Tag Archives: Bob Dufour

Learning to Ski at Whistler

Whistler attracts skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels and it comes as no surprise that there are a great number of people who first learned to ski on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, or even on the nearby slopes of Rainbow Mountain.  On Whistler Mountain, formal instruction has been on offer since it opened in 1966.

Garibaldi Ski School was opened by Roy Ferris and Alan White, who persuaded Omulf Johnsen from Norway to manage the school.  After two years Johnson moved on to Grouse Mountain and Jim McConkey was asked to take over instruction at Whistler.  McConkey had taught skiing in Utah for ten years before moving to Todd Mountain in Kamloops.  He agreed to come manage the ski school in Whistler on the agreement that he would also handle equipment rentals and the ski shop.

Jim McConkey posing for a formal staff photo in his Whistler Ski School uniform.  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

McConkey described the ski school as being in a class of its own due to there being limited beginner terrain.  The ski school grew to have a few salaried instructors and more than 25 regular instructors who worked on commission.  Joe Csizmazia and Hans Mozer had started using helicopters for skiing in 1966 and McConkey took over the helicopter operations in 1968 for six years.  He, along with a couple of his top instructors, acted as guides for heli-skiing off of the regular runs on Whistler Mountain.

Ski lessons were a bargain at $18 for six two-hour classes.  In 1969 the mountain introduced adult summer ski programs in addition to children’s camps.  The adult summer lessons combined skiing with apres and summer recreation.  After a few hours of skiing in the morning, the group would have lunch at the Roundhouse and then go swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, or McConkey, who was an avid golfer, would take groups to the Squamish Golf Course.  Each week’s camp ended with a slalom race and an evening barbecue.  McConkey also began holding instructor courses where weekend skiers could learn to become ski instructors.

This bell called a generation of skiers to their lessons on Whistler. Whistler Question Collection, 1978

Students at Whistler Mountain were called to their ski lessons by the ringing of a bell at the base of the gondola.  McConkey had heard that there was a bell in Pemberton that belonged to the Lil’wat Nation.  The bell had been installed in the steeple of a church in Mount Currie in 1904 but had been unused since the church caught fire in the late 1940s.  McConkey asked for permission to use the bell and had a picture drawn to show what it would look like at the base of Whistler.  The council was consulted and agreed to lend the bell to the ski school.  McConkey and Dick Fairhurst brought the bell to Whistler and installed it at the gondola base, with a plaque to tell the story of its origins.

A young Bob Dufour poses for his offficial Ski School portrait, early 1970s.

McConkey left the ski school in 1980, at which point Bob Dufour took over as its director.  When Blackcomb Mountain opened in 1980 they made their own ski school called Ski-ed.  It was advertised as a chance to ski with a pro on Blackcomb.  In 1985 Ski Esprit was opened as a dual mountain ski school with six instructors.

Since the 1980s, Whistler and Blackcomb mountains have combined more than just their ski schools, and thousands of skiers, and now snowboarders, continue to learn on the slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

This Week in Photos: February 15

These photos from the Whistler Question show a much smaller Whistler, where everything from a visit by the Governor General, to a snowblower surviving an encounter with a train, to a visiting Rotary exchange student, to a mysterious explosion in a Longhorn toilet are recorded together in the paper.

1979

Whistler as it should be – Doug Read gets into it on “Upper Insanity” on Friday.

An RCMP under-ice diving training school was held on Alta Lake during the past week. Scott Alpen photo.

A view of the Whistler Vale complex with the old Cheakamus Inn in front and the new units to the left and behind.

1980

Squaw Valley Crescent takes some of the overflow parking from Lake Placid Road.

Bob Matheson works on the new Superior Muffler pipe bending machine.

Sunshine and good skiing – the way it has been on the top of Whistler for the past week.

CKVU’s Ralph (Raccoon) Carney interviews Tom Jarvis, Beau Jarvis and Peaches Grant at Beau’s on Sunday evening.

Nicholas Busdon heads across the finish line in the Elementary Boys race.

1981

Chef/owner of the Black Bear Geoffrey Howes and Patty Harvey at work in the kitchen.

The vehicle Steve Podborski was driving and the Toyota driven by Kathy Rollo after the February 14 accident.

Rotarian Frank Satre and Whistler’s exchange student, Teresa Delgado from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Franz and Annette Wilhelmsen (front) and Debbie and Hugh Smythe (rear) enjoy dinner at the opening of Stoney’s restaurant last week.

1982

With the reddest of heart and the fleetest of foot, a be-winged Cindy Woods turned into cupid for a day (guess which one) to deliver flowers throughout the valley for Valley Vines & Petals.

All bagged up and ready to go – Sue Spurrell, Dave Barnes and Leslie Christmas, all from Newfoundland, try out the x-country skiing at Whistler Village wearing Blackcomb bags for protection.

Kermit joins the happy gang at Stoney’s who celebrated their first birthday Monday, February 15. Ball team members are (l to r) Bruce Fox, manager; Jack Cram and Lance Fletched who co-own the restaurant with Dick Gibbons; and Fetah Benali, chef.

Fire in Alpine! It was nearly one month to the day since fire raged through the Whistler Village Inn, when Whistler’s Volunteer Fire Depart. was called out to a blazing cabin in Alpine Meadows. The fire fighters subdued the blaze at 8340 Needles Drive in about 35 minutes.

Testimony to the durability of the Toro snowblower. One wheel points to the sky but the machine is still in one piece after being struck and dragged 200 metres by a BCR train.

1983

The Japanese version of Johnny Carson was being filmed at Blackcomb Mountain Monday, February 14. Akiko Kobayashi, a TV personality, and Sachiko Sakulay, an actress, are on Willie Whistler’s right and Miss Ski Japan Yukali Yamada and host Tommy Yakota stand on his left.

Shovelling snow outside the Hearthstone Lodge (before the advent of heated steps).

Let’s get Springfit! Adult Education classes in fitness continue with instructors (l to r) Debi Mitchell, Jan Alsop and Shelley Cerasaro. These ladies will take you through a vigorous program of warm-ups, aerobic workouts, calisthenics and stretching.

Canada’s Governor General Ed Schreyer (second from right) hit the slopes of Whistler Mountain Tuesday. Both he and Mrs. Schreyer received some tips from Bob Dufour and Dave Murray while enjoying their five-day vacation.

A sound “like someone dropping a huge sheet of metal” turned out to be an explosion which destroyed cubicle number three in the women’s washroom of the Longhorn Pub Thursday, February 10. A similar explosive device was used to blow up a garbage can in the Longhorn Saturday, February 12 and a 31-year-old New Westminster man, Clifford Michael Balkwill, has been charged with use of a dangerous explosive in connection with the second incident. The explosives, known as “fish salutes”, are manufactured for anglers to scare seals away from their prey.

1985

Firemen and residents were able to rescue some possessions from burning condos at Alpine Village Saturday, but losses were heavy and by the next day insurance investigators were already on the scene.

Whistler Mountain celebrated 20 years with some familiar faces (as well as cake, clowns and more).

Whistler Mountain created a new sport Saturday: Gondola stuffing!

The kids’ team stuffed the most bodies into the gondola with 27, while the counterweights (a minimum of 200 lbs each) could only manage nine.

Mike Davidson of the Alta Lake Sports Club will even spend time in the brig if it means hanging onto his hobby cannons. The one-pounder above was made by Great West Cannon Co. of Granville Island and is authentic in size and workmanship to the original, Davidson says. It was often hoisted into a ship’s rigging and used to fire nails and other shrapnel at the enemy. Davidson uses the cannon to proclaim open the various sporting events but two years ago found himself in RCMP lock-up for four hours when a policeman arrested him for discharging a firearm in the municipality. But it’s all in good fun, and the only thing fired is paper.

Speaker Series – Whistler’s Amazing Eighties!

Every decade of Whistler’s history has a unique story to tell. The 1960s saw the optimistic launch of a brand new ski resort, the 70s were the free-spirited days of squatters and ski bums, and the 80s were when Whistler really got down to business.

The construction of Whistler Village and the opening of Blackcomb Mountain in 1980 were instrumental to Whistler’s ascendance on the world stage. Intrawest’s mid-decade arrival and Rob Boyd’s heroic hometown victory in 1989, not to mention the arrival of alpine chairlifts, an influx of Japanese powderhounds, and a new era in resort-oriented marketing count among other major milestones.

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Of the 1980s numerous noteworthy developments, many would argue that ski fashion was not one of them

Despite the grand vision of Whistler’s earliest boosters, it was during the 1980s that Whistler developed from a regional ski hill to a global destination resort.

The Whistler Museum is excited to announce the launch of our 2015/16 Speaker Series on Sunday December 13th with an evening discussion featuring key figures who oversaw Whistler’s transformation during this pivotal decade.

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The evening’s presenters are as follows:

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Lorne Borgal, 1980s.

Lorne Borgal -Lorne’s Whistler career began in the 1970’s on the Volunteer Ski Patrol, and accelerated in June 1980 when, with a fresh Stanford MBA, he was hired to manage the business side of a nascent Blackcomb Mountain. Three years later he succeeded Franz Wilhelmsen as the second ever CEO of Whistler Mountain, and soon after that he took over as Chair of the Whistler Resort Association (predecessor to Tourism Whistler).

Mike Hurst – Mike’s first taste of Whistler came in 1971 while working as a marketing executive for Labatt’s Brewing. He quickly established a strong business relationship with the resort, but clearly it wasn’t enough. In the early 1980s he made the move to Whistler full-time, accepting a position in Whistler Mountain’s marketing department. He stayed with the resort through the decade, spearheading many groundbreaking promotional campaigns, and even running the Whistler Resort Association at one point, before returning to the iconic Canadian brewery in 1989.

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Mike Hurst, 2nd from right, presenting the grand prize for an unknown promotion, early 1980s.

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A young Bob Dufour poses for his official Ski School portrait, 1970s.

Bob Dufour – As a ski instructor from Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, Bob Dufour came west to work for the legendary Jim McConkey in 1972. Nearly 44 years later, Bob continues with Whistler-Blackcomb having worked under every president from Franz Wilhelmsen to Dave Brownlie and witnessing firsthand an incredible amount of change. He currently holds the position of Vice President – Mountain Operations.

With the panel’s wealth of knowledge and experience, this evening promises to be a compelling and enlightening look at an often overlooked period in Whistler’s history.

When: Sunday December 13th; Doors at 6pm, show 7pm-9pm
Where: Whistler Museum (4333 Main Street, beside the Library)
Who: Everyone!
Cost: $10 regular price, $5 for museum members

We expect this event to sell out, so make sure to get your tickets early. To purchase tickets stop by the museum or call us at 604.932.2019.

 

About Whistler Museum’s Speaker Series:

More than mere repositories of old stuff, museums are institutions of ideas, venues where communities share, debate, and explore their thoughts on the world at large. To that end the Whistler Museum hosts regular Speaker Series events featuring presentations on a diversity of subjects: from the usual suspects of mountain culture and adventure travel, to the environment, design, current events, and beyond.

The 2015/16 season will run monthly, December-May. In celebration of Whistler-Blackcomb’s 50th anniversary, all of this year’s events will focus on ski and snowboard history.

These events offer the perfect opportunity for locals and visitors alike to encounter compelling stories in a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. All Speaker Series events have a cash bar and non-alcoholic refreshments. Coffee provided courtesy of the Whistler Roasting Company. 

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