Tag Archives: Christmas

Skiing Whistler Mountain Before the Resort

There aren’t too many people who got the chance to ski Whistler Mountain before the lifts were installed or the runs even cut, but this past week the Museum had a visit from two people who got to do just that.  Keith and Jane Horner sat down with our Collections Manager Alyssa for an oral history interview and recounted the times they spent in Whistler during the very early days of the mountain’s development.

Oral histories can be tricky because they do not often come with what some people call “proof”, that is documents, photos or other written reports that support what someone says.  The oral histories that we collect at the Museum are often people’s memories and reminisces of events that took place many years ago.

Jane Horner was born Jane Shakespeare, the third daughter of Jack Shakespeare, a chairman of the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association and one of the original directors of the Garibaldi Lifts Ltd.  Jack was a friend of Franz Wilhelmsen and is believed to have been in the helicopter with Franz and Sidney Dawes while the Canadian representative of the IOC was selecting an appropriate mountain for Olympic development.  Her father’s involvement with the development of Whistler Mountain meant that Jane and Keith got to have some unique experiences before its opening in January 1966.

Franz Wilhelmsen was a friend of Jack Shakespeare. Both were involved in GODA and Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. Although we do not appear to have any photos of Jack Shakespeare, we do have many of Franz.

The pair recalled two days in the early 1960s when a small group of about forty people skied Whistler with a man called Peter Bennett.  The first day was spent around the base of the mountain but the second day the group was taken up by helicopter to about where the t-bar would later be installed.  The skiing about the tree-line was incredible, but once the group reached the forest there was no trail and they had to create their own paths from tree to tree.  As Keith explained, there was a “huge variety” in the skiers’ ability; one skier ended up hanging upside down in a tree after getting caught in its branches and from top to bottom took one group member six hours.

Skiing this area before the t-bar took a lot longer for some in their group, especially once they hit the trees.

Keith and Jane both remember spending the Christmas of 1965 in Whistler as part of a group from Vancouver including Jane’s parents.  The gondola and chair had been installed by this time and Jack Shakespeare took a group up to Whistler to see the progress made on the mountain.  The group was staying at the newly built Cheakamus Inn when they got snowed in and ended up staying longer than expected.  Jack had meetings in Vancouver and tried to drive through the snow but had to abandon his car and come back for it weeks later.  This trip had not really been meant as a ski trip so the group found other ways to occupy their time while they waited out the snow.  The Cheakamus Inn made them welcome with a champagne breakfast and taught their guests to make hot buttered rum.  Bridge was also a popular pastime while snowed in.

Whistler has undergone quite a few changes since the early times Keith and Jane recall spending here, though I’m sure quite a few people in town wouldn’t mind getting snowed in during December.  Visits and oral histories like these provide great insight into a Whistler that can no longer be experienced.  Though we cannot guarantee that everything we are told is completely accurate (memories are rarely infallible), if you’ve got a tale you’d like to tell, please contact the Whistler Museum; we’d love to hear it!

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A Ski Bum’s Christmas

Digging through the archives we’ve uncovered a few gems from Whistler’s Christmas past. First, here’s a few photos from our George Benjamin collection of a 1969 Christmas celebration at Whistler’s most infamous ski bum hangout, Toad Hall. The photos have a wonderfully nostalgic, yet timeless feel.

A Toad Hall Christmas, 1969.

A Toad Hall Christmas, 1969.

All necessary precautions were made. "Slippry when Slippry" (sic) was painted on the front steps.

All necessary precautions were made. “Slippry when Slippry” (sic) was painted on the front steps.

The hairstyles, fashion, and fisheye lens clearly date the images, and the fact that they’re cooking their turkey in a wood stove reminds us of the pioneer lifestyles endured by Whistler’s early ski bums. The living room shot, however, with its cozy ski cabin ambiance, feasting circle of friends huddled in from the winter cold, and the surfboard hanging from the roof, feels as if it could have been taken last weekend in an Alpine Meadows A-frame.

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John Hetherington, Toad Hall staple, former Whistler Mountain ski patroller, and current Whistler Museum President reflects fondly on those days:

“Christmas at Toad Hall was great… Of course, there was no electricity, so it was just Coleman lanterns and the old “Master Climax” wood stove. One year we used candles to decorate the Christmas tree. We only had birthday candles so they burned quick and we had to keep replacing them. While they were burning it looked amazing, but we were terrified of burning the whole place down.”

Toad Hall did, in fact, meet a fiery end, but it wasn’t Christmas, or carelessness for that matter, that did it in.

Master Climax Turkey Glory!

Master Climax Turkey Glory!

horrorscopeContinuing in the spirit of Whistler’s seventies era, we push forward to 1977 and  the Whistler Answer‘s special holiday-themed horoscope. While this bit of soothsaying may not exactly jive with traditional Christmas spirit (there was nothing “traditional” about the Answer, after all), it manages to find some humour in the sometimes stressful and challenging nature of the season.

santa squattingAnd in a slightly less cynical turn, we leave you with some long-forgotten, but nonetheless important investigative journalism, also courtesy the Answer. It turns out Santa Claus may not be as “on the level” as is commonly assumed.

We’re especially excited to be sharing this great Whistler Answer content with you this holiday season because we’ve just finished (a couple of hours ago, actually) the digitization of the irreverent and iconic newspaper’s full run (both of them). We’re now working on the software and formatting, and hope to have every single issue of the Whistler Answer available online for your reading pleasure early in the new year. Stay tuned to this space for updates.

The Whistler Museum wishes you a safe, snowy, happy, tasty, playful, stress-free. May all your wishes and none of your horrorscopes come true!