Tag Archives: 1980s

Blackcomb’s First Season

Back in September the museum posted a series of photos on social media picturing some of the activity taking place on Blackcomb Mountain as they prepared to open for their first season in December 1980.  One comment made on the photos made clear that their first season wasn’t necessarily all that Blackcomb had hoped it would be, point out “except it didn’t snow.”  Unfortunately for Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, this was true for most of the early winter season.

The 1980/81 season didn’t start out too badly.  On December 4th, when Pat Carleton cut the ribbon on Lift 2 with a chainsaw, there was snow in the valley and the weather looked promising.  The new triple chairs to reach the top of Blackcomb were operating and skiers were able to end their day with a piece of the 5 m cake and draw prizes.  According to Hugh Smythe, the mountain enjoyed “phenomenal skiing for three weeks” and then it started to rain.

The opening ceremonies on Blackcomb Mountain had promising snow and skiers lined up to ride the new lifts. Greg Griffith Collection.

The Whistler Question reported that it began raining in the region on December 24, 1980, and it was still raining towards the end of January 1981.  Sections of the highway between Whistler and Squamish were washed on by heavy rains twice in that period, first on December 26 and again on January 21, cutting Whistler and Pemberton off from the Lower Mainland except by train or helicopter.  Within Whistler, Alpine Meadows was cut off from the rest of the town when 19 Mile Creek flooded its banks.  All this rain might not have been too terrible for the ski season, except that the rain was accompanied by unseasonably warm temperatures (at one point in January the temperature in Whistler was recorded as 5°C).  On January 8, 1981 the Question editorial stated, “As you look out of the window on January 6 it looks more like May 6 with little or no snow in the valley and only a minimum coverage above 4,500 ft.”

The rains did damage to more than just the snow – bridges, including this rail bridge over Rutherford Creek, were washed away. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The holiday season, usually one of the busiest times of year in Whistler, saw only 20% of its usual volume.  Blackcomb employees delivered newsletters throughout the subdivisions in the valley to let people know that Blackcomb Mountain was open for skiing but bad press coverage of the weather did not encourage skiers to visit.

Whistler Mountain was able to continue operating (or, some might say “limped along”) through January, but Blackcomb shut down operations and laid off staff temporarily because there was not enough snow to get skiers up to Lift 4 and Lift 3 was not designed for downloading.  Blackcomb tried grooming the runs on Lift 4 and moving snow onto the road that led to the top of Lift 2, enabling skiers to ski down to the bottom of Lift 3 before downloading.  They even borrowed snow making equipment from Grouse Mountain, who reportedly did not open at all that season, but the warm temperatures made it impossible to keep or make enough snow.

After the highway washed out a second time, BCR saw an increased demand for passenger cars. Whistler Question Collection, 1981.

Blackcomb Mountain was able to reopen later in the season and by March there was consistently snow on the mountains.  Blackcomb has gone on to operate for 39 successful seasons and, this December, will celebrate their 40th anniversary (fingers crossed without the rain).

This Week in Photos: January 11

We’re starting something new on our blog for this year!  Every week we’ll be sharing our own version of #tbt (Throwback Thursday) using photos from the Whistler Question from 1978 to 1985 and, wherever possible, the original captions.  When the collection was donated the negatives were very helpfully organized by week, which means we actually know when the photos were taken or published!  Some years do have some missing weeks, but what we’ve got we’ll share with you.  So, if you’ve ever wondered what this week in Whistler used to look like, read on.

1979

An airplane takes off on the snow from the Mons’ airstrip.

Bartender Rosarie Gauthier and manager Per Christiansen behind the bar in the Christiana’s remodelled Bavarian Lounge.

The White Gold Inn.

1980

The Status Board at the top of the lifts on Whistler Mountain.

The view from the lineup at the Blue Chair, today the location of the Harmony Chair.

Photos of Havana, Cuba were provided by Paul & Jane Burrows after their recent trip to warmer climes.

1981

Ted Pryce-Jones, manager, poses near the pop in the new grocery store soon to open in the Village.

The Mad Trapper was put up for sale recently.  Volkswagen not included.

Clock Tower sports a new Omega clock face installed during the past week.

Blackcomb’s new triple chair in operation. Though you can’t see it in this photo, below the treeline there was barely any snow yet.

Meg Watt and Chris Leighton take time out to smile for the camera while working behind the cafeteria counter at the top of Blackcomb.

1982

And they’re off… into a tangle of skis and poles at the start of the ALSC half marathon Sunday, January 10.

Laurel Gibbard and Louise Edwards provide some smiling service for the first customers in the Hofbrau Haus on Saturday, January 9. The 85-seat bar, located in the old Boot premises, was open 4 pm – 1 am six days a week and Sundays from 4 pm to 11 pm.

Don Ross and Hugh Smythe of Blackcomb stand with Willie Whistler and Pierre and Justin Trudeau in the Whistler Village Square.

Hot stuff – the Pemberton Red Devils came up with this beautiful downhiller to walk away with $300 and a shared first place victory. Shot glasses of fuel rested on the skier’s back.

1983

Skiers braved high winds, blinding snow and dampening rains to spend some time on the slopes Sunday. Despite bad weather Whistler Mountain had 6,200 skiers from Friday to Sunday, while Blackcomb drew 4,100 over the weekend.

Whistler Council in its first formal portrait. (l to r) Alderman Bill Peterson, Alderman David O’Keefe, Administrator Geoff Pearce, Mayor Mark Angus, Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup Robinson, Alderman Bernie Hauschka and Alderman Terry Rodgers.

A 15 foot high boulder crashed down onto the northbound lane of Highway 99 in Cheakamus Canyon Friday night. Crews blasted the rock away Monday morning as the Pacific storm which caused the slide continued with torrential rainfall in the Whistler area.

1985

Rod Grange and crew from Skiing Video Productions are filming a winter movie for Whistler Mountain during the next seven weeks.

Blowing wind creates sand-like ripples on Green Lake.

Opening this Friday: A Photographic History of Whistler!

Our scanner can finally breathe a sigh of relief (if that were possible), after over a year of hard work digitizing 35,000 photographs from The Whistler Question’s collection of negatives spanning 1978-1985 (made possible by funding from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre).

Over the last year and a half we have scanned many photos of construction sites as the Village was built. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

With most of the images already uploaded to our online gallery, we have now set our sights on an opening night for the exhibit.  We have planned to feature the cream of the crop of all the scanned Whistler Question photos.

Photos were chosen for the exhibit based on how well they encapsulate the people, places and events in the community during Whistler’s transitional years, as well as on their pure aesthetic qualities that showcase the artistic side of The Whistler Question’s early photographers.

Whistler on a snowy night in December, 1979. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

Founded in 1976, The Whistler Question is Whistler’s longest-running newspaper and these early photographs document significant milestones in Whistler’s development, such as the construction of Whistler Village, the opening of Blackcomb Mountain and the Molson World Cup Downhill.

Everyday events experienced by the growing community also feature strongly, including sporting events, school plays, weddings, local government meetings and rowdy parties that express the spirit of the people living in our mountain town.  The Whistler Museum’s temporary exhibit room will showcase many of these week-by-week photos on the walls and will also host a slideshow screen that displays over 100 other photos from the collection.

Many of The Whistler Question’s original captions form the newspaper will accompany the photographs, demonstrating how these photos were framed in print.

Myrtle Philip, aged 93, with the Grade 5 class from Myrtle Philip Elementary School at her home on Alta Lake Road, May 1984. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

We will be celebrating opening night of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985 and the completion of the digitization project on Friday, September 15 from 6 to 9pm.  We hope you’ll join us for a night of admiring these beautiful photos, reminiscing and mingling as we welcome special guests Paul Burrows, the founder of The Whistler Question, and Glenda Bartosh, the second publisher and owner of the paper.

Paul and Glenda will share their experiences and stories of the early years of The Whistler Question and Whistler itself, providing context for the visual exhibit that will add even more to the already vivid photos on display.

The Whistler Museum will host refreshments, including snacks and complimentary tea provided by DavidsTea, as well as a cash bar to fuel the good times.

Admission for the evening will be free, so we hope that the community can join us to wander the exhibit and celebrate the archives of our local paper!  If you aren’t able to join us for opening night, please come view the exhibit during our normal opening hours (11am to 5pm daily, open late on Thursdays) until the exhibit ends on November 30, 2017, or browse the digitized Whistler Question photos online here.

The Whistler Question: A Photographic History

We are very excited to announce that The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978 – 1985 will open Friday, September 15!  To celebrate the opening of our latest exhibit and the completion of the Whistler Question Digitization Project (you can read more about that here) we would like to invite everyone to join us and special guests Paul Burrows and Glenda Bartosh for appetizers and drinks at the Whistler Museum.

Featuring photographs from the Whistler Question Collection, this new exhibit captures the town of Whistler during a time of transition and rapid change.  Come and view the development of the resort and the growth of the community through nearly seven years worth of photos!