Category Archives: Recreation

Summer Adventures of Mollie Stephenson

It’s a story everyone in Whistler has heard – young person comes to the valley to work for a season, but ends up staying a few years longer than expected.  What makes the story of Mollie Stephenson unique, however, is that she first came to the Whistler valley in the summer of 1926.

Mollie Stephenson at Rainbow Lodge, 1929.

In 1924, after having graduated from Ladysmith High on Vancouver Island, Mollie moved with her parents to Victoria where her father served as the reverend at St. Saviour’s Church in Victoria West.  Mollie spent the next two years enjoying life in Victoria as a young woman, including swimming at the Crystal Garden and attending tea dances at the Empress Hotel where she and her friends would try to outdo each other at the new dance the Charleston.  As Mollie said, she adored the Flapper Age with its “beads, feathers and best of all the short skirts.”

Mollie enrolled at Normal School (what teacher college used to be called) but was unable to attend as a bad chest cold turned into bronchitis and her doctor prescribed a drier climate.  Alex and Myrtle Philip were advertising for girls to work in the dining room and Mollie left for Alta Lake in May of 1926 intending to attend Normal School in the fall.

Life at Alta Lake soon cleared Mollie’s cough and in July she transferred from the dining room to work as a wrangler and guide for the rest of the summer.  Each day she would spend 12 to 14 hours out in the forest with the 15 horses Rainbow Lodge had use of.  Trail rides were popular with Rainbow Lodge guests and Mollie would often take groups for breakfast at Lost Lake, Green Lake or near a stream.  Lam and Sam, the cooks, would pack ingredients and every rider was given a job, whether building a fire, making the coffee or preparing the pancake batter.  By the time the food was ready everyone in the group would have a hearty appetite.

A picnic during a ride included a tablecloth and china as well as jobs for every guest.

When September arrived Mollie was already looking forward to her next season at Rainbow Lodge and instead of returning to Normal School in Victoria accepted a temporary job at the Uppingham School kindergarten in Oak Bay.

Mollie Stephenson pretending to ride a foal at Rainbow Lodge.

By June Mollie was once again en route for Alta Lake where she found a few changes: George Thompson was now manager of Rainbow Lodge and Pearl Thompson had taken over the post office.  (Over 60 years later Mollie and George married – she was 83 and he was 90.)  Luckily George had bought the horses Mollie had previously worked with for continued use by Rainbow Lodge.  Again Mollie worked as a wrangler and guide.

Early in the season a man arrived at Rainbow Lodge asking about an abandoned copper mine.  Mollie had found the mine the previous year while exploring the trails on the mountains and offered to guide him there.  He brought in a crew and made a deal with George to use packhorses to bring in mail and supplies.  Three from Mollie’s group were picked: Danger, Ginger and Dark Devil.

While taking the horses up to the mine one day Ginger, who happened to by carrying the explosives, got caught between two trees.  Mollie had been warned by one of the PGE rail crew to be careful of any sudden blows or jolts to the packs containing the dynamite and she was terrified while working Ginger out from the trees.

Mollie arrived at the mine and recounted her harrowing adventure over lunch, proud of having gotten herself out of a dangerous situation.  What she didn’t expect, however, was for her tale to be greeted with laughter from the men at the camp.  She soon discovered that the warning of the PGE rail crewman had been a joke at her expense; the sticks of dynamite and the caps were kept in separate packs and Ginger had never been in danger of exploding.

Bill MacDermott, Mollie Stephenson and Lena Hanson at the cabin on Singing Pass en route to Red Mountain. As well as working as a wrangler, Mollie hiked, swam and attended Rainbow Lodge events.

Though Mollie spent the majority of her time at Rainbow Lodge working as a wrangler, she also participated in other aspects of life at the resort including dances, masquerades, tennis, hiking and swimming.  She once even out-swam visiting naval officers, a tale that is perhaps best told through her own words:

I loved swimming, although racing never appealed to me.  Swimming for miles was like an interesting hike but on the water.  I had been swimming across the lake all summer, although never the length of the lake.  One day a couple of naval officers staying at the Mons Hotel asked Alex Philip if any of his guests would join them in a friendly race from McDonald’s cabin, at the south end, to the River of Golden Dreams, at the north end.  Alex approached me.  I explained that I wasn’t into fast swimming or racing, but as there were no other contenders I would swim along with them, on condition that they didn’t expect me to win.  Soon they were ahead, but when we were more than half way across we hit an unexpected glacial current that took one’s breath away.  At this point the fellows had had enough and headed to the beach.  The “tortoise” kept on going until I walked onto the beach at the River of Golden Dreams.  There was a huge bonfire burning and Myrtle had a warm blanket to wrap me in.  My prize came after dinner when the two officers asked me to dance with them!

Mollie spent several summers at Rainbow Lodge and, like many who have come after her, unexpectedly fell in love with the area and its outdoors lifestyle.  Though she went on to marry and live elsewhere, Mollie will always be remembered as one of the first seasonal workers who just couldn’t keep away from the Whistler valley.

The Whistler Museum Needs Your Help!

The Whistler Museum is searching for volunteers for our IronMan Run Aid station on July 30th!

The Run Aid station hands out water, ice, snacks and more.

Once again the Whistler Museum staff and a team of amazing volunteers will be operating a Run Aid station, handing out ice, water, energy drinks, snacks and more to the participating athletes.  The money received by the Museum from IronMan is used in the Collections Department to help grow and maintain our archives.  All volunteers are invited to attend the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and get an IronMan Volunteer t-shirt.

If you’ve volunteered with us for IronMan in the past, things will be a bit different this year.  Instead of being at the final Run Aid station in the Village, the Museum will be manning Run Aid Station #4 at Nicklaus North from 4 – 10:30 pm.

Rain or shine, we’re there to hand out whatever the participants need at that stage of the race.

If you’re interested in helping out, you can sign up here.  Click Register Now, scroll down until you find RUN AID STATION #4 – SHIFT 2, click on the red Register Now at the bottom of the screen and follow the instructions from there.

We greatly appreciate all the wonderful volunteers who come out to help the Museum raise some funds while having a lot of fun!

 

Discover Nature this Summer with the Whistler Museum!

With help from the Whistler Naturalists and the Whistler Biodiversity Project, the Museum will again be offering a public education program throughout July and August at Lost Lake Park.  The program includes a “pop up” museum at Lost Lake, nature walks and an activity booklet for kids.

Our touch tables let you handle things like skulls and pelts that you won’t normally find out in the forests.

Because last year’s was so successful (the Museum interacted with an average of 250 people per day) the “pop up” museum will be at Lost Lake for 4 days per week instead of 3.  It will be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am – 4 pm beginning tomorrow, July 4th, and running until September 1st.  Find us at our tent outside the concession by the Lost Lake beach.

Highlights this year will include touch tables showcasing a wide range of Whistler’s amazing nature hosted by nature interpreters and a different theme for each week day of operation – forests, bears & berries, wetlands, things with wings – so come back on different days to discover something new!

Discover Nature will also include nature walks meeting at 11 am at the PassivHaus Tuesdays through Fridays and ending at the Discover Nature Station.  Nature walks will run for about one hour.

Don’t forget to fill in the Discover Nature activity booklet!  This self-guided booklet is full of fun activities that teach about the wonders of nature here in Whistler.  The booklet includes illustrations by local artist Kate Zessel and a completion certificate.  Get your own copy of the Discover Nature activity booklet at the Whistler Museum, Lost Lake, Armchair Books and Whoola Toys.

We’re looking forward to to a fun summer discovering nature!

Valley of Dreams Walking Tour has Moved!

We’re excited to announce that with the reopening of Gateway Loop the Valley of Dreams Walking Tours will now meet at our regular location outside of the Visitor Information Centre!

Walking tours begin every day at 1 pm and run for about an hour.  All tours, as well as entry to the Whistler Museum, are by donation.  Whether you’re visiting, new to the valley or a seasoned local, you’re sure to discover something new about Whistler’s history.

Searching for Answers at the Whistler Museum

Working at the museum, you never know who is going to walk through the door or what questions you’re going to be asked on any given day.

Just this past week we had a couple from the UK in search of information on a great uncle who had come to Alta Lake in the 1950s and built a summer cottage.  They were hoping to be able to determine where the cottage had been built and see what the area looked like today.  Given the names of the great uncle and the cottage, we were able to answer all of their questions about Worlebury Lodge, largely thanks to a history of Alta Lake Road compiled by Florence Petersen, Gay Cluer and Karen Overgaard.

Worlebury Lodge on Alta Lake Road, built by Maurice and Muriel Burge in the late 1950s. Photo: Mitchell

Worlebury Lodge was built by Maurice and Muriel Burge, the great uncle in question and his wife.  Maurice was an accountant for the Vancouver School Board and Muriel was a nurse.  In 1956 the couple and their two sons visited Cypress Lodge for a week in the summer and enjoyed it so much they purchased their own lot.  The cottage was named Worlebury Lodge after the area in England Maurice came from.

Next door to Worlebury Lodge was Woodbine Cottage, the summer cottage of Ray and Jean Dove.  Friends of Maurice and Muriel, the Doves had been convinced to buy a lot on Alta Lake by the glowing reports that followed the Burges’ visit to Cypress Lodge.  Maurice helped with the construction of Woodbine Cottage and both families spend may summers enjoying life at Alta Lake.

A hike to Rainbow Falls including Maurice Burge (2nd from right in the back) and Muriel Burge in the front row. Photo: Dove

Worlebury Lodge was eventually rented out and then sold and replaced with a more modern house, but we were able to show the visiting couple where the lodge would have been located and they planned to head out to Alta Lake Road to see what the view from Worlebury Lodge would have been.  They had brought photos of the property that Maurice Burge had sent to his sister and a brochure for Rainbow Lodge under the management of the Greenwoods, which we were excited to see.

Not all inquiries we get at the museum are as easily answered as the search for Worldbury Lodge; some require deeper research and there are also some whose answers have been lost as time passes undocumented.  We also occasionally encounter people with questions or inquiries unrelated to the history of Whistler and the surrounding area.  We do our best to answer these questions or direct the inquirer to someone more knowledgeable in that area, such as when a man called form the eastern States to inquire whether the museum was interested in buying a scale model he had made.

This man had hand-crafted a miniature model of Buffalo Bill’s stagecoach as it looked on his return to Kansas and was hoping to contribute it to a museum’s exhibit on Buffalo Bill.  Our best guess is that when searching for Buffalo Bill on the internet he came upon Buffalo Bills, the bar, and assumed there was a connection between the man and Whistler.

Though there is no documentation to suggest that Buffalo Bill ever passed through the Whistler valley, he did have Canadian connections and we were able to direct this man to organizations that would be more likely to be able to help him in his quest.

Next time you’ve got a question about Whistler’s history, think about visiting us at the Whistler Museum – we might just have the answer you’re looking for.

Dirt Designations: Whistler’s Mountain Bike Trails Part II

In a previous post we shared the stories behind the names of some of the bike trails in the Whistler valley; today we’ll be sharing some more stories, this time focusing on the trails of the Whistler Bike Park.

Whistler Bike Park

The Whistler Bike Park has been a major factor in the progression of freeride mountain biking for nearly two decades.  One could argue that the names bestowed upon its several dozen trails have been just as influential.  They would be wrong, of course, but that’s beside the point.

Still, the titles found on the trail map are full in insights into the trails and, even more so, to the characters that brought them to life.  As long-time park rider and trail builder Peter Matthews puts it, “The best names always come up during trail building.  A lot of time for banter; everyone’s tired, light-headed, dehydrated, cracking jokes.”  Not surprisingly, pop culture references, heavy metal and playful ribbing at the expense of their peers feature heavily.

The Whistler Bike Park, shown here in 2000, has changed a lot in the almost two decades for which it’s been open.

The trail crew’s jokes and banter have a tendency to go a bit further than popular tastes might appreciate.  There’s a whole gaggle of unofficial trail names and other inside jokes that never made it onto the official trail map and, for obvious reasons, will not be included in this article.  For those you’ll have to ask the builders themselves.

B-Line – B-Line is the name of a type of explosive detonation cord which can be used to link charges together or used as an explosive on its own.  When building this trail a generous amount of explosives were used to remove a stubborn tree stump and, though early bike park visionary Dave Kelly confirmed that other explosives were used in this case, the name stuck.  Also, as the trail was the bike park’s new showcase Beginner Line, the name seemed apt.

A-Line – a machine built flowy jump line that followed B-Line’s suit, this name was an obvious choice for the new “Advanced Line”.

Crank It Up – on this moderate-but-flowy jump line you can maximize the good times by pedalling aggressively, hence Crank It Up.  A name starting with the letter “C” was appropriate as this trail could also be though of as the “C-Line”.

Ho Chi Minh Trail – this trail was designed and named by Eric Wight (owner of Whistler Backroads) who was the original mastermind and creator of life-accessed biking on Whistler Mountain, operating there until Whistler Blackcomb took over operations in 1997.  Sections of the trail ran down the middle of Lower Olympic through grass up to 1.5 m tall, reminiscent of scenes from the Vietnam War.

Heart of Darkness – this trail name builds on the Vietnam theme established by Ho Chi Minh; plus, it can get fairly dark in the section along the creek where it can get surprisingly intense for a flowy blue run.

Clown Shoes and Dirt Merchant – both of these trails reference the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Captain Safety – there are conflicting reports as to which mountain employee it was who had the healthy zeal for injury prevention; some say he was a mountain patrol higher-up, other a bike park manager.  Either way, he took his job very seriously, sometimes to the dismay of trail crew.  This trail is named after him.

Mackenzie River Trail – named in honour of the late Duncan Mackenzie, an esteemed trail-builder and ski patroller who died tragically in an avalanche in December 2011.

Original Sin – named by original bike park manager Rob McSkimming.  Multiple meaning and wordplays are at work here but it is also considered the original trail in the Garbanzo Zone.

Schleyer – named after legendary freeride mountain biker Richie Schley, while alluding to equally legendary thrash metal band Slayer

Joyride – the name “Joyride” recurs often in Whistler.  This trail was built in 1998 by local biking luminaries Chris Winter and Paddy Kaye, the latter of who had founded his own trail-building company also named Joyride.  A few year later a local mountain bike festival was created and called, you guessed it, Joyride.  This festival was the predecessor of today’s Crankworx festival whose showcase event is a slopestyle competition which still bears this name, and Kaye’s Joyride Bike Parks Inc. remains one of the world’s leading mountain bike trail-building companies.

Del Boca Vista – in yet another pop culture reference, this trail’s name is derived from the Florida condominium complex in Seinfeld where Jerry’s parents and, for a time, Kramer had retired to.  Life here would hopefully be relaxing, fun and leisurely, just like this trail.

It’s possible to get injured in many different ways in the bike park, including on Angry Pirate, though most of the time an actual bike is involved.

Angry Pirate – trail-building entails more than just crude jokes and high fives; it also involves a lot of back-breaking work and the potential for some serious bodily harm.  One builder received this nickname after experiencing an especially unfortunate series of events while working on this trail.  First, while walking through the woods, he stepped on a wasp nest and angered the hive.  During the ensuing chaos he tripped and stumbled downslope, injuring his ankle, but not before he got stung by a wasp very close to his eye.  These mishaps left said trail-builder with an eyepatch, a heavy limp and a sour mood.

Devil’s Club – while building this trail the park crew had to contend with this infamous coastal bush which grows dense, tough and covered in nasty thorns

The “Asian Trilogy” – all three of these trails were named by trail crew veteran Andrew “Gunner” Gunn:

Samurai Pizza Cats – named after the American adaptation of the anime series Kyatto Ninden Teyandee which originally aired in Japan

Ninja Cougar – the trail like to joke that Jesse Melamed (one of the trail-builders) required this special type of bodyguard due to his esteemed political position as the then-mayor’s son

Sun’s out, tongues out on Karate Monkey.

Karate Monkey – this trail name maintains the “martial arts/animal” theme from the other two trails, but whether there is any deeper meaning is unclear

Blue/Black Velvet – simply put, these trails were designed to ride as smoothly as possible

Blueseum – this trail was built through the same section of forest as a long-neglected trail full of derelict wooden structures.  Riding this new trail gave the impression that you were passing through a freeride bike stunt museum.  The trail is blue-rated and this creative portmanteau title was conceived.

Afternoon Delight – the park crew was on fire this day, building most of this trail in a single afternoon

Funshine Rolly Drops – simply the most playful, friendly-sounding name the trail-builders could brainstorm

Duffman – duff is a term used for the soft, thick layer of organic material often found on a Coastal forest floor.  When working on this trail, the park crew had to contend with an especially thick layer of duff and thus took the opportunity to shout out to the highly enthusiastic beer mascot character of The Simpsons fame.t

Detroit Rock City – some trail names come easy; this trail features a long, committing rock ride and so borrowing the title of the famed KISS song seemed appropriate

Fade to Black – named after the classic Metallica song, this trail was intended to demarcate the transition from blue-rated to black-rated single-track.  Let’s say the trail-builders got a little carried away with this one, including a sizeable mandatory road gap that is most definitely double black material.  Some riders prefer to call it “Fade to Pro Line”.

Freight Train – the name refers to the freight container stunt that bikers can jump on and off of, but the title has been given further meaning from the fact that riders have a tendency to ride this fast and flowy jump run in tight formation, like a freight train running down the tracks

The bike park has grown considerably since its beginnings and even more trails are underway.

Tech Noir – evidently some trail-builders are fans of Arnold “The Gubernator” Schwarzenegger, as this is also the name of a bar in the original Terminator film.  Cover charge is optional.

Dwayne Johnson – another memorial to the musclebound, this trail feature a huge rock and was a perfect opportunity to honour everyone’s favourite wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

The Manager – an optional pro line in Duffman named after then-bike-park manager Tom “Pro” Prochazka

D1 – the various models of excavating machines used to build the trails are named according to their size: “D35”, “D50” and so on.  This trail is named after the smallest excavator in the park crew’s arsenal, the shovel, because this seemingly machine-built path was built completely by manual labour.

Too Tight – as the name suggests, this trail is very narrow and winding; countless riders over the years have face-planted after catching their handlebars on an adjacent tree trunk

Little Alder – this short run cuts through a picturesque alder grove

Fatcrobat – among the diverse array of characters who have worked for the bike park over the years, one particular gentleman went through extensive gymnastic training in his youth.  As his years progressed he lost his trim figure but he retained a surprising amount of his athletic talent.  This trail is named in honour of this rotund gymnast.

Drop-In Clinic– named after the steep rock roll “drop-in” entrance to this short connector trail

Top of the World – this name is self-explanatory.  As the first bike park trail from the summit of Whistler Mountain, a ride down here leaves one feeling elated.  If this name doesn’t convey the same tone as the other bike park trails, it is because the park crew didn’t come up with this own.  This trail’s construction was an exciting new attraction and upper management wanted to convey an inspiring image to attract more visitors.

Article by Jeff Slack

Walking Tour Season Begins

Ever found yourself lost in Whistler village? That unique flow of Whistler village was actually one man’s specific intention! This tour will help 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 the pioneer history, tales behind the mountain development, and hear Whistler’s story about the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The tour is approximately one hour long, and is for all ages, young and old. Each tour is led by a long-time local, each with their own personal knowledge of Whistler’s story to add. Whether you’re visiting, here to work for the season, or a long-time local we guarantee you’ll be sure to learn something new. Do you know why Whistler and Blackcomb mountain are named as they are? 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 in at 1pm in June, July, and August. Meeting at Armchair Books, the top of the steps at the village entrance, 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 two weeks in advance. With sufficient notice we can also customize content and routes—to include public art and architecture, for example—to meet your group’s specific interests and needs.

For all tour-related inquiries please call the Whistler Museum at (604) 932-2019, 0r visit us behind the library.