Tag Archives: Alta Lake Sailing Club

Dick Fairhurst of Cypress Lodge: Part Two

This week we’re continuing the story of Dick Fairhurst, who first came to Alta Lake in 1943. (You can read part one here) By 1955, he owned three adjoining lots on Alta Lake, including the property today known as The Point, and was operating a collection of cabins and a tearoom under the name Cypress Lodge.

At Cypress Lodge, guests could participate in many activities, including fishing, hiking, berry picking, and picnics, as well as community events in the summer such as movies and dances.  Luckily, Dick did not have to run the entire business by himself while continuing to work on his traplines and in forestry.

Cypress Lodge, September 1962. Fairhurst Collection.

In the summer of 1955, his mother Elizabeth Alice Fairhurst came up from Vancouver to run the tearoom for him.  She also looked after the cabins, did the laundry, and cooked for guests, running what others would describe as “a tight ship.”  Though she originally came for just one season, she stayed for fifteen years.  Dick added a bedroom to his house on the property and enlarged the kitchen, ensuring his mother would be comfortable at Alta Lake.

Dick also had some new neighbours move in that summer when a group of teachers from the Lower Mainland bought the Masson house.  June Tidball, Florence Strachan, Eunice “Kelly” Forster, Jacquie Pope, and Betty Gray became regular Alta Lake visitors and rechristened their cabin “Witsend.”  According to June, Dick brought them hot water on their first evening at the cabin to welcome them to Alta Lake and became a trusted friend of the group.

Three of the original Witsend owners! (Left to right) Jacquie Pope, Kelly Fairhurst and Florence Petersen.  Whistler Question Collection.

Dick and Kelly Forster (the same Kelly who once sewed her friends’ pyjamas shut) married in 1958 and Kelly moved to Alta Lake full-time, becoming involved in the running of Cypress Lodge.  The pair made a plan to replace the old cabins on the waterfront and build a new lodge building.  They began by clearing the point constructing new cabins, completing four by 1962.  These cabins had the distinction of housing the first coloured plumbing at Alta Lake, though sadly we do not know what colour their plumbing was.

Cypress Lodge as seen from the lake. Fairhurst Collection.

In February 1963, apparently not an incredibly snowy winter, the Fairhursts laid the forms for the foundations of their new lodge.  Fully booked for the 1965 Victoria Day long weekend, Cypress Lodge was finished just in time, with the furniture arriving on the Saturday and assembled by friends, neighbours, and even guests.

Along with the lodge, the Fairhurst family had grown during these years.  Dick and Kelly had two children, David and Carol, who grew up at Alta Lake, attending the Alta Lake School.

Cypress Lodge became a gathering place for the small Alta Lake community through the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  The wharf was the base for the Alta Lake Sailing Club’s Dominion Day Derby on July 1 and the annual Regretta (named for the regret at the season ending) on Labour Day, where events such as pie eating contests and a fish fry took place alongside boat races.  In the winter Dick and Kelly would also open the lodge for New Year’s Eve parties.

Dick Fairhurst, the owner of Cypress Lodge, was a ski-doo enthusiast, pictured with his children David and Carol. Fairhurst Collection.

The Fairhursts continued to operate Cypress Lodge, renting cabins out to Whistler Mountain employees and highway crews, until 1972 when they sold the property to the Canadian Youth Hostels Association.  In 1973 they moved into their new home built by Andy Petersen on Drifter Way, where they stayed until both David and Carol had graduated from high school in Pemberton.  In 1980 Dick and Kelly moved into a house Dick had built for them in Parksville, where Dick took up golfing, salt-water fishing, and gardening.  Sadly, Dick died in October 1983.

Dick Fairhurst is remembered for many things in Whistler in addition to Cypress Lodge.  He also helped found the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club, maintained the dump site with the Valleau logging family, served as the Fire Chief for the volunteer force, put the barrel out on the lake for the Alta Lake Community Club’s Ice Derby, and was named Citizen of the Year in 1972.

Dick Fairhurst, Stefan Ples and Doug Mansell rafting the Alta Lake fire shelter and its contents across the lake to Alta Vista, 1967. Petersen Collection

Alta Lake Live

We love to share the photos we have in our collections, but did you know that we also have a huge collection of video footage?  Not all of it has been digitized, and even less is currently available online, but we hope to remedy this in the future.

Today we’re sharing four films of Alta Lake from the Petersen Collection that show the lake in different years and seasons.

Up first is a film from around 1960 showing skaters on the frozen lake.  With a game of hockey going on, it looks a lot like winters on Alta Lake today.

While we have many photos of sail boats on Alta Lake most of them are black and white.  This film captures the sails in all their colourful glory.  Taken during a regatta, this footage may just be of the Alta Lake Sailing Club’s first “Regretta”.

Another film of boating, this time from 1970, gives a closer view of some of the cabins and other means of transportation along the shore.  As a bonus, the film also includes footage of the PGE moving a building from the side of the railroad tracks.

Last, but certainly not least, we have footage from the 1974 Regatta hosted by the Alta Lake Sailing Club.  Based out of Dick Fairhurst’s Cypress Lodge, the location may seem familiar to those who sail on Alta Lake today.  The full day event included a tug-o-war, pie eating contest, sailing (of course) and more.

Other films available online can be viewed here.  We hope to add more soon!

Sailing Alta Lake in 1966

Sailing on Alta Lake is one of the most time-honoured and pleasant ways to pass a summer day in the Whistler Valley.

While mountain biking, hiking, golf, and several other activities might be more popular today, sailing remains a cherished and time-honoured was to pass a summer day in Whistler.

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Sewell & Jean Tapley (Myrtle Philip’s father & sister) sailing on Alta Lake, circa 1920s.

It was a favoured activity of Myrtle & Alex Philip, as well as other residents and visitors of Alta Lake going back a century. But it wasn’t until the creation of the Alta Lake Sailing Club, founded in 1966, that an organized sailing community came to be. Based out of Dick Fairhurst’s Cypress Lodge, the same building that the Whistler Sailing Club operates out of today!

In our collection of home videos recorded by Florence Petersen, we have footage from a sailing regatta on Alta Lake from this period. It’s quite possibly their first ever regatta, held in 1966, and playfully dubbed the “Regretta.”

The video provides a wonderful scene of a timeless Whistler activity. With the current blast of pleasant summer weather we are experiencing, hopefully you get out on the water soon as well!

Wind Sports on Alta Lake

For years, Whistler has been world renowned as a hot spot for many sports including skiing, mountain biking, mountaineering, climbing, and paddling. One that seems to have fallen in popularity, however, is windsurfing.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, windsurfing began to rise in popularity as a sport, and Alta Lake became a hot spot for Canadian windsurfers. Whistler was the host of a number of windsurfing regattas. In July, 1981, the Squamish Citizen Shopper described the windsurfing regattas as one of the largest contributors to the summer business boom at Whistler. ‘Sailboarding’ was further described as Canada’s fastest growing water sport. Wednesday nights were race nights on Alta Lake, with up to 30 windsurfers showing up when it was busy. Whistler windsurfers were amongst the best in the sport, and the most notorious partiers.

After a sharp rise in popularity, leading to windsurfing becoming an Olympic sport in 1984, windsurfing seems to have fallen off the radar in Whistler. So where did windsurfing go? Due to licensing battles and an ongoing debate about the windsurfer’s origins, the 80s saw extensive legal battles over patents and designs, which led to some companies having to cease production.  In the 2000s, kiteboarding began to gain popularity, and began to rival windsurfing in popularity. It seems now that windsurfing is more of a fringe sport, especially in Whistler, where skiers are now picking up mountain bikes in the off-season.

These days, the hot spot for windsurfing and wind sports has migrated south to the Squamish spit. The more consistent winds and large open space offer a veritable playground for windsurfers and kiteboarders alike.

Sailing has retained some popularity in Whistler. Early visitors to Alta Lake enjoyed catching the wind in a rowboat the Phillips had rigged with a sail. It wasn’t the world’s greatest sailboat, but it worked.

A young sailor poses on the Philips’ home rigged sailboat.

The Alta Lake Sailing Club was founded in 1966 and ran out of Cypress Lodge.The club ran ‘Jelly Fish Races’ annually in May. The early Jelly Fish Races cost 50 cents to enter and included membership to the club for the weekend.

The Whistler Sailing Association is somewhat younger, having started in 2008 in response to strong local support. They continue to offer races as well as rentals and learning programs. Alta Lake still sees the occasional windsport enthusiast, and the sailing association has an active summer schedule with kids camps and lessons. They ensure that on windy days Alta Lake is still dotted with sails.

The view from a sailboat on Alta Lake.