Tag Archives: Cypress Lodge

Looking Back On A Busy Year

A special thank you to everyone that came out to our annual general meeting (AGM) held last Wednesday, June 13 to reflect on 2017 (and eat some salmon and salad).  It’s always great to see everybody and to hear from our members!

Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society, and it was our busiest year or record.

The museum’s story begins when early pioneer Myrtle Philip and Cypress Lodge owner Dick Fairhurst confessed to Florence Petersen, a retired school teach who started coming to the valley in 1955, their worry that Whistler’s early days would soon be forgotten.  Florence eased their fears by promising them that their stories would be remembered and, true to her word, Florence founded the Whistler Museum & Archives as a charitable non-profit society.

Florence Petersen (left) and Myrtle Philip (right) enjoying a joke together.

Since incorporating on February 12, 1987, the museum’s basic function has been to collect and preserve the history of the Whistler Valley and to display and disseminate information about Whistler’s history and its role in the greater society of British Columbia and Canada.

Last year was the busiest year in the museum’s history in terms of exhibit visits, with a 9.2% growth over 2016 (another record year).  During this period, the museum started developing temporary exhibits using our programming space in the rear of the museum.

Florence Petersen with the new sign for the Whistler Museum and Archives building in Function Junction, opened in 1988.

Temporary exhibits we developed in 2017 include Mountaineering in the Coast Mountains; Collecting Chili Thom; Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985; The Evolution of Ski Film Technology; and People of Whistler with Eric Poulin.

Paul Burrows speaks to a packed house at the opening of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History.

We had another strong year for our events and programming.  Programs included favourites like our Valley of Dreams Walking Tours (June through August, back again this summer!), Speaker Series events, Mountain Bike Heritage Week, Nature 101 seminars, multiple children’s crafts events, our 21st annual LEGO competition, and school field trip visits.

We also expanded our Discover Nature program at Lost Lake to include an additional day.  Discover Nature featured a manned booth in Lost Lake Park all summer, with interactive natural history displays and scheduled interpretive nature walks.

The touch table at Discover Nature during a chilly day in the summer.

Visitor numbers have continued to increase through the first half of 2018 and we hope that trend will persist through what is sure to be a busy summer.  Still to come are more temporary exhibits and programs for children and adults and planning continues for a new facility in the coming years.

Having limited physical space for our exhibits, we have to rely heavily on our web presence, social media and this very column to help share Whistler’s narratives.  We plan on using these platforms to keep sharing stories and we hope you all enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy researching and writing them.

One of the many photos that have been featured on our social media. Here the Rainbow Ski Jump before it was pulled down in 1984.

A big thank you to everyone who has visited our exhibits, attended our events, read our stories, and otherwise helped spread the word about Whistler’s fascinating heritage.

Whistler Après: 1968

In February of 1968 entertainment options for locals and visitors were limited.  Alta Lake, as the area was still called, had a very small full-time population and comparatively little infrastructure.  The Village was still serving as a town dump site and development in Creekside had really only just begun.

The development of Creekside and the surrounding areas as of 1970. Whistler Mountain Collection.

The February edition of Garibaldi’s Whistler News included the “Whistler Mountain Weekly Schedule of Entertainment”, a listing of weekly events that were open to the public.  While not a lengthy list (especially when compared to the five pages of listings found under PiqueCal and Nightlife in this publication just last week) every evening provided something different.

The week began on Sunday with a General Information Night where “ski-weekers” were invited to the Cheakamus Inn to view slides of the area and ask any questions they might have about Whistler Mountain.

On Monday a day of skiing could be followed by hot drinks in the Cheakamus Inn lounge and a “Get-Acquainted Party” at the Highland Lodge to meet instructors and others on vacation.

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

Cypress Lodge (the current site of the Point and Sailing Club) offered Ski-Doo parties every Tuesday, including a ski-doo trip to Cypress Lodge, hot drinks, light refreshments and the option to dance or rent a ski-too to take around Alta Lake.

Wednesdays were Movie Night when a film would be shown in the Day Lodge at the foot of Whistler Mountain.  In 1968 a ticket to the movies was a reasonable $1 for adults and $0.50 for children.

On Thursday the entertainment moved to the Mount Whistler Lodge, a location of fond memories for many Whistler residents and visitors.  Guests were encouraged to come “any time after 9 pm and see the local people in action” with a Jug Band on hand and records for dancing, as well as refreshments and pizza.  According to an advertisement placed by the Mount Whistler Lodge, in which it was described as a “rustic waterfront lodge with rooms and cabins in one of the finest settings in the world,” this was also the place to be every Friday and Saturday for dancing and pizza.

Hillcrest Lodge, originally built and run by the Mansell family, was renamed the Mount Whistler Lodge under new management soon after Whistler Mountain opened.  Mansell Collection.

The February of 1968 offered extra entertainment with two dances scheduled in Whistler Mountain’s main lodge for February 3 and 17, alternating Saturdays with the Mount Whistler Lodge for the month.  Admission to these dances was $1.50 and music was provided by the newly formed Poppy Family.  An added attraction was a “psychedelic lighting show”.

Today there is no shortage of evening entertainment opportunities for visitors to Whistler, including outdoor activities, restaurants, bars and theatres (movie and otherwise), not to mention the events, classes and presentations put on by many local organizations.

Powering Whistler

If you’ve been in Whistler over the past couple of months you probably experienced or heard about power outages around town, most notably on October 18 when most neighbourhoods experienced a loss of power.

The most common reason Whistler residents lose electricity seems to be from trees coming down on the lines due to rain, wind and snow storms.  The recent outages remind us how dependent we are on electricity today but only 52 years ago using electricity in the Whistler valley was luxury and something of a rarity.

Residents of Alta Lake made do without connecting to the grid for decades.  Ice blocks cut from Alta Lake and covered in sawdust provided refrigeration through the summer months.  Wood stoves and fireplaces, as well as a few oil or coal furnaces, provided heat through the winter.

Hillcrest Lodge was one of the buildings which had its own generators, though the lights went out at 10pm.

Individual properties used generators to provide their own power, though some were more reliable than others.  Bob Williamson installed a wind-powered turbine at the south end of Alta Lake.  As he recalled, “I thought there’d be a lot of wind there, but there was only enough to charge the batteries of the radio, but when the wind was blowing we had lights.”

At Rainbow and Hillcrest Lodges the Philips and Mansells installed generators that ran until 10 pm when the lights went off.  Cypress Lodge, as well as a few neighbours, was powered by a water wheel and generator installed on Scotia Creek by Dick Fairhurst.  Having a generator meant you could charge a battery-operated lamp to use after the generator was turned off for the night.

Even the Alta Lake School had a gas-powered generator for community use.  It ran the weekly movies and played the records for dances, though dances always ended when the gas ran out.

Amenities such as gas-powered washing machines and propane fridges also appeared in the valley, though as Bob remembered, “In those days there was a lot of red tape to put these sort of things in, you had to get a permit, and in these days there was no one to do the inspecting so it was left to this Walter Giel to do the inspecting and he says to me, ‘I don’t known a damn thing about it, just you inspect it yourself.'”

Bob Williamson at work on the transmission lines, well before Alta Lake was able to access the electricity they carried.

Though Alta Lake had no hydro service, transmission lines did run through the valley as early as the 1930s.  Bob Williamson even worked on the power lines in the 1940s, despite having no home access to the electricity they carried.  More transmission lines were put in by BC Electric in the 1950s, connecting Seton Portage (about 25 km west of Lillooet) to Squamish.  It was this project that first brought long-time resident Peter Alder to Alta Lake in 1956 as part of the construction crew.

It was almost 10 years later, just months before Whistler Mountain opened for skiing, that the Rainbow Substation (near Nesters) was completed and Alta Lake was able to utilize the power running through the valley.

Alex and Myrtle Philip were invited to open the Rainbow Substation in November, 1965, even getting to flip the switch.

Alex and Myrtle Philip were invited to officially open the substation on November 18, 1965, and Alex even got to flip the switch.  Today it has become hard to imagine Whistler operating without power throughout the valley.

Don’t forget, this Tuesday (December 5) is our annual Big Kids LEGO Building Competition!  We’ll provide the LEGO and electricity – you bring you ideas and skills.

Searching for Answers at the Whistler Museum

Working at the museum, you never know who is going to walk through the door or what questions you’re going to be asked on any given day.

Just this past week we had a couple from the UK in search of information on a great uncle who had come to Alta Lake in the 1950s and built a summer cottage.  They were hoping to be able to determine where the cottage had been built and see what the area looked like today.  Given the names of the great uncle and the cottage, we were able to answer all of their questions about Worlebury Lodge, largely thanks to a history of Alta Lake Road compiled by Florence Petersen, Gay Cluer and Karen Overgaard.

Worlebury Lodge on Alta Lake Road, built by Maurice and Muriel Burge in the late 1950s. Photo: Mitchell

Worlebury Lodge was built by Maurice and Muriel Burge, the great uncle in question and his wife.  Maurice was an accountant for the Vancouver School Board and Muriel was a nurse.  In 1956 the couple and their two sons visited Cypress Lodge for a week in the summer and enjoyed it so much they purchased their own lot.  The cottage was named Worlebury Lodge after the area in England Maurice came from.

Next door to Worlebury Lodge was Woodbine Cottage, the summer cottage of Ray and Jean Dove.  Friends of Maurice and Muriel, the Doves had been convinced to buy a lot on Alta Lake by the glowing reports that followed the Burges’ visit to Cypress Lodge.  Maurice helped with the construction of Woodbine Cottage and both families spent many summers enjoying life at Alta Lake.

A hike to Rainbow Falls including Maurice Burge (2nd from right in the back) and Muriel Burge in the front row. Photo: Dove

Worlebury Lodge was eventually rented out and then sold and replaced with a more modern house, but we were able to show the visiting couple where the lodge would have been located and they planned to head out to Alta Lake Road to see what the view from Worlebury Lodge would have been.  They had brought photos of the property that Maurice Burge had sent to his sister and a brochure for Rainbow Lodge under the management of the Greenwoods, which we were excited to see.

Not all inquiries we get at the museum are as easily answered as the search for Worldbury Lodge; some require deeper research and there are also some whose answers have been lost as time passes undocumented.  We also occasionally encounter people with questions or inquiries unrelated to the history of Whistler and the surrounding area.  We do our best to answer these questions or direct the inquirer to someone more knowledgeable in that area, such as when a man called form the eastern States to inquire whether the museum was interested in buying a scale model he had made.

This man had hand-crafted a miniature model of Buffalo Bill’s stagecoach as it looked on his return to Kansas and was hoping to contribute it to a museum’s exhibit on Buffalo Bill.  Our best guess is that when searching for Buffalo Bill on the internet he came upon Buffalo Bills, the bar, and assumed there was a connection between the man and Whistler.

Though there is no documentation to suggest that Buffalo Bill ever passed through the Whistler valley, he did have Canadian connections and we were able to direct this man to organizations that would be more likely to be able to help him in his quest.

Next time you’ve got a question about Whistler’s history, think about visiting us at the Whistler Museum – we might just have the answer you’re looking for.

Whistler’s first ski lift (Petersen home video)

If you were asked to name Whistler’s first ski lift, you would be likely to answer the original Creekside Gondola, one of the t-bars, or the original two-person Red Chair.

You would also be wrong.

No, that distinction goes to a modest little rope tow, installed by the enterprising Alta Lake pioneer Dick Fairhurst in 1960, almost 6 years before Whistler Mountain opened for business. The rope tow ran under the power lines behind Fairhurst’s Cypress Lodge on the west shore of Alta Lake (later used as a hostel and today home to The Point Artist-Run Centre). The rope tow ran for more than 800 feet. Powered by an old Ford V8 motor, it could pull four skiers up at a time.

Aside from the wonderful footage of the ski lift and skiers (though snow conditions appear to be sub-par), you also see a little Snow-cat machine that belonged to Dick. Dick was enamoured by snow machines of all sorts and would later become a dealer for Bombardier snowmobiles. He was also a founding member of the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club which still exists today, operating a club cabin on Brohm Ridge near Mount Garibaldi.

fairhur

Skiers enjoying a day on Dick Fairhurst’s slopes, early 1960s.

It may not be the Peak-to-Peak Gondola, but this humble little ski lift lays claim to a very special and under-appreciated honour as the first lift in the Whistler Valley.  We’re extremely fortunate to have this short clip, another gem from the Petersen Family home video archive. Enjoy!

 

Tales of Whistler’s Early Water Supply and Sanitation Facilities

This year I spent thanksgiving with a group of new friends. As tradition goes, we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. This has got to be one of the most beautiful holiday rituals, as the room generally goes from silly and sarcastic to completely genuine as soon as the first person says their thanks. This sincerity and gratefulness got me thinking about Whistler’s early days when there was a bit less to be thankful for in terms of amenities–more specifically, regarding Whistler’s water supply and sanitation facilities.

Whistler’s early settlers had to locate their homes near rivers, creeks or lakes in order to have access to water. Rainbow Lodge and Hillcrest Lodge had holding tanks of water pumped from Rainbow Creek and Alta Lake, respectively; however, most properties weren’t so fortunate. Some residents used flumes to direct water from the source to their property, though this method was quite unreliable.

Betsy DeBeck recalls her and her father constructing a flume for her brother and sister in-law, Denis and Dorothy DeBeck. Denis and Dorothy had recently built a house on the shores of Green Lake, and Betsy and her father figured they could ‘help’ the new homeowners by providing a more convenient water supply system. The two got to work, building a V flume that reached approximately 100 yards up the slope from Green Lake, right into Denis and Dorothy’s backyard. This would prevent them from having to go down the stream to retrieve buckets of water. While great in theory, during the winter months the flume and all the water in it froze and they were left with this ‘huge big iceberg,’ as Dorothy describes. Dorothy quickly grew to curse the flume.

By 1925, the town installed a water line from Scotia Creek in order to service new subdivisions on the west shore of Alta Lake. It operated on the gravitation principle, by which water flows downward from a large wooden holding tank built up on a hill. In 1954, Dick Fairhurst of Cypress Lodge received the rights to Scotia Creek and took over the system.

Along the railway line at the main stations, public outhouses were build for passengers' convenience. Someone with a sense of humour added the sign.

Along the railway line at the main stations, public outhouses were build for passengers’ convenience. Someone with a sense of humour added the sign.

Early sanitation systems were nothing to write home about either (because people write home about their plumbing all the time). Whistler’s early sanitation systems consisted of outhouses and, in later years, septic tanks. Surprisingly, the outhouses were considered quite the establishments and are remembered fondly by many of the first skiers to live in the valley.

Jean McDevitt in front of Petersen's old outhouse, 1968.

Jean McDevitt in front of Petersen’s old outhouse, 1968.

These outhouses brought many tales of hilarity. One in particular is the sizzling story of Charlie Chandler. Charlie Chandler, a local trapper, had been given a small amount of high-grade aircraft fuel by a kindly visiting floatplane pilot, which he used to clean some of his exceedingly grimy overalls. When finished cleaning his clothes, Charlie felt that the best way to dispose of the remaining fuel was to chuck it down the ‘biffy.’ He went on with his day as usual, and when it came time for his next visit to the outhouse he sat down and lit his pipe, as was his habit. The explosion was heard from miles away. Charlie’s nearest neighbour, Phil Tapley, rushed to the scene where he found a singed but otherwise unscathed Charlie with his pants around his ankles, wondering what had occurred.

Whistler’s First Snowmobile Superstar

Whether used to access fresh ski lines, or simply for “rooping” in the snow, snowmobiles are a way of life for many Whistlerites. While 4x4s hauling sleds are ubiquitous come winter, few realize just how deep Whistler’s snow machine roots go.

While browsing through old issues of Ski Tracks, a Lower Mainland ski newspaper from the 1960s, we came across a pretty cool bit of trivia.  Their January 1966 issue announced that the newly-formed B.C. Snow Vehicle Association would be holding their inaugural meet and race on January 30th on Alta Lake. The group seems to have been run out of Vancouver.

The report in Ski Trails’ next issue revealed that 23 entries ran in the races, and “Ski-doo” brand machines took all events. Notably, the champion of the large-machine slalom race, running the 20-gate course in 39.9 seconds, was none other than Dick Fairhurst on his Ski-doo “Super Olympique.”

Dick with his little sled-groms on a neighbour's sled, Ron Dent's "Dentmobile," 1965

Dick with his little sled-groms on a neighbour’s sled, Ron Dent’s “Dentmobile,” 1965

Dick is better known among Whistler history buffs as the owner of Cypress Lodge, a small lakeside resort he ran from the early 1940s until 1972, when he sold the property to the Canadian Hostels Association. Today, the former lodge is known simply as The Point, a grass-roots arts centre next to Rainbow Park. The snowmobile races were held on what was essentially Dick’s front yard.

From R-L, Dick Fairhurst, Gray Mitchell, Stephan Ples, and Don Gow take a break on Callaghan Lake, March 1970. The entire upper Callaghan Velley, including Callaghan Lake, is now a non-motorized zone to avoid conflicts with backcountry and nordic skiers.

From R-L, Dick Fairhurst, Gray Mitchell, Stephan Ples, and Don Gow take a break on Callaghan Lake, March 1970. The entire upper Callaghan Velley, including Callaghan Lake, is now a non-motorized zone to avoid conflicts with backcountry and nordic skiers.

Other winners at the inaugural race: Dee Wickes claimed the small-class slalom on a regular Olympique in 42.0 seconds. A “twisty course” around the lake was set up for the open race, and 30, 15, and 10 lap races were won by Ralph Monhay, Hugh Charbonneau, and Mandy Harrison, respectively.

Unfortunately, we don't have any background info of this archival photo of snowmobilers taking a break in front of Black Tusk. Judging by the sleds, this is probably from the early 1970s.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any background info of this archival photo of snowmobilers taking a break in front of Black Tusk. Judging by the sleds, this is probably from the early 1970s.