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.

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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.

The WMAS is Turning 30!

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Come celebrate our 30th Anniversary!

February 12, 1987 – February 12, 2017

The Whistler Museum would like to invite everyone to our 30th Anniversary Open House Sunday, February 12, 7:30 – 9 pm.  Join us for an evening of food, music and free admission to explore the museum, venture into the archives and meet our staff.  We hope to see you there!

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.

Gerhard Mueller: Designer of Whistler’s First Lifts

With the wet weather, frigid temperatures and winds that have come in the last two months, many of us out on the mountains have appreciated the temporary respite offered by the enclosed gondolas.  To show our appreciation, we’re offering some information on the man who designed the first lifts installed on Whistler Mountain, including the original four-person gondola.

Skiers load the original four-person gondola at the base of Whistler Mountain in the late 1960s.

Skiers load the original gondola at the base of Whistler Mountain in the late 1960s.

Gerhard Mueller was an early pioneer in the ski lift industry.  In the late 1920s, as mountain resorts in the Alps were still beginning to redefine themselves as winter resorts, Mueller was a 17-year-old mechanical engineering student who had grown tired of having to continuously climb up the slop in order to practice his skiing on the way down.

To address this issue Mueller built his (and Switzerland’s) first ski tow at St. Moritz using 1″ hemp rope and the engine from an old motorcycle.  This first rope tow was patented in 1932 and was later improved to address complaints of tired hands and arms.

After the end of World War II Mueller founded his own company, GMD Mueller, in 1947 and continued to design innovative lift systems, including the modern detachable chairlift.

A page from a 1965 GMD Mueller catalogue. Photo: chairlift.org/mueller.html

A page from a 1965 GMD Mueller catalogue. Photo: chairlift.org/mueller.html

In their 1965 catalogue GMD Mueller advertised their ski lift options, claiming that “The roomy 4-seater gondolas, the elegant double-chairs or the smooth springbox-type T-bars will make every ride, both short or long, comfortable and safe, and the good appearance of Mueller Lifts will make you a proud owner.”  In less than two decades they had come a long way from Mueller’s first rope tow.

In the early 1960s when Franz Wilhelmsen and Eric Beardmore, another Garibaldi Lift Company director, visited Europe to study lift systems prior to choosing the systems to be used at Whistler, many chairlifts still had to be stopped both to load and to unload passengers.  The double chairlift designed by Mueller had patented detachable cable grips that detached the chairgrip from the hauling rope at both stations, allowing the hauling rope to continue to run while the chair was slowed for loading and unloading before being reattached to the hauling rope and launched.  This allowed for the creation of a four-person gondola.

When approached, Mueller confirmed that his designs could be adapted to fit the proposed locations on Whistler Mountain.  For the lower stage from the base at Creekside to Midstation, where warmer spring temperatures and wet weather prompted worries of wet clothing before skiers even reached their first run, Mueller proposed a 65-car four-person gondola carrying approximately 500 passengers per hour for a 13-minute ride.  This was to be followed by a double chairlift of 175 chairs carrying approximately 1200 passengers per hour.

The original Red Chair brought riders up to the Roundhouse from 1965 to 1992.

The original Red Chair brought riders up to the Roundhouse from 1965 to 1992.

In 1965 four Mueller-designed ski lifts were installed on Whistler Mountain: the four-person gondola, the double chairlift that would become known as the Red Chair and two T-bars.  Mueller travelled to Whistler to oversee the construction and testing of the lifts and to conduct training sessions with lift staff.  GLC workers were also sent to Switzerland to be trained on the operation and maintenance of the lifts at the GMD Mueller factory.  Mueller was present for for the official opening of the lifts on January 15, 1966.

A seat from the original Red Chair sits in Florence Petersen Park.

A seat from the original Red Chair sits in Florence Petersen Park.

Whistler Mountain was equipped exclusively with Mueller lifts for only two years.  In 1967 the Blue Chair was designed and installed by Murray-Latta Machine Co. Ltd., a Vancouver-based company.  The original gondola and Red Chair were retire in 1992, but both can still be found here at the museum, a lasting legacy of the designs of Gerhard Mueller.

Creative Solutions to Whistler Living: The People Who Lived in Walls

Living in Whistler has always come with unique challenges, whether its’s a lack of housing, money, employment or easily accessible transit (walking three days from Squamish with a packhorse at the beginning of the 20th century was not for the fainthearted).  Despite these challenges, however, thousands of people have chosen to call this valley home.

Though many stories of unorthodox living arrangements have become well known (think Toad Hall or Lot 4 in the mid-to-late ’90s), there is one story that surprisingly few people have heard: the people who lived in wall.  (Please note that the Whistler Museum neither condones nor encourages such practices as follow.)

Adapting accommodations to fit your own needs is common practice - the Jardine-Neiland family built additions to the original cabin of Ol' Mac.

Adapting accommodations to fit your own needs is common practice – the Jardine-Neiland family built additions to the original cabin of Ol’ Mac in the 1920s.

It happened in the early 1990s, in an unnamed Whistler hotel, in the four feet of space between the fifth and sixth guest floors.  A small service hatch in the stairwell meant to provide access to the plumbing and electrical wiring in the space instead provided two very determined young men access to a crawlspace-like room kept warm and cozy by the hot water pipes.

As the entry was located in a little-used firewall stairwell the staff at the hotel had no knowledge of their new residents.  The pair lived somewhat comfortable, if a little bent over, until a search for a water leak led maintenance workers to discover their living quarters.  This discovery explained some odd footage on a recently installed security camera that caught one of these unsuspected tenants stealing the cushions off of a couch in a hallway.

In the 1970s accommodations could be found in Whistler by building your own or taking over an abandoned cabin.

In the 1970s accommodations could be found in Whistler by building your own or taking over an abandoned cabin.

Unfortunately for the young men living in the wall, their identities were easily discovered from the Hard Rock Café pay stubs that had been left sitting in the open.  It was soon revealed that they had been making full use of hotel amenities; they slept on clean sheets taken from housekeeping carts, ate in the staff cafeteria where they were such a common sight that it had been assumed that they were hotel employees, and showered in the hotel health club where a monthly payment provided access to the pool and gym for far less than the cost of rent.

Needless to say, once discovered the two were quickly evicted from the premises and forced to find lodging elsewhere.

Speaker Series – Whistler’s Mountain Identity

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Historians often obsess over the delineation of historical eras. Paleolithic or Neolithic? When, precisely, did the Renaissance begin? And when did we enter a post-modern world? Thankfully for us at the Whistler Museum, classifying our community’s history is fairly straightforward.

While First Nations and, much later, trapper and prospector types, have long occupied the region, the start of the community now known as Whistler began as a dream in 1911 when Alex & Myrtle Philip first visited Alta Lake. Rainbow Lodge’s construction 3 years later is a concrete starting point for our community.

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The inspiring Coast Mountain environment was a key tourist draw from the first days of Rainbow Lodge.

Alta Lake remained a quaint summer tourism resort for nearly 50 years until new dreams were forged at the 1960 Winter Olympics. The opening of Whistler Mountain in 1966 opened a new era of Olympic dreams and ascendancy as a modern ski resort. The Olympic Dream was realized in 2010 and Whistler Mountain celebrated its 50th last winter with our spot among the world’s top mountain resorts firmly established.

And so, one could argue, Whistler has entered its third 50-year period. Where do we go from here? We are experiencing a period of rapid growth and change. Buzzwords like economic diversification, weather-proofing, and cultural tourism dominate as we navigate substantial growing pains and external pressures.

The mountains are not going anywhere, but how will our relationship with them evolve in the future? Jeff Slack photo.

The mountains are not going anywhere, but how will our relationship with them evolve in the future? Jeff Slack photo.

How will we come to define this next era? Will we stay true to our mountain roots? Will we chart a completely new course? Can we do both at the same time? Does life in the mountains come with any special responsibilities?

In case it was not already clear, we have been in a reflective mood of late. Our next Speaker Series event is designed to discuss, if not answer, some of these broad questions that are floating around in our heads. On Wednesday, January 18th, we will be hosting a community dialogue on “Whistler’s Mountain Identity.” We hope you can join us and contribute to this discussion.

The event format is simple. Two esteemed panelists, Arthur De Jong (Whistler Blackcomb’s Mountain Planning & Environmental Resource Manager) and Michel Beaudry (writer and mountain adventurist) will open the evening with their visions for the past, present, and future of Whistler’s identity as a mountain town. This will then lead into an audience-informed, moderated discussion of the many broad themes relevant to this topic.

As always, everyone is welcome, but we hope you come ready to express your opinions and ideas about what makes our community tick and how we can sustain the soul and the passion key to Whistler’s past success through a future full of inevitable change.

Open and honest dialogue is essential to any healthy and engaged community and we invite all community-minded and mountain-spirited individuals to what we hope will be an enriching and enlightening evening.

Doors open at 6pm, talk begins at 7pm. Tickets are $10; $5 for Museum members and Club Shred. Cash bar, 19+.

Happy National Ski Day!

Today marks the third annual CIBC National Ski Day in Canada.  Across the country 17 different mountain resorts offer discounted tickets or unique experiences in support of Alpine Canada and Canadian ski teams.  In celebration of National Ski Day we wanted to share a selection of photographs from our archives of people, you guessed it, skiing!

In May 1939 George Bury and three other skiers began a 10-day exploratory trip of the Garibaldi region.

In May 1939 George Bury and three other skiers began a 10-day exploratory trip of the Garibaldi region.  This was over 20 years before Franz Wilhelmsen and GODA would begin developing Whistler Mountain for skiing.  Bury collection.

A family ski day on Whistler Mountain.

A family ski day on Whistler Mountain when skiing with a child on your back was permissible and helmets were an unusual sight.  WMSC collection.

Skiing Whistler Mountain in the 1970s.  Benjamin collection.

Skiing Whistler Mountain in the 1970s. Benjamin collection.

1980s skiing

Visibility of skiers was not an issue with the fashions of the 1980s.  Griffith collection.

You can never be too young (or old) for skiing.

You can never be too young (or old) for skiing.  WMSC collection.

 

Enjoy the snow!