of the most successful promotions to date and would help solidify Whistler as a host for future World Cup events throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Spectators at the 1984 World Cup in Whistler Village.

Whistler and the nascent Blackcomb were four years into their competition to attract skiers to the resort and this was reflected in the advertising for both mountains.

The Whistler Golf Course and Club designed by Arnold Palmer opened to much fanfare in 1983.  It had a successful first year in operation, but would the second year draw the same number of visitors to Whistler?

Since the completion of Whistler Village, it had been a struggle to attract visitors to Whistler outside of the ski season.  A key component was on hold due to the economics of the early 1980s with high interest rates and lending institutions not willing to broker terms.  In 1984, however, the construction of the Sports and Convention Centre was back underway.

Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor had been used in many ski and outdoor adventure films, but had started to catch the eye of Hollywood and Japanese TV productions.  This led to a Japanese TV company filming a yogurt commercial here starring Sean Connery.

Sean Connery seen filming a Japanese commercial for Biogurt on the Whistler Golf Course in September, 1984.

“They need a strong, healthy, clean image, and 007 fit the part,” said production coordinator Martin Yokata.

The sport of mountain biking had grown to include officially sponsored events and would begin to attract more events to Whistler that would draw competitors from across Canada and the United States,  As has been detailed in other articles, the Great Earth, Snow and Water race was in its heyday and a number of other festivals and events attempted to draw visitors to Whistler in the spring, summer and fall.

Over the next few weeks, stay tuned for more stories detailing the importance of 1984 and the impact it had on determining Whistler as a year-round resort destination.

Cross Country Skiing with the ALSC

Today (Saturday, February 25 2017) Callaghan Valley Cross Country will host the Sigge’s P’ayakentsut, a loppet event for all ages and levels of cross country skiing.  With the support of other local cross country ski clubs, the P’ayakentsut offers competitors the choice of a 50, 30 or 15 km course, as well as a 10 km sit-ski course for para-athletes and a 5 km race for kids.  A legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Callaghan Valley Cross Country ensures the continued use of the Whistler Olympic Park for nordic skiing and competition.  Organized cross country skiing, however, has a history in Whistler that far predates the Olympics.

Though not competitive, cross country skiing was a popular winter sport at Rainbow Lodge.

Though not competitive, cross country skiing was a popular winter sport at Rainbow Lodge.

The Alta Lake Sports Club was founded in 1975 to “organize and encourage participation in outdoor sports at all levels of ability in the Whistler area and beyond,” (“Whistler News” Winter 1979/1980) with a focus on cross country skiing.  In their first year, the ALSC organized three races in the valley, attracting up to 125 competitors from clubs within the valley and Vancouver.

The early success of the club inspired the planning of a more permanent 10 km course meant to attract more events.  The proposed course would begin at the Myrtle Philip Elementary School (originally located in the current site of the Delta Village Suites) and then pass over Fitzsimmons Creek and around Lost Lake.   The summer and fall of 1976 were busy ones for members of the club who got together to form work parties to cut through underbrush and hack through slash in logged off areas.  Perhaps the most difficult step was the construction of a bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek which was completed with help of community members such as Lawrence Valleau who provided a free front end loader, Terry Arsenault who donated a day of work operating said front end loader, and the many residents and contractors who donated timber for bridge decking.  By the end of November 1976, despite working in pouring rains and muds likened to quicksand, the new course was complete and the club looked forward to another promising season.

The Alta Lake Sports Club hosted various races through the 1970s and '80s.

The Alta Lake Sports Club hosted various races through the 1970s and ’80s.

Unfortunately for the club, the winter of 1976/1977 was a particularly mild winter with far more rain than expected.  Though there were periods when the new course was in good shape and was used extensively by locals, one after another the events planned by the ALSC were cancelled or moved to Manning Park.  The club had been meant to host the Fischer Cup in January, the BC 50 km Marathon in early February drawing participants from BC, Canada and the United States, and an orienteering race nearer to the end of the month.

A disappointing season at home could not stop the members of the ALSC though.  Over 75 competitors began the 50 km Marathon at Manning Park – only ten finished, three of whom were members of the ALSC.

Despite a wet and mild season, the club continued to encourage the sport of cross country skiing in Whistler.  In 1977 the club purchased an alpine double track skidoo and a track cutter to cut proper tracks and ensure the course could be kept open regularly.  By 1980 the club was again hosting multiple races each season, including the BC Winter Games trials for Zone 5, Molson’s Cup Citizen’s Tour Race, Labatt’s Race, and the Alta Lake Tournament.  They also put forward a proposal in 1980 to build multiple ski trails at Lost Lake, traces of which can be seen in the trails today.

The trails around Lost Lake as proposed by the Alta Lake Sports Club in 1980.

The trails around Lost Lake as proposed by the Alta Lake Sports Club in 1980.

The club was active in promoting more sports than only cross country skiing.  They proposed trails to encourage hiking, walking and running around Lost Lake and organized running events in the summer.  Though no longer active, the Alta Lake Sports Club proved that Whistler could be a destination for sports other than downhill racing and encouraged the growth of sports that continue to flourish in our community today.

Kids Après 2017

Kids Après at the museum is back for Family Day this year!  Come by February 11 – 13 and 17 – 20 from 3 – 6pm for colouring, button-making, LEGO, hot chocolate and, of course, exploring our exhibits.

kids après

Entry to the museum is by donation.  Children must be accompanied by an adult.

We’ll be holdings Kids Après again every day during March Break (March 20 – 31), just in case you can’t make it out this month.

A Night at the Movies

For some people the long, dark and cold nights of winter are reason to stay warm indoors and catch up on episodes of something on television or watch movies in the comfort of your own home.

Though now a common way to spend an evening, television did not arrive in Whistler – then Alta Lake – until the 1960s and movie nights in Alta Lake began as community events.

In 1954, the Alta Lake Community Club (a social club formed by residents and regular visitors in the 1920s) raised enough money to buy a projector and began holding weekly movie nights in the community hall throughout the year.  On Saturday nights a film was shown using a sheet for a screen and a gas-powered generator for electricity.  In the busy summer season these screening would be followed by dancing.  Alta Lake resident Dick Fairhurst said of the film selection that, “perhaps they were not the most up to date, but they were fine as we had never seen them.”

The original Alta Lake schoolhouse also served as the valley's first community movie theatre.

The original Alta Lake schoolhouse also served as the valley’s first community movie theatre (among other purposes).

In recalling her first year living in the valley in 1968, Trudy Alder provides a description of a winter’s night at the movies: “The films started when it was dark as the hall did not have any curtains.  The shows were usually the social event of the week.  Everyone who could walk would come.  Sometimes there was a large audience of 25 people.  We could buy popcorn and soft drinks from the children.  Dogs were only allowed in the movies when you promised to have them sitting under your seat.  But they found out fast that it was better to snuggle with the children in a cozy pile on the floor in front of the front row.  You should have heard the howling if there was a dog or two in the movie.  For us these movie nights were half an hour walks each way in the deep snow.”

Denis and Pat Beauregard, who ran movie nights as ALCC volunteers, receiving silver coins for Whistler Mountain's 25th Anniversary from Maurice Young (centre).

Denis and Pat Beauregard, who ran movie nights as ALCC volunteers, receiving silver coins for Whistler Mountain’s 25th Anniversary from Maurice Young (centre).

Pat and Denis Beauregard ran the movie nights for eight years as volunteers in the 1960s and 70s, first in the community hall and then later in the cafeteria at the base of Whistler Mountain using a portable screen donated by Myrtle Philip.  For those who missed a show due to impassable roads, the Beauregards would provide an extra showing in their home.

The building of the Rainbow Theatre during the construction of the Village in the 1980s marked Whistler’s first commercial theatre.  Due to having only one screen and limited show times, however, movies continued in many ways to be community events (without the howling dogs), especially during the slower spring and fall seasons.

Today visitors and residents of Whistler have many options when deciding what to watch; Village 8 Cinemas opened in December 2002 with multiple showings of various films daily, the Whistler Public Library has a large collection of movies that can be borrowed for free and streaming services such as Netflix provide access to films without the need for walking through the snow at all.