Tag Archives: Adventures West

The White Gold Estate That Isn’t

By the early 1970s, various developments had begun to appear in the Whistler area spurred on by the growing success of Whistler Mountain. Some of these projects can still be found in the valley today, but many of the developments started in the late 1960s and early 1970s never realized the entirety of the developers’ plans; the original plans for both Adventures West and Tamarisk called for far more units and facilities than can be seen today (Tamarisk was meant to include over 400 units and a “condo-lodge” that would contain a cocktail lounge and dining facilities). Another development that would look very different if the full plans had been constructed is the neighbourhood of White Gold.

According to a pamphlet in the archives, the Ambassador Development Corporation of Canada Ltd. (ADCC) was planning to build “a whole new community.” When first promoted, The White Gold Estate was to include large cabin lots, condominiums, a shopping area and a hotel complex spread over 172 acres. The developers claimed that they would keep a large portion of the natural setting intact, “retaining as much of the park-like landscape as possible.” The serviced cabin lots were described as being planned “very carefully” to leave as many trees as possible untouched, both to create a “serene” atmosphere and to guarantee privacy for the owners.

The floor plans for condos planned for The White Gold Estates. Brown Collection.

A number of these lots had already been sold by the 1970s, with some cabins already under construction. In the fall of 1970 an advertisement in Garibaldi’s Whistler News offered lease-to-purchase lots with a deposit of $250 and three-bedroom cabins available from $16,800. That winter it was reported that Nancy Greene and Al Raine hoped to be settling into their new cabin in White Gold in the new year and by 1972 it was not uncommon to see houses in White Gold advertised for rent or sale.

While some roads and cabin lots were constructed, other parts of ADCC’s plans never came to fruition. The White Gold Estates plans included a commercial area of shops off of Highway 99 near the existing Ski Boot Lodge Motel that opened in 1970. Luxury one and two-bedroom condos were to be constructed, for which a “qualified management staff” would be provided to look after the units during the owners’ absence or even handle arrangements to rent out units for owners. According to a map included in the ADCC’s pamphlet, an artificial lake was proposed in the middle of what today is protected wetlands. Along with the lots that make up today’s White Gold, cabin lots would have extended from Fitzsimmons Creek to Highway 99 and even onto the other side of the highway.

This map shows the planned lots for The White Gold Estates. The yellow appear to be cabin lots, extending beyond today’s streets through the protected wetlands by Fitzsimmons Creek and even across Highway 99. Brown Collection.

There is not much information in the archives about the ADCC or why their plans for The White Gold Estate were not completed. It appears that the company was dissolved by 1979, though it is unclear why. By the mid-1970s, however, the ADCC had completed the four roads that currently make up White Gold: Nancy Greene Dr. (fittingly named for one of the neighbourhood’s early residents), Toni Sailer Ln. (the Toni Sailer Ski Camps had been operating for several summers by that time), Fitzsimmons Rd. (running parallel to Fitzsimmons Creek), and Ambassador Crescent (presumably named for the development company that built it). Like other projects from that time, the development that we find in White Gold today is only a part of what was envisioned by early investors in the Whistler valley.

According to the ADCC, this development was “only the beginning.” Brown Collection.

Visiting a Different Whistler

There is a lot to do in Whistler in the summer, even with the restrictions currently in place across British Columbia.  You can go up the mountains to hike and ride the Peak 2 Peak, hike throughout the valley, relax at a lake, or even visit Whistler’s Cultural Connector (which includes the Whistler Museum).  What about, however, if you had visited Whistler during the summer of 1980?

Thanks to Whistler News, a supplement published by The Whistler Question, we can get an idea of what summer visitors to Whistler could have expected forty years ago.

The Whistler Village at the base of Whistler Mountain as visitors would have found it in the summer of 1980. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The first step to visiting Whistler was getting here.  Though it’s relatively easy today to find your way to Whistler, in 1980 there were no directional signs in Vancouver pointing the way and Whistler News encouraged drivers to obtain a road map and head north on Highway 99.  The drive up included a 12km section through the Cheakamus Canyon that was set to be realigned and improved by 1981 but was still somewhat treacherous.  This was still an easier route than those from the north.  The route to Whistler through Bralorne was suitable only for 4-wheel drive vehicles and the Duffy Lake Road would not be paved until 1992.

Visitors had a choice of lodgings, both in and near to Whistler.  While some of these lodgings, such as the Highland Lodge and Whistler Creek Lodge, are still standing, others such as the Alpine Lodge (a lodge and cabins located in Garibaldi, which the provincial government declared unsafe in 1980) and the White Gold Inn (more commonly known as the Ski Boot Motel) have since been demolished.  Those looking to camp had quite a few options, including a BC Hydro campground at Daisy Lake and a forestry camp at the Cheakamus and Callaghan Rivers.  Supposedly, the summer of 1980 was also going to see the construction of new camping facilities as part of Lost Lake.

Lost Lake south shore showing where a beach and picnic ground will be built. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

Whistler also offered a variety of dining options, from Chinese cuisine at the Alta Lake Inn Dining Room to the Keg at Adventures West.  Those looking to provide their own meals, however, were encouraged to plan ahead, as the only grocery shopping in the area was at the Gulf and Husky Mini-Marts.

Visitors could still do many of the things that have brought people to Whistler in recent summers.  They could go hiking around the valley (Lost Lake was recommended as having the “spectacular sight” of the ski jump) and spend time around and on Whistler’s lakes, where windsurfing was becoming increasingly popular.  Those more interested in snow could attend the 15th year of the Toni Sailer Ski Camp, perfecting their skiing under the direction of Toni Sailer, Nancy Greene, Wayne Wong and Bob Dufour.

The group at the Sailer Fischer Ski Camp party catered by the Keg. (L to R) Wayne Wong, Wayne Booth, Schultz, Nancy Greene, Toni Sailer, Rookie, Alan White. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The summer of 1980 was also a season of huge changes in the area and would have offered visitors many opportunities to view construction in the valley.  There was not yet a Whistler Village as we know it today.  In the Town Centre the first buildings of Phase I were expected to open that season and construction of Phase II buildings was underway.  Late in the summer Whistler Mountain installed its first lifts that ran from what would become the Whistler Village.  At the same time Blackcomb Mountain was building its first lifts, as well as on-mountain restaurants and utility buildings.

Blackcomb’s President and General Manager Hugh Smythe shows Whistler Mayor Pat Carleton the new ski runs from the base of Lift 2 during a recent tour by the mayor of the Blackcomb facilities. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

With all this construction, changing businesses and development, it’s no surprise that summer visitors to the museum will often tell us that Whistler is almost unrecognizable as the same place they visited in the 1970s or 1980s.

Fire at The Keg

While cataloguing the Griffith Collection (a collection of roughly 50,000 images donated by photographer Greg Griffith), our Assistant Archivist Stephanie recently came across slides of a fire at The Keg building that we had previously only seen in black and white.

The first Keg in the Whistler valley was opened at Adventures West on Alta Lake in 1974, but when construction of the Whistler Village began in 1979 plans were made to open a new Keg restaurant in the Whistler Village Inn.

When the first Keg building was moved up Lorimer Rd. to become the new Municipal Hall in 1981, the new Keg building was still under construction.  The hotel and restaurant were expected to open by the end of January 1982, in time for the World Cup, and by the beginning of January restaurant staff had already been hired.

The Whistler Volunteer Fire Department works to contain the fire in The Keg and Whistler Village Inn building. Greg Griffith Collection.

Around 3:30 pm on Wednesday, January 13, 1982, a fire broke out in the building, caused by a leaking propane tank.  The fire started in the restaurant section, spread upwards into the roof and, aided by strong winds, spread across the entire building.

The Whistler Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD) worked well into the night.  According to the Whistler Question, they poured water on the building for over seven hours.  Luckily there were no injuries from the fire, but one firefighter was taken to hospital with chest pains and several others were treated for smoke inhalation.

The next week the WVFD sent a whole bundle of roses into the Whistler Question’s “Bricks & Roses” section to thank those who had helped.  The Whistler and Pemberton ambulance crews were present all night, Dr. Christine Rodgers spent the night on call, Terry Rodgers manned the radio, Carol Simmie, Kathy Hicks and Katie Rodgers helped coordinate the effort, and the RCMP provided crowd control.  Members of the Surrey Fire Department and Squamish Fire Department who were in Whistler also came out.

Crowds watch the fire from the Village Stroll. Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

As it was January, dry clothing and hot food were greatly appreciated in the -20°C weather.  The Grocery Store opened late to provide food supplies, the Alta Lake Community Club, Stoney’s, the Brass Rail, Tapley’s and The Gourmet all brought coffee and food, and the Blackcomb Lodge offered the use of their dryers.

The fire was contained to the top floor of the hotel section, and most of the building was considered structurally sound on the lower levels, with some damage from water and smoke.  The damage was estimated at $2.5 million.

By mid-February demolition work had already begun.  Smith Brothers & Wilson Construction Ltd. got to work repairing and reconstructing the restaurant and hotel.  Because the Whistler Village Inn was designed in two separate buildings, they were able to open 44 rooms in 1982, but the hotel was missing planned amenities such as a pool, restaurant, and permanent lobby.

Brian Moran, Ken Till, Bob Elliott and John Grills outside the soon-to-be-opened Whistler Keg.  Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

January 1983 was a busy month, as finishing touches were put on the restaurant and over 100 staff were hired from over 500 applicants.

The Keg was finally able to open on Friday, February 4, with some familiar faces.  Herb Capozzi, a founder of the Keg restaurant chain, was one of the first to be served, and some staff members from The Keg at Adventures West came back, such as Scott Paxton.  Over the first three evenings, the restaurant served over 900 meals.

A face from yesteryear – Scott Paxton, who worked at The Keg at the Mountain many years ago when it was located in Whistler Cay has now resurfaced at the new Keg as the official “bunmaster”. Paxton and fellow employees geared up for the opening night at The Keg Friday, February 4 for another era of Keg lovers.  Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

Though the Whistler Village has expanded and prices may have changed (in 1983 an 8 oz sirloin would cost you $8.95 and highballs at Brandy’s were $1.85), The Keg and Brandy’s continue to occupy the space opened in 1983.

How to reuse a Keg

Whistler has a history of re-using buildings.  You may remember that before the museum building was the museum it was the post office and then the library (if not, you can read about it here).  You may knot know that before Municipal Hall was Municipal Hall the building was a popular restaurant.

In the 1970s building began on the Adventures West Village which was to provide reasonably priced recreational homes and facilities for families year-round on the north end of Alta Lake.  The original plans for the development were impressive, including 250 condominiums and many amenities.  The full plans were never realized, but in the summer of 1974 its most notable amenity opened, a Keg ‘N Cleaver restaurant.

The Keg building at its original location in Adventures West.  Photo: Garibaldi’s  Whistler News

The building was designed by William Dunn and Associates and included a cafeteria meant to serve breakfast and lunch.  The Keg menu included prime rib, sirloin and New York steaks, salmon and lobster, all within a price range of $5.25 to $6.75.

The Keg quickly became one of the social centres of Whistler.  The restaurant doubled as a nightclub with a DJ booth in the rafters and a dance floor below.  live entertainment was brought in some nights and rumour has it that the Keg was the birthplace of Doug and The Slugs, a band who would continue to play in Whistler through the 1980s.

When construction began on the Whistler Village plans were made to open a new Keg in the Whistler Village Inn building.  The Keg at Adventures West closed and the building began preparing for its new life.

Before the Keg could move the old municipal hall building had to be moved off the site. Photo: Whistler Question

Over the May long weekend of 1981, the 90 ft long building serving as municipal hall was removed from Blackcomb Way.  According to the Whistler Questiostaff kept working Thursday afternoon despite no longer having any power or telephone services.  They were out by the time Nickel Bros. Moving moved the building off its foundations later that day.  On Tuesday, May 19 the town hall reopened in Function Junction, with power but no water or telephones.

The three sections of the Keg building ready to go. Photo: Whistler Question

Moving the old town hall was only the first step in the much more complicated process of moving the Keg building, which had to be done in three sections, on Thursday, May 21.

One section of the Keg makes its way slowly up Lorimer Road. Note the rocks blasted off the corner. Photo: Whistler Question

Lorimer Road was closed from 9 am to 3 pm and BC Hydro shut off the power in the neighbourhood.  Crews had blasted off some of the rock on the side of the road but it was still a tight fit.  Telephone lines were taken down and a BC Hydro employee perched on the roof of each section to move the overhead wires as needed.  As the sections moved slowly up the road throughout the day municipal crews stood by to cut down trees if necessary.

Still moving up Lorimer, a BC Hydro employee moves the overhead wires to allow the section to pass below. Photo: Whistler Question

The three sections were left at the entrance to Lorimer Road until 4 am when, just before the sun would be rising, the Keg was moved across the highway and down Village Gate Boulevard to be installed next to the Public Safety building.  More work would be done before the old Keg reopened as our current Municipal Hall.

Another section is moved slowly to Blackcomb Way. Photo: Whistler Question

The new Keg was expected to open in 1982 but was delayed when the building caught fire.  It would be another two years before it was rebuilt and the Keg finally opened in its current location in February 1984.

To see more photos of the Keg building on the move, check the weeks of May 21 & 28 here.