Tag Archives: Arthur De Jong

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.

ACCESS WMA_P86_0425_Philip - wedge from rainbow

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+.

H.I.T.: 20 Years of Grassroots Action

Whistler became the community it is today in large part thanks to the incredible natural wealth in our surroundings. However, the extent to which this natural wealth has been protected and preserved is a testament to the character of the community that has grown here.

A deep understanding of this intertwined relationship spurred Arthur De Jong to action two decades ago. Working as Mountain Planning & Environmental Resource Manager for Whistler-Blackcomb, Arthur was a frequent attendee at meetings where local environmental groups and engaged citizens raised a variety of ecological concerns. There was no shortage of will, but Arthur stepped in and created a simple, effective way to address these problems.

“Why don’t we have a group dedicated to fixing what they can within a short time-frame to address some of the smaller, easier-to-fix environmental issues in the valley?”, Arthur wondered. And thus, H.I.T. was born.

This past week the Habitat Improvement Team, or H.I.T. wrapped up their 20th summer of grassroots environmental rehabilitation in the Whistler Valley. The enduring success of the group is in large part thanks to the group’s deceptively simple structure (and, of course, Whistlerites’ enthusiasm for the local environment).

The H.I.T. team after a night rehabilitating the riparian zone. Photo courtesy Arthur De Jong.

Bi-weekly, all summer long, a group of volunteers come together and get to work on a predetermined project. Arthur coordinates the team and determines the work schedule, with input from local community groups. Whistler-Blackcomb supports the group with transportation support and a late après at Merlin’s for the thirsty volunteers.

A lot of the group’s early work focused on improving fish habitat in the valley by replanting native species in disturbed riparian zones, preventing suffocating erosion on adjacent trails and stream banks, and other rehabilitation projects.

W-B’s Wendy Robinson transporting native plants for habitat restoration.  Photo courtesy Arthur De Jong.

 

Over the years the group’s mandate expanded beyond ecological restoration to other environmentally oriented projects such as hiking trail maintenance and improvement, installing interpretive signage, cleaning up areas of high garbage accumulation, and packaging retired Whistler-Blackcomb uniforms for shipment to developing nations such as Romania and India. 

Getting retired uniforms ready for shipment. Photo Courtesy Arthur De Jong.

Just this summer, H.I.T. cleared parts of the Lost Lake interpretive trails, removed invasive burdock plants, packaged clothing for international aid, completed 2 work nights on the Ancient Cedars trail (more on this project in next week’s column), and helped build a pollinator garden at the Spruce Grove community gardens.

 

For their efforts, H.I.T. has been awarded a Silver Eagle for Community Relations by the National Ski Areas Association, and special recognition for business leadership at the Shift Conference for Public Lands Management in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. On a more personal level, Arthur notes that “it’s always a joy to walk through parts of the valley and seeing areas that H.I.T. was instrumental in restoring. That’s quite rewarding.”

And it’s not just Arthur who feels gratified. Many of the volunteers contributing this past summer have been involved for years, some nearly the entire 20 years that H.I.T. has been active. Ultimately the big winner is the local environment, which is greener, more productive, and more appreciated thanks to two decades of grassroots, volunteer-led efforts from H.I.T.

Happy volunteers. Photo courtesy Arthur De Jong.

Who Burnt the Stew? Ski Run Names, Part 2

We received a great response for our recent post about Whistler-Blackcomb ski run names, so we figured we would post a few more. Last time we were pretty Blackcomb-heavy, so this week we’ll weight things more towards Whistler.

Whistler

Franz’s Run – Franz Wilhelmsen, from Norway, was one of the founders of Garbaldi Lifts Ltd and remained the president of the company for 20 years.

Bagel Bowl – Preferred piste of former Whistler Mountain President, Lorne Borgal, affectionately known as the ‘Lone Bagel’.

Franz Wilhelmsen and Lorne Borgal (the Lone Bagel!) at the Franz’s Run dedication ceremony in 1983.

Chunky’s Choice – Named after Chunky Woodward, he was another one of the founding directors of Garibaldi Lifts Ltd.  It was his favourite run.

Jolly Green Giant – Named after Vancouver and Whistler resident Casey Niewerth.  He was over six feet tall and dressed all in green so he was easily recognized on the hill as “the Jolly Green Giant” named after the canned vegetables brand.

Jam Tart – Named after cat driver John Cleland who was tragically killed in Whistler Bowl while recovering avalanche duds – Jam Tart was Cleland’s nickname.

Pony Trail – At one point during the construction of lifts on Whistler Mountain, fire hazard forced workers to use packhorses to transport supplies up the mountain.  The road they used became a ski run, so it kept the name.

Tokum – Named after Tokum Corners – a ‘skibum’ house lived in by John Hetherington, George Benjamin and others. Tokum was the run they took home at the end of the day. We’ll let you figure out how Tokum Corners got its name.

George “Benji” Benjamin outside Tokum Corners, 1970s.

Cockalorum – Named for mechanic Jack Goodale, who died in an accident in 1981. Cockalorum means a small person with a large presence.

Boomer Bowl – Apparently, windows in Alpine Meadows rattle when this bowl gets bombed for avalanche control.

Burnt Stew Trail – In the summer of 1958 Florence Peterson, Kelly Fairhurst and Don Gow were on a back-packing trip around Whistler Mountain.  After setting up camp one evening they started cooking dinner in an old billy can over a fire, built into the rocks of a dry creek bed.  Nobody remembered to stir the pot, resulting in the smell after which the area (Burnt Stew Basin), and ski run are named after.

Kelly Fairhurst and Florence Petersen during their 1958 Burnt Stew hike.

Blackcomb

Arthur’s Choice – Named for Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager Arthur DeJong in 1994. Designed to bring a new dimension to glad skiing.

Xhiggy’s Meadow – Named after Peter Xhignesse, an original ski patroller on Blackcomb Mountain who died of cancer at 32.

There are literally hundreds of more run names, both on and off the trail map, so if you are curious about any specific names leave a comment or e-mail us your questions!