Tag Archives: Callaghan Valley

Whistler’s History of Trash

The history of Whistler’s waste disposal is not often told, though some parts of it have become widely known.  Most people have been told about how the Village used to be a dump, but how many know that the first garbage collectors were nor Carney’s Waste Systems but the Alta Lake Sons of Tipplers Society?

Before Whistler was Whistler and the valley was still known as Alta Lake, there was no centralized waste disposal.  Lodges in the area made their own dumps and homeowners were responsible for disposing of their own waste, which often meant burning anything that could be burned.  Recycling as we think of it today was yet to be introduced to the valley, though anything that could be reused often was.

This illustration accompanied Bill Bailiff’s article on black bears in the Community Weekly Sunset in July, 1958.

At the time, the relation between garbage and bears becoming aggressive had already been recognized.  Bill Bailiff, president of the Alta Lake Community Club, wrote a series of articles for their newsletter on the local wildlife and had this to say about bears:

When encouraged it loses its fear of man and comes in close to buildings.  If [a bear] scents anything edible it will use its powerful claws to rip and tear into anything and screening on a meat safe goes like so much tissue paper, so don’t encourage them around if you don’t want trouble.

The Whistler valley did not have a central dumping location until the 1960s.  The Alta Lake Ratepayers Association (ALRA) applied to lease acreage at the base of Whistler Mountain where the Village stands today.  Equipment and labour to dig ditches and cover said ditches once full were donated by the Valleau Logging Company (the same company that moved the train wreck to where it now lies) and families living at Alta Lake were each assigned a week to keep the area tidy, mostly by raking garbage that had been removed by bears back into the ditches.  Clearly, the bears were regular visitors.

Bears at the original dump site, now Whistler Village.

The growth of skiing at Whistler brought large numbers of visitors to the area who often left the garbage they produced lying at the train stations when they departed.  The ALRA placed oil drums at the stations in an attempt to contain the mess.  The oil drums were purchased and painted green using left over tip money from Rainbow Saturday nights and so the barrels were given the label ALSOTS (Alta Lake Sons of Tipplers Society) to celebrate their origins.

Despite the efforts of the ALRA, the garbage dump did not always run smoothly.  In a notice to the community, the ALRA noted that garbage was being found around instead of in the trenches and in the fire prevention water barrels, the signs that read “Dump in Trench Only” were quickly disappearing and, despite the dump being a “No Shooting” area, bullet holes rendered the water barrels useless in case of fire.  More disturbingly, some people seemed to be going to the dump to shot the bears that frequented the area as trophies.

From the Whistler Question, 1982: Fantastic Voyage take a trip into their own special world of choreography at Stumps. Stumps, the nightclub located in the Delta Mountain Inn, was named for some of the natural debris found when excavating the old landfill site in preparation of village construction.

When construction of Whistler Village began in 1977 the garbage dump was moved to Cheakamus.  In 2005, this landfill closed and Whistler’s waste management moved to its current location in the Callaghan Valley when construction began on the Olympic athletes’ village.  Carney’s now operates two recycling centre in Whistler and a compost facility in the Callaghan.  To learn about how Whistler tries to reduce human-bear conflict and keep our garbage away from bears, visit the Get Bear Smart Society.

Cross Country Skiing with the ALSC

Today (Saturday, February 25 2017) Callaghan Valley Cross Country will host the Sigge’s P’ayakentsut, a loppet event for all ages and levels of cross country skiing.  With the support of other local cross country ski clubs, the P’ayakentsut offers competitors the choice of a 50, 30 or 15 km course, as well as a 10 km sit-ski course for para-athletes and a 5 km race for kids.  A legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Callaghan Valley Cross Country ensures the continued use of the Whistler Olympic Park for nordic skiing and competition.  Organized cross country skiing, however, has a history in Whistler that far predates the Olympics.

Though not competitive, cross country skiing was a popular winter sport at Rainbow Lodge.

Though not competitive, cross country skiing was a popular winter sport at Rainbow Lodge.

The Alta Lake Sports Club was founded in 1975 to “organize and encourage participation in outdoor sports at all levels of ability in the Whistler area and beyond,” (“Whistler News” Winter 1979/1980) with a focus on cross country skiing.  In their first year, the ALSC organized three races in the valley, attracting up to 125 competitors from clubs within the valley and Vancouver.

The early success of the club inspired the planning of a more permanent 10 km course meant to attract more events.  The proposed course would begin at the Myrtle Philip Elementary School (originally located in the current site of the Delta Village Suites) and then pass over Fitzsimmons Creek and around Lost Lake.   The summer and fall of 1976 were busy ones for members of the club who got together to form work parties to cut through underbrush and hack through slash in logged off areas.  Perhaps the most difficult step was the construction of a bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek which was completed with help of community members such as Lawrence Valleau who provided a free front end loader, Terry Arsenault who donated a day of work operating said front end loader, and the many residents and contractors who donated timber for bridge decking.  By the end of November 1976, despite working in pouring rains and muds likened to quicksand, the new course was complete and the club looked forward to another promising season.

The Alta Lake Sports Club hosted various races through the 1970s and '80s.

The Alta Lake Sports Club hosted various races through the 1970s and ’80s.

Unfortunately for the club, the winter of 1976/1977 was a particularly mild winter with far more rain than expected.  Though there were periods when the new course was in good shape and was used extensively by locals, one after another the events planned by the ALSC were cancelled or moved to Manning Park.  The club had been meant to host the Fischer Cup in January, the BC 50 km Marathon in early February drawing participants from BC, Canada and the United States, and an orienteering race nearer to the end of the month.

A disappointing season at home could not stop the members of the ALSC though.  Over 75 competitors began the 50 km Marathon at Manning Park – only ten finished, three of whom were members of the ALSC.

Despite a wet and mild season, the club continued to encourage the sport of cross country skiing in Whistler.  In 1977 the club purchased an alpine double track skidoo and a track cutter to cut proper tracks and ensure the course could be kept open regularly.  By 1980 the club was again hosting multiple races each season, including the BC Winter Games trials for Zone 5, Molson’s Cup Citizen’s Tour Race, Labatt’s Race, and the Alta Lake Tournament.  They also put forward a proposal in 1980 to build multiple ski trails at Lost Lake, traces of which can be seen in the trails today.

The trails around Lost Lake as proposed by the Alta Lake Sports Club in 1980.

The trails around Lost Lake as proposed by the Alta Lake Sports Club in 1980.

The club was active in promoting more sports than only cross country skiing.  They proposed trails to encourage hiking, walking and running around Lost Lake and organized running events in the summer.  Though no longer active, the Alta Lake Sports Club proved that Whistler could be a destination for sports other than downhill racing and encouraged the growth of sports that continue to flourish in our community today.

Searching the Callaghan

1956 was the year that a T33 military jet mysteriously disappeared over the Callaghan Valley area. The two pilots inside were never found and 60 years later only a few pieces have been found that would give us any clue as to what happened to the two men inside the plane when it went down.

The two men were First Officers James Miller and Gerald Stubbs of the 409 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Their flight was only scheduled to take an hour and a half and be within a hundred mile radius of the Comox base on Vancouver Island. Yet just seventeen minutes into their flight they were documented by radar as entering bad weather and were never seen again.

That is until eighteen years later in November of 1974 when the canopy of their plane was found in the Callaghan Valley, nowhere near where the search teams had been looking for the men. Forty-two years after the plane disappeared its fuselage was found not far from the Callaghan Country lodge, and then twelve years later in October 2010, remnants of one of the pilot’s helmets was found and identified by its colours.

Google Earth image of the location of the T33 crash debris. GPS data courtesy Whistler Search & Rescue.

Google Earth image of the location of the T33 crash debris. GPS data courtesy Whistler Search & Rescue.

The Whistler Museum now preserves those fragments of helmet in our archive room. It is likely they will have to be sent off to be cleaned at the Royal BC Museum though as our small museum does not have the resources to properly clean them. Archival-level preservation becomes especially challenging when you have multiple types of materials in a single artifact, like, for example, the plastic, foam, metal, and leather in a pilot’s helmet. Fifty-four years in the elements has not been kind to the pieces of the flight helmet and it will take a lot of care for them to be able to be displayed in the future.

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The remnants of the flight helmet.

The Whistler Museum also has what we can only assume is a piece from the windshield of the plane as well; a large jagged piece of curved plexiglass as well as a chunk of metal tubing. These pieces along with the helmet fragments were donated to the Museum from the RCMP after they were found in 2010.

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Callaghan Valley in the 1960s.

A television show called “Callout: Search and Rescue” even did an episode on this mysterious crash for the first episode of their third season. The episode covers the Search and Rescue team scouring the Callaghan Valley looking for any missed clues as to what may have happened to the pilots.

In October the Search and Rescue team does an annual search of the Valley and they continuously look for things like ejection seats, helmets or boots. Things that will withstand the elements and will also stand out in the forest. As of the last search in October 2015 nothing else has been found but the search still continues.

For more information check out this feature article written by Pique Newsmagazine in 2015.

By Michaela Sawyer