Tag Archives: canoeing

Canoeing through Whistler’s Past

This evening (Tuesday, July 7) the museum will be hosting our first virtual Speaker Series, an adapted version of the talk and film screening with Mike Stein that we were originally planning to present in March.  Though Whistler is known internationally as a ski resort, the film features a different form of recreation and transportation that is commonly found in the valley: canoeing.

In the 1980s there was even a Whistler Canoe Club, which held races on Alta Lake.  Whistler Question Collection.

Canoeing has a much longer history in the area than snowsports, as canoes are important to both the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations.  The Great Hall of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre features a 40 foot long Salish hunting canoe carved from a single cedar tree which at times is removed from the exhibition and taken on an ocean journey.  Learn more about this canoe and others by visiting the Squmaish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, which reopened last month.

The Whistler Museum also has records of canoes being used to transport people and products around the valley for over a century.

In the early 1900s the Barnfield family established a dairy farm on their property at the northeast end of Alta Lake.  As summer tourism became more popular in the area following the arrival of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in 1914, the Barnfield’s dairy began supplying the lodges and visitors with fresh supplies.  They used a dugout canoe to deliver milk, cream, eggs, news and gossip to the different lodges on Alta Lake.  By 1920 their largest customer was Rainbow Lodge, which had a daily order of 80 quarts of milk, 4 quarts of cream, and 2 quarts of table cream.

This dugout canoe is similar to the one Alfred and Fred would have used. It may in fact be the one they used, but we have no records to confirm or deny that.

Rainbow Lodge itself had a number of boats, including canoes, for guests and staff to use for fishing or paddling down the River of Golden Dreams, one of which now resides in the museum’s collection.  In 2011 the museum, with the generous support of the Province of British Columbia, was able to purchase a cedar canoe bought by Alex and Myrtle Philip in 1916 for Rainbow Lodge.  After the Philips sold the lodge in 1948, Myrtle kept the canoe for her own personal use for the next 25 years.  The canoe and aged and, before coming back to Alta Lake, was restored by Dave Lanthier, an expert vintage canoe restorer and member of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association.  The canoe is currently displayed in the Whistler Public Library, as the museum does not have the space to exhibit such a large item.

Myrtle’s canoe, pre-restoration.  The canoe now hangs on the wall of the Whistler Public Library, until such a time as we have space to display it at the museum.

The popularity of canoeing continued even after skiing came to Whistler.  In 1975 canoes represented the water part of the first Great Snow Earth Water Race, with cyclists passing the baton to canoeists who worked their way up Alta Lake to the first weir on the River of Golden Dreams, where they handed off to the runners.  From all reports, the canoeing was the most fun for the spectators.  According to Dave Steers, “Most of the teams had members who could tell the front of a canoe from the back.  A few teams didn’t even have that.”  As you can imagine, quite a few canoes tipped and those watching got to see a lot of splashing.

The canoe portion of the Great Snow, Earth, Water Race heads out on Alta Lake.  Whistler Question Collection.

Three years before that inaugural race, Mike Stein, Adolf Teufele, Wink Bradford, Ferdi Wenger, and Jim McConkey set out on their own journey by canoe on the Liard River.  Teufele captured their adventures in the Grand Canyon, a 20 km stretch of the Liard, on 16mm film and the film has now been digitized, edited, and narrated by Stein.  This evening we’ll be hearing from Stein about the film and the journey, as well as screening Highways of the Past: Canoeing the Grand Canyon of the Liard, via Zoom.  Visit here to learn more about the event and register.

What do canoeing and powder skiing have in common?

With the beginning of the new year, we have been spending some time looking back at what 2018 brought to the museum (new records, new exhibits and many new donations of artifacts and archival materials!) as well as looking forward to what lies ahead.

Each year January marks the beginning of our annual Speaker Series.  We’re very excited to start off our 2019 series Thursday, January 17 with Highways of the Past: Canoeing the Grand Canyon of the Liard River.

In 1972 Mike Stein and five fellow adventurers filmed their journey on the Liard River, which flows 1115 km through parts of the Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.  Their trip focused on the Grand Canyon, a 30 km stretch of the Liard River containing numerous class IV and higher rapids.  For decades the resulting 16mm film was thought lost, but recently Mike Stein not only found a copy but had it digitized.

Heading through the Liard Canyon, 1972. Photo courtesy of Mike Stein.

Thursday, January 17 Mike Stein will be at the Whistler Museum for the first screening of Highways of the Past and to discuss his own experiences before, during and after the trip.

While looking through a copy of Garibaldi’s Whistler News published three years prior to the trip down the Liard River, I found an article written by another participant in the canoe trip, Jim McConkey.  McConkey came to Whistler Mountain to take up the position of Ski Director in the spring of 1968 and began writing instructional articles about ski techniques for the publication during his first season.  In early 1969, Whistler Mountain received weeks of what he described as “beautiful, deep powder snow.”  This led to “Learning Powder Snow Technique,” an article in which McConkey instructs skiers on the proper way to ski powder.

‘Diamond’ Jim McConkey’s official Whistler Mountain portrait.  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

The article begins by defining true powder snow as “very light snow that flies out from underneath the skis, sometimes bellowing up over the skier’s head.”  Once the skier found the right snow, they also had to ensure they had the right equipment, meaning flexible deep snow skis, with little camber and soft heels.

When the skier was ready to head for the hill, McConkey recommended starting with a long, gently slope to practice the “continuous, flowing motion of linked turns straight down the hill” that is powder skiing.  According to the article, there is no room for traversing a run on a powder day as “traversing like a cautious old woman is Taboo.”

Jack Bright and Jim McConkey skiing Whistler Mountain, 1972 (the same year as the trip).  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

The article ends with hints that still hold up well today, such as “establish a rhythm”, “keep your head and shoulders facing down the fall line,” and “keep your feet locked together.”  Especially useful is McConkey’s last reminder:

Be sure to laugh when you take a giant clobber in the deep snow.  You will get your chance to laugh with your friends when they fall.  Powder snow and clobbers too are for everyone.

We may not be able to promise weeks of powder skiing this January, but you can join us at the museum Thursday, January 17 for a unique look back at an incredible journey from 1972.

Tickets are on sale at the Whistler Museum; $10 or $5 for museum or Club Shred members.  Doors open at 6:30 pm, the talk and film will start at 7 pm.  See you there!

Highways of the Past: Canoeing the Grand Canyon of the Liard

Heading through the Liard Canyon, 1972. Photo courtesy of Mike Stein.

In 1972 Mike Stein and five fellow adventurers filmed their journey on the Liard River, which flows 1115 km through parts of the Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.  Their trip focused on the Grand Canyon, a 30 km stretch of the Liard containing numerous class IV and higher rapids.  For decades the resulting 16mm film was thought lost, but recently Mike not only found a copy but had it digitized.

Thursday, January 17 Mike Stein will be at the Whistler Museum for the first screening of Highways of the Past and to discuss his own experiences before, during and after the journey.

Tickets are on sale at the Whistler Museum.  $10 or $5 for Museum or Club Shred members.

Doors open at 6:30 pm; the talk and film begin at 7 pm.

This Week In Photos: May 24

The Victoria Day Weekend in Whistler during the 1980s (and late 1970s) was all about May Day Madness and one of Whistler’s favourite races: the Great Snow, Earth, Water Race!  Photos of the events dominate these weeks in the Whistler Question Collection for each year.

1978

Mayor Pat Carleton welcomes Captain James Cook in front of the mural decoration at the Myrtle Philip School gym.

Two of the Burnt Stew Beavers paddle furiously in the Great Snow, Earth, Water Race.

While May Day Madness shirts are on sale from the Whistler Answer.

The May Day Madness continues with sack races on the school yard with divisions for children, males and females.

An anonymous diver showing fine form in the bellyflop contest.

1980

The canoe portion of the Great Snow, Earth, Water Race heads out on Alta Lake.

A runner nears the finish line at the school.

The winning team Helvetia: Heinz Zurcher, Kaarina Engelbrecht, Franz Bislin, Kathy Zurcher and Josef Bislin.

Chris Carson gives his rendition of “Bobby McGee” with help from Scott Richard, Greg Beauregard, Matt Satre, Marcello Gianna, Mr. Marshall and an all-girl chorus.

The Whistler Village continues to be a work-in-progress.

1981

The Keg building hits the road on its way to its new home on Blackcomb Way.

Constable F. Pinnock runs through the bike safety testing course that he and Constable Gabriel of Pemberton set up at Myrtle Philip Elementary on Friday, May 22. Young participants in the recent “Bike for Life” mini-course and several Girl Guides successfully rose their bicycles through the obstacle course to earn certificates for their cycling expertise.

Kurt and Maralyn Snook cut the cake at their going-away party in Stoney’s back room on Friday, May 22.

Andrew Wuolle, Sherida Snook, Morag Marshall and Jody Rustad planting one of the many Douglas fir trees around Myrtle Philip Elementary school yard on May 22. Tree seedlings were donated by the Ministry of Forests.

1983

Sports fans turned out in droves to dig through the used equipment at Blackcomb Ski Club’s sports swap during May Day Madness. The $1000 raised from sales will go towards building a club facility.

They’re off to a Le Mans starts for the Eighth Annual Snow, Earth, Water Race in Whistler May 22.

This fleecy rider just stopped in for a while to observe the scene at the Great Snow, Earth, Water Race. While master checked out some of the canoe action down by the river, moto-mutt stayed with the steed.

Though not in first place, the Burnt Stew Beavers were back for another race!

For many more photos of the Great Snow, Earth, Water Race take a look here and see if you recognize anyone!

Jeff Wuolle serves up pancakes to some of Whistler’s finest flat feet Saturday morning. Being served are (l to r) Constables Steve Davidson, Richard Guay, Rocky Fortin and Gord Simms. Rotary netted $231 from its pancake sales.

Chefs, firemen and event E.T. turned out at the bike decorating contest Saturday with some fantastically creative ideas. Most Original: Christopher Forrest, on a fire truck complete with hose. Funniest: Stephanie Simpson as The Egg. Prettiest: Melanie Busdon as Miss Strawberry Shortcake.

1984

The long weekend was highlighted by dozens of events including a grueling mountain bike race Monday…

Three days of serenading by a group of wandering minstrels, The Extraordinary Clown Band…

And the exciting ninth annual Great Snow, Earth, Water Race. Although the weather was great Sunday and Monday, Saturday was a damp one and it actually snowed on Tuesday.

How do different colours absorb heat? and What does a barometre measure? were some of the questions students from Myrtle Philip School had to answer in the third annual Science Fair. All children, including kindergarten students, took part in the fair which was designed to give students a chance to use research skills, art talent and writing and speaking abilities together on one area of science in which they show interest. First place winners for each grade include: Grade Seven, “Lasers” by Lisa Morten and Karen Wylie; Grade Six, “Colours and Heat Absorption” by Michelle Rennie and Andrea Wuolle; Grade Five, “Weather Reporting” by Stephanie Fosty; Grade Four, “Guinea Pigs” by Jennifer Croghan and Melanie Busdon; Grade Three, “Eclipses” by Madeline Domries; Grade Two, “Volcanoes” by Briton Liakakos; Grade One, “Monkeys” by Justine Adams, Davey Blaylock, Marco Feller, Casey Greenwood, Aaron Gross, Cory Gudmundson, Yosuke Hamazaki, Jake Humphrey, Mark Jennings and Heather Paul and “Pulleys” by Christopher Systad; Kindergarten, “The Seashore” by James Balfour, Armen Evrensel, Sarah Fennel, Noah Fordham, Christopher Forrest, Moriah Johnston and Tyler Manson.

Speaker Series: Canoeing the Horton River

Speaker-Series_Feb-2015_web-version

In July 1991 four adventurous souls completed a three week canoe trip on the Horton River in the Northwest Territories. Among them was long term local and President of the Whistler Museum board, John Hetherington, as well as Whistler Ski Patrolman Pat “Dago” Coulter.

The Horton River is one of the most remote rivers in North America, though it deserves great renown. The river has several distinct features: it empties into the Arctic Ocean at a point further north than any other mainland river in Canada, it runs alongside the Smoking Hills (it broke through the Smoking Hills to Franklin Bay around 1800AD, cutting off the last 120 kilometres of river), and it is now in the process of creating a new delta.

The four expeditioners experienced a snowstorm in July, a close encounter with a grizzly, several caribou, coils of smoke from the Smoking Hills, and barren tundra (among other things). Hetherington reminisces: “For the last week of the trip we paddled through the night by the light of the midnight sun, to avoid the strong daytime winds. At the Arctic Ocean we walked to an old DEW Line station, watched icebergs drift by, and had a huge caribou herd migrate by our campsite.”

As part of the Whistler Museum Speaker Series, John Hetherington will be sharing photographs and stories from this remarkable adventure. The event, “Canoeing the Horton River,” will take place on Wednesday, February 18th, from 7 to 9pm (doors are at 6pm) at the museum. Tickets are $7 each ($5 for museum members) and can be purchased by telephone or in person from Whistler Museum. There will be a cash bar and complimentary tea and coffee.

Anyone interested in the Canadian Arctic, canoeing, adventure sports, or anything to do with the Canadian wilderness should not miss this one.

The Great Snow-Earth-Water Race Returns!

great-snow-earth-water-race

The Great Snow Earth Water Race is being revived in 2014. A truly organic Whistler experience, we at the museum are really excited to see the return of this awesome event.

The original race began in 1975 and involved skiing, canoeing, cycling and running. Thirty teams composed of five men and women took part in that first year and the race was won by a dream team made up of Dave Murray, Trudy Alder, D.J. Muzullo, Nancy Greene Raine and Joe Czimazia. In the beginning there were very few rules, so a certain amount of “questionable” tactics were employed, including driving down the mountain!

great race

Competitors began at the top of Whistler Mountain where they would ski to wherever the snow finished. From there they would have to run the rest of the way down to Creekside (in ski boots, carrying their skis). At Creekside the baton was passed off to a cyclist, who would ride around Alta Lake and pass it off to the canoeists. The paddlers worked their way up the lake to the first weir on the River of Golden Dreams. Then they handed off to runners who ran back along the highway to Creekside.

Apparently, Great Race canoeist copythe canoeing was the most amusing part for bystanders. Dave Steers recalls, “Most of the teams had members who could tell the front of a canoe from the back. A few teams didn’t even have that.” Consequently there were plenty of tipped canoes and great hilarity for all.

As the years went on the race evolved to include more sports. In the 2014 revival there will be six stages: ski or snowboard touring, ski or snowboard downhill, downhill mountain biking, running, canoeing and cross-country biking.

If you fancy putting a team together it’s sure to be hilarious fun. Visit http://www.greatoutdoorsfest.com for details. The race is also in need of volunteers to help all go smoothly, so if you have spare time on May 18th and want to sign up for a piece of pure Whistler fun, you won’t regret it!

What does a 95-year-old canoe look like? Let us show you.

This isn’t just any old boat. This beautifully restored Peterborough cedar-strip canoe was first purchased by none other than Alex and Myrtle Philip in 1916 for the use of guests at their recently opened Rainbow Lodge. After the Philips retired and sold the lodge in 1948, Myrtle kept it as her personal canoe for the next 25 years.

Getting out on the water was a major attraction for early guests to Rainbow Lodge, and the Philips owned a variety of boats and canoes for that purpose.

A few years ago the near-antique was starting to show signs of its age, and so the canoe ended up with Dave Lanthier, an expert vintage canoe restorer and member of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association.

The canoe, pre-restoration.

David did an amazing job restoring the canoe to its former beauty, and the Whistler Museum purchased the wooden work of art and repatriated it to its former home. The canoe’s purchase was made entirely thanks to the generous support of the British Columbia Provincial Government.

Post-restoration, the red cedar has an amazing warm glow.

A detail of the bow deck and internal ribbing, post-restoration.

There is perhaps nothing more quintessentially Canadian than the canoe, as the eminent Canadian historian Pierre Berton so eloquently reminded us. This canoe is a pretty cool example of a classic, early-1900s design, fully restored to its original glory. Knowing that this specific canoe was taking avid fishermen out on Alta Lake nearly a century ago, and has been on countless River of Golden Dreams tours since, its only right that it has returned to its original home.