Category Archives: Recreation

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.

Celebrating Peak Chair’s 30th Birthday

To most non-advanced skiers Whistler’s Peak was completely inaccessible before 1986.

No panoramic view, no glimpse of the vast expanse of Garibaldi Park and no feeling of being on top of the entire mountain.  This past month marked the 30th anniversary of the Peak Chair opening on Whistler Mountain.  In 1986, the 1,000-metre lift was imported from Grand Junction, Colorado, at a cost of $900,000, costing $1.48 million overall.

Since 1980, Whistler Mountain had been struggling to make ends meet and part of the strategy behind adding the new lift was to broaden the appeal of Whistler to Lower Mainland skiers.  Additionally, Whistler Mountain intended to keep pace with Blackcomb Mountain, which had opened their new T-Bar System and 7th Heaven in the high alpine in 1985.  Just a year later, Whistler Mountain countered this opening of new high alpine terrain with their opening of the Peak Chair on December 22, 1986.

The first poster advertising the new Peak Chair.

The first poster advertising the new Peak Chair.

The official opening of the Peak Chair was attended by a few big names: Premier Bill Vander Zalm, Mayor Drew Meredith, Female Athlete of the 20th Century Nancy Greene-Raine, Mount Everest climber Sharon Wood, Whistler Mountain president Lorne Borgal and the event’s master of ceremonies Jim McConkey.

“For years, people have been climbing and skiing off the peak and hiking to the peak in summer,” said Nancy Greene-Raine in the original December 24, 1986 Whistler Question article.  “It’s wonderful that now they’ll be able to ride p and ski it, with a little caution.”

The mayor cracked a joke at the idea of quick access to all those steep new runs: “I think this is something Lorne dreamed up while riding the Scream Machine at Expo (’86) last summer.”

As we know well today, there are some intense line choices available from Whistler’s Peak, some having gained legendary status in this town, like the cliff drop visible from Peak Chair known as “Air Jordan” and the Peak to Creek run, the longest groomer in North America at 5.5 km.

The chair was first opened only to advanced skiers due to the steepness of the terrain and the early season rock hazards.  More than 70 skiers eagerly awaited the opening of the chair that day.  Unfortunately, intermediate and beginner skiers still missed out on most of the runs coming down from the Peak; the only run accessible for non-advanced skiers was aptly named “Last Chance”.

Today we take for granted the opportunity to zip up to Whistler’s peak as easily as taking a seat on a chair.  Give a brief pause to take in the stunning panoramic vistas when you’re up on Whistler’s peak this winter, and perhaps remember the work that went into making those views possible for every skier and snowboarder to experience without a treacherous hike up.

It Started With an Ark

As Whistler enters the (somewhat) slower season of autumn, Arts Whistler is presenting Fall for Arts, a collection of exhibitions, classes, performances and more highlighting the diverse arts and artists this town has to offer.  In this spirit, we offer a brief look back at one of the older (or younger, depending on how you look at it) performing groups in Whistler: the Whistler Children’s Chorus.

The Whistler Children's Chorus performing Hakuna Matata, 1995

The Whistler Children’s Chorus performing Hakuna Matata, 1995.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus.

The Chorus began in 1991 when Molly Boyd, already the director of the Whistler Singers, was asked to put together a group of children to perform with a Vancouver orchestra putting on Noye’s Fludde (an opera based on Noah’s Ark) in Whistler.  Under the direction of Boyd this group would become known as the Whistler Children’s Chorus in 1992, accepting members 6 and up with the mandate to “provide opportunities for all children in our community to sing and enjoy making music”.

The first performances of the newly formed Chorus included carolling through the Village with the Whistler Singers and joining the Singers at the Christmas Eve Carol Service (a Christmas tradition now entering its 34th year).  The community of Whistler and its variety of events (ie. ski races) soon offered the Chorus many opportunities to perform.  The Chorus participated in the community’s Canada Day Parade and Remembrance Day Ceremony and annually held holiday concerts in support of the Whistler Food Bank.

The Whistler Children's Chorus in the Canada Day Parade, 1997

The Whistler Children’s Chorus in the Canada Day Parade, 1997.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus.

Most notably, in 2002 the Chorus was chosen to represent British Columbia in the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill as part of Unisong, a 500-voice choir made up of choirs from across the country.  During this visit to Ottawa the Chorus performed in the National Arts Centre, Christ Church Cathedral and at then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson’s garden party.  This trip also taught the valuable lesson that red shirts, white pants and fire hoses do not mix, as adult chaperones sat up late trying to scrub the pink out of once white materials.

Unisong mass choir performing in the National Arts Centre, July 2001

Unisong mass choir performing in the National Arts Centre, July 2001.  Photo: Whistler Children’s Chorus

During the lead up to the 2010 Olympics the Chorus built on their early experiences at parades and races to become veritable pros at performing “O Canada”, as well as the catchy official song of the Torch Relay (complete with choreography).  Beginning well before the Olympics at “A Celebration of Canada” for the IOC in 2003, the Chorus performed for the Bid Announcement on July 2, 2003, the “100 Day Countdown Celebration” in November, 2009, the arrival of the Olympic Torch in February 2010, with Norman Foote during the Olympics, and at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Paralympic Games.

Whistler, BC, February 5th 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Whistler. The Whistler Children's Choir and the Whistler Singers will sing, "There's a Light/ Cette Flamme," Photo: Ian Robertson / coastphoto.com

Whistler, BC, February 5th 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Whistler. The Whistler Children’s Choir and the Whistler Singers sing, “There’s a Light/ Cette Flamme,” Photo: Ian Robertson / coastphoto.com

Now in its 24th season, the Whistler Children’s Chorus continues to provide opportunities for children to sing and make music.  They can next be seen performing a spooky selection of songs October 30th at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church.  For more information check out their website or find the choir on Facebook.

If you fancy singing yourself, consider joining the Whistler Singers (Wednesdays at Maury Young Arts Centre) or Barbed Choir (Sundays at the Point).  All are welcome.

 

By Allyn Pringle