Tag Archives: Cypress Lodge

The annual Alta Lake ‘Regretta’

For many people, the Labour Day long weekend marks the end of the summer; school holidays are over and the days are getting noticeably colder and shorter. Knowing the warm days are coming to an end may bring a sense of sadness to some. This feeling was even more palpable in the community of Alta Lake, where the population increased in the summer months and life revolved around the lake – fishing, swimming and sailing. The biggest community celebration ran over the September long weekend and was named the ‘Regretta’ because the community regretted that summer was coming to an end.

The Alta Lake Sailing Club ran out of Cypress Lodge and regattas were held each long weekend throughout the summer. Opening the sailing season was the Jelly Fish Race held on the May long weekend, then the Dominion Day Derby was held on July 1, and the biggest event of them all was the annual Regretta held on Labour Day weekend starting in 1965.

Many different sailing craft participated in the annual Alta Lake Regretta. Peterson Collection.

The Regretta was a day-long celebration that incorporated sailing races, as well as fun contests and activities for children and adults alike. Alta Lake became a colourful display of sailing craft with Sabots, Davidson D12s, Flying Juniors, Enterprises, Hobie Cats and Catamarans all popular. Sabots were the first boat of choice as the 8 foot sailing dinghies were light enough to carry up the bank for storage at the end of the summer.

Along with the regular regatta races, fun races and obstacle courses kept both participants and spectators entertained. ‘Repel all boarders’ was an obstacle race with up to five people on board vying to get through the course the fastest without any ‘pirates’ boarding the boats or losing any crew members. There were also ‘free-for-all races’ that allowed splashing and tipping – any tactics to delay the other racers were encouraged.

There were many amusing activities for the “landlubbers” too, often organised by Florence Peterson. In a recent oral history with Carol Fairhurst, whose parents owned Cypress Lodge, she remembered fondly, “We would have the three legged race where two people tie their inside leg together and you have to run. The sack race where you’d get in a potato sack and you had to hop. Then there would be egg-throwing contests, pie-eating contests, tug-of-wars where they had two wharves and two teams and the losing team got pulled into the water. The pie eating contest was always huckleberry pies so it was hilarious because people would end up with blue faces. It was a good time. The sail boat races were a big deal.”

A pie-eating contest in front of Cypress Lodge, an important part of the summer regattas. Fairhurst Collection.

Another activity from the Regretta that should definitely be brought back in the interests of entertainment is the Alta Lake pole vaulting contest. The aim of this competition was to launch yourself high into the air over the lake and land in an inner tube.

Prizes and trophies were presented for both the serious and not so serious competitions. Renate Bareham, née Ples, grew up in Alta Lake and remembers winning a hand mirror in the log rolling competition.

Karen Gow (left) and Renate Ples (right) during the log rolling competition in 1967. Bareham Collection.

This celebration of summer brought as many as 100 residents and weekenders together for a day in the sun, which was quite the turnout for a small community. Throughout the ten or so years that the Regretta ran it certainly left an impression on all those lucky enough to take part.

Dick Fairhurst of Cypress Lodge: Part Two

This week we’re continuing the story of Dick Fairhurst, who first came to Alta Lake in 1943. (You can read part one here) By 1955, he owned three adjoining lots on Alta Lake, including the property today known as The Point, and was operating a collection of cabins and a tearoom under the name Cypress Lodge.

At Cypress Lodge, guests could participate in many activities, including fishing, hiking, berry picking, and picnics, as well as community events in the summer such as movies and dances.  Luckily, Dick did not have to run the entire business by himself while continuing to work on his traplines and in forestry.

Cypress Lodge, September 1962. Fairhurst Collection.

In the summer of 1955, his mother Elizabeth Alice Fairhurst came up from Vancouver to run the tearoom for him.  She also looked after the cabins, did the laundry, and cooked for guests, running what others would describe as “a tight ship.”  Though she originally came for just one season, she stayed for fifteen years.  Dick added a bedroom to his house on the property and enlarged the kitchen, ensuring his mother would be comfortable at Alta Lake.

Dick also had some new neighbours move in that summer when a group of teachers from the Lower Mainland bought the Masson house.  June Tidball, Florence Strachan, Eunice “Kelly” Forster, Jacquie Pope, and Betty Gray became regular Alta Lake visitors and rechristened their cabin “Witsend.”  According to June, Dick brought them hot water on their first evening at the cabin to welcome them to Alta Lake and became a trusted friend of the group.

Three of the original Witsend owners! (Left to right) Jacquie Pope, Kelly Fairhurst and Florence Petersen.  Whistler Question Collection.

Dick and Kelly Forster (the same Kelly who once sewed her friends’ pyjamas shut) married in 1958 and Kelly moved to Alta Lake full-time, becoming involved in the running of Cypress Lodge.  The pair made a plan to replace the old cabins on the waterfront and build a new lodge building.  They began by clearing the point constructing new cabins, completing four by 1962.  These cabins had the distinction of housing the first coloured plumbing at Alta Lake, though sadly we do not know what colour their plumbing was.

Cypress Lodge as seen from the lake. Fairhurst Collection.

In February 1963, apparently not an incredibly snowy winter, the Fairhursts laid the forms for the foundations of their new lodge.  Fully booked for the 1965 Victoria Day long weekend, Cypress Lodge was finished just in time, with the furniture arriving on the Saturday and assembled by friends, neighbours, and even guests.

Along with the lodge, the Fairhurst family had grown during these years.  Dick and Kelly had two children, David and Carol, who grew up at Alta Lake, attending the Alta Lake School.

Cypress Lodge became a gathering place for the small Alta Lake community through the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  The wharf was the base for the Alta Lake Sailing Club’s Dominion Day Derby on July 1 and the annual Regretta (named for the regret at the season ending) on Labour Day, where events such as pie eating contests and a fish fry took place alongside boat races.  In the winter Dick and Kelly would also open the lodge for New Year’s Eve parties.

Dick Fairhurst, the owner of Cypress Lodge, was a ski-doo enthusiast, pictured with his children David and Carol. Fairhurst Collection.

The Fairhursts continued to operate Cypress Lodge, renting cabins out to Whistler Mountain employees and highway crews, until 1972 when they sold the property to the Canadian Youth Hostels Association.  In 1973 they moved into their new home built by Andy Petersen on Drifter Way, where they stayed until both David and Carol had graduated from high school in Pemberton.  In 1980 Dick and Kelly moved into a house Dick had built for them in Parksville, where Dick took up golfing, salt-water fishing, and gardening.  Sadly, Dick died in October 1983.

Dick Fairhurst is remembered for many things in Whistler in addition to Cypress Lodge.  He also helped found the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club, maintained the dump site with the Valleau logging family, served as the Fire Chief for the volunteer force, put the barrel out on the lake for the Alta Lake Community Club’s Ice Derby, and was named Citizen of the Year in 1972.

Dick Fairhurst, Stefan Ples and Doug Mansell rafting the Alta Lake fire shelter and its contents across the lake to Alta Vista, 1967. Petersen Collection

Dick Fairhurst of Cypress Lodge

Though his name has come up several times in recent columns, we recently realized we haven’t specifically written about Dick Fairhurst’s story yet.  It was a promise to Dick and Myrtle Philip that led Florence Petersen to found the Whistler Museum & Archives Society in the summer of 1986, as they worried that the stories of life at Alta Lake would be forgotten as skiing became the dominant activity in the valley.  Both had lived at Alta Lake for decades and had already seen many changes.

Though he grew up in BC mining towns, Dick spent many years working in the forestry industry.  He would have logged in very similar conditions to this man pictured here. Fairhurst Collection.

Richard “Dick” Fairhurst was born to Richard and Elizabeth Alice Fairhurst in 1914, the third of five children.  His parents had come to Canada from Lancashire, England in 1906 and at the time were living in East Arrow Park, British Columbia.  Dick’s father was a miner and so Dick grew up in mining towns in the Kootenays, moving first to Michel and then to Sandon before settling in Silverton in 1929.

After graduating, Dick spent a short time working underground in one of the silver mines before he secured a job building tramlines for hauling ore.  In 1940, Dick moved to Vancouver to work at the shipyards in North Vancouver during the war, a job he later said he hated.

Dick’s first trip to the Alta Lake valley was for his honeymoon with his wife Doreen.  The pair stayed at Jordan’s Lodge on Nita Lake.  According to Dick, “I came up here on vacation once in 1943 and I thought, well, this is the place for me.”

George Churchill poses with a day’s catch from Alta Lake. Fairhurst Collection.

Dick and Doreen bought two lots on the west side of Alta Lake the next year and Dick began working for Alf Gebhart at the Rainbow Lumber Mill Company, both in the mill and on the boom.  He supplemented his income by trapping, taking over some of the traplines of Bill MacDermott and Bill Bailiff on Rainbow, Blackcomb, and Whistler mountains and catching mostly marten and beavers.

Life at Alta Lake was very different from city life and was not to Doreen’s tastes.  The couple divorced in 1948 and Doreen left the valley while Dick remained and decided to try his hand in the early tourist industry.  He began by building two log cabins, a workshop, frames for two more cabins, a storage shed, and a garage.  Bert Harrop, who was well known in the area for his carpentry skills, taught Dick to build cedar bark furniture.  Some cabins were rented by loggers so they could bring their families from the city.

Lodge guests aboard Dick’s 1942 Reo pickup truck. The truck was used to transport guests for picnics, hikes, and more. Fairhurst Collection.

In 1954, Dick purchased an adjoining property (formerly known as Harrop’s Point), adding three existing cabins and a tearoom to his business.  He changed the name to Cypress Lodge on Cypress Point and began accepting guests, while continuing to work in forestry in the valley.  The next year, Dick secured the water rights to install a wheel and generator on Scotia Creek, providing mostly reliable power for Cypress Lodge, except when something plugged the nozzle and the lights would go out.

In 1955, two people came to Alta Lake who would play a large part in the next stages of Cypress Lodge and Dick’s life in the valley.  We’ll be bringing you more about Dick Fairhurst, Cypress Lodge, and life at Alta Lake in the 1950s and 60s next week, so be sure to check back!

Fire at Alta Lake

Prior to the formation of the Alta Lake Volunteer Fire Department (ALVFD), the Alta Lake area had no official response to fires – they were put out by the small community.  But after two large fires in the early 1960s, some residents decided to form their own fire department.

The first fire is still a little mysterious.  One a reportedly beautiful morning in April, a single passenger got off the Budd car at the Alta Lake Station.  His outfit, a trench coat and dress shoes, drew the notice of everyone at the station as he asked Don Cruickshank, the station agent, how to get to the other side of the lake.

Waiting for the train at Alta Lake station, 1937. Left to right: Bill Bailiff, Mr and Mrs Racey, Ed Droll, Betty Woollard, Larry, Flo and Bob Williamson.

Later that same day, Dick Fairhurst received a call from Cruickshank to check on smoke coming from the area of an old empty lodge.  Fairhurst and Louis White grabbed a small fire extinguisher and a bucket each and ran to Fairhurst’s boat.  When they arrived at the lodge, they found that the fire had taken hold in some piles of lumber inside the three-storey building and that their buckets and extinguisher would be of no use.  They also found a piece of candle at the back of the lodge, and footprints from dress shoes in the soggy ground.

By the time the evening train arrived, two RCMP officers from Pemberton were aboard and waiting to arrest the stranger in the trench coat, who had been pacing in the station while waiting for the train.  Though we don’t know what happened to this mysterious man after his arrest, we do know that the date of the trial was set for June 6, 1962, the date of the second fire.

Cypress Lodge as seen from the lake. Fairhurst Collection.

This second fire appears to have been far more accidental than the first.  The provincial government was building a new highway to connect old logging roads, small community roads, and the Pemberton Trail.  The surveyors and their families were staying in cabins and lodges throughout Alta Lake.

One couple, Bruce and Anne Robinson, were staying in a cabin at Cypress Lodge, owned by Dick and Kelly Fairhurst.  Anne chose June 6, a warm day with no wind, to make bread in the old Kootenay Range in the cabin.  Dick was at the trial in Vancouver and Kelly had gone to vote at the Community Hall (it’s not entirely clear what the vote was for, but it is likely it was for the federal election).  She and her children had just arrived home when Bruce arrived at Cypress Lodge to discover the roof of his cabin on fire.  Kelly got on the party line, interrupting Alec Greenwood’s call to his mother-in-low to announce the fire.

Bert Harrop built cedar-bark furniture that was used in Harrop’s Tea Room, later the site of Cypress Lodge.  The museum has some of his creations in our collection, but most were destroyed in a fire.  Philip Collection.

Luckily, Bill and Joan Green and a group of loggers were hanging out at Rainbow Lodge after voting.  Bill radioed to the Van West logging operation to bring their fire pump, and Alex loaded his pump onto his tractor.  Soon everyone in the area know about the fire, and many of them came to help.

The fire, which had started from smouldering sparks in needles on the shake roof, had spread to a storage shed, but the lack of wind prevented it from spreading further.  Someone moved Dick’s truck onto the road, but other vehicles, piles of dry wood, and cans of gasoline, paint, diesel and propane were still around the property.

The two pumps were used to get the fire under control, and then to keep wetting everything down.  The Robinsons lost almost everything in the cabin, and many pieces of Bert Harrop’s cedar-bark furniture that were stored in the shed were lost, along with the two-rope for skiing on Mount Sproatt.

Alex Philip spent the night patrolling the area for sparks, but the fire was truly out by the time Dick arrived home the next day.  The community came together again to help with the clean up.

Dick Fairhurst, Stefan Ples and Doug Mansell rafting the fire shelter and its contents across the lake to Alta Vista, 1967. Petersen Collection

When the ALVFD was formed later in 1962, its members were Dick Fairhurst, Doug Mansell, Stefan Ples, and Glen Creelman.  They held regular practises and, until the formation of the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 1975, relied on fundraisers such as the Ice Break-Up Raffle and the Fireman’s Ball to buy supplies.  The residents of the valley relied on them in case of emergencies.