Tag Archives: Franz Wilhelmsen

Garibaldi Lifts’ Early Employees

Since Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. first began hiring staff in 1965, Whistler Mountain has employed thousands of people in the area, some for a season and some for careers that span decades.  Like today, one of the challenges facing lift company employees then could be find a place to stay while working.  In an oral history interview conducted with Lynn Mathews this past summer, there were some names of employees that came up again and again while discussing early mountain operations.  One thing that three of these names, Doug Mansell, Denis Beauregard, and Frank Arundel, had in common was that they all had a place to stay well before the lifts began operating on Whistler.

Doug Mansell was a superintendent of lift operations for almost two decades.  He first moved to Alta Lake with his family in 1945 at the age of 8, after his father purchased property on the east side of the lake.  There the family built and operated Hillcrest Lodge, which opened its doors to guests in July 1946.  Doug and his brother grew up at Hillcrest Lodge, and Doug even married a Hillcrest guest, Barb.  At 14, Doug began working in Alf Gebhart’s Rainbow Lumber Mill and from 1951-56 he worked as a telephone lineman for the PGE Railway.  Doug and Barb took over the management of Hillcrest when his parents retired in 1958 and later sold the lodge to Glen Mason in 1965.  Hillcrest later became known as the Mount Whistler Lodge.

Doug Mansell, Franz Wilhelmsen, Stefan Ples and Jim McConkey pose together at the dedication ceremony for Franz’s Run. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection

After selling, Doug and Barb both went to work for the lift company.  As Lynn put it, “Growing up in Alta Lake, you had to be handy, and know how to do things.  And Doug was really good.”  Doug continued working on Whistler Mountain until he and Barb retired to North Vancouver in 1983.

Like Doug, Denis Beauregard, an electrician for the lift company, was an Alta Lake resident before runs and lifts were built on Whistler Mountain.  He and his wife Pat began visiting Alta Lake with the “Witsend” group and built their own summer cottage on the lake in 1961.  The story we’ve heard is that a party at Rainbow Lodge in 1966, Denis remarked that if he could get a job in the area, he would move up permanently.  Brian Rowley, who worked for the lift company at that time, told Denis he could supply the job, and neighbour Don Gow offered to share his well water with the Beauregards in exchange for use of their washing machine.  The Beauregards moved up and both Denis and Pat began working at the mountain.  Both continued to be active members of the Alta Lake community, and even hosted the community club film screenings in the lift company cafeteria.

Denis and Pat Beauregard receiving silver coins for Whistler Mountain’s 25th Anniversary from Maurice Young (centre).

Both of the Beauregards’ sons worked for the lift company as well, and in 1991 Denis and Pat received silver coins commemorating their 25 years of service.  The pair retired to Squamish in 1994.

Frank Arundel worked for the lift company as a heavy-duty mechanic.  He and his family lived outside of the Alta Lake area, in Garibaldi Townsite, until an Order in Council and subsequent government actions cleared all residents from the area in the 1980s.  Frank had a workshop on the top of the mountain, which, according to Lynn, “was usually buried in snow.”  For Julie Gallagher, who grew up at Brandywine Resort in the 1960s and early 1970s, Frank’s work at Whistler Mountain was very convenient as she and his daughter were able to catch rides up to go skiing whenever he went to work.

We know there are many more stories of early employees (such as Stefan Ples, who perhaps knew the mountain better than anyone) and the early days of mountain operations, and we would love to hear them at the museum, whether you worked for the lift company yourself or heard stories passed down through the decades.

Canada’s First Interdenominational Chapel

Whistler has had some pretty memorable buildings constructed in the valley, but few are as instantly recognizable as the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel.  This iconic structure stood in various locations in Creekside for decades and, based on the responses we get to any photograph of the Chapel, holds poignant memories for many residents and visitors, past and present.

The Whistler Skiers’ Chapel.  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Franz Wilhelmsen, the first president of Garibaldi Lifts Ltd., fondly remembered small chapels in ski villages of Norway where he had skied as a young boy, and the lift company was able to donate land for the Chapel right at the base of Whistler Mountain.  In 1966, Marion Sutherland and Joan Maclean formed a Board of Trustees and a fundraising committee for the idea.  They approached the Vancouver Council of Churches to supply ministers and the Diocese of Kamloops agreed to include Whistler in the territory of Father Wilfred Scott of Mount Currie.

There were many people who donated their time and money to the construction of the Chapel.  The Chapel’s stained glass windows, designed by Donald Babcock, were gifted by Mr. & Mrs. Gordon Southam; Dewer Maclean donated a hand-lettered Founders book (currently in the Museum archives); and an organ was purchased with the proceeds from a ski movie night held in Vancouver.

The stained glass window of the Chapel. Wallace Collection.

The simple A-frame design of the Chapel was provided free of charge by Vancouver architect Asbjorn Gathe.  Norwegian-born Gathe studied architecture at the Federal Institute of Technology at the University of Zurich before immigrating to Vancouver in 1951.  He joined the firm of Frank Gardiner and Peter Thornton, becoming a partner in Gardiner, Thornton and Gathe in 1954 before leaving to start his own practice in 1966.

Gathe is best known for his three decades of work designing Westminster Abbey for Benedictine monks in Mission, BC, but he has also left a lasting mark on Whistler.  In addition to donating his design for the Chapel, Gathe also designed Edelweiss Village (a twelve-unit complex near the Creekside gondola base) and is responsible for the design of Tamarisk.

When the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel opened in 1966, it became the first non-denominational chapel in Canada.  It was purposely designed with no purely Christian symbols and its dedication ceremony included clergy from the Anglican, Lutheran, Jewish, and United faiths.

Tony and Irene Lyttle getting married in the Skiers’ Chapel, January 1967.

The first service held at the Chapel was for Christmas Eve and was open to any who wished to attend.  The Chapel’s interdenominational Christmas Carol Service on Christmas Eve proved to be increasingly popular, and by 1978 two additional services had been added to accommodate the several hundred people who attended.  By the mid-1980s, the demand had outgrown the small building and the Christmas Carol Service moved to the newly constructed Whistler Conference Centre.  It continued to be an inter-denominational services, led in 1986 by Reverend Valerie Reay from the United Church and Pastor Lamont Schmidt of the Whistler Community Church, with carols led by the Whistler Singers under the direction of Molly Boyd.

Though the original Whistler Skiers’ Chapel was dismantled after a final Easter Service in 2000, the many weddings, christenings, and services held in the A-frame are well remembered by those who attended.

Whistler Mountain’s Early Operations

As we approach another opening day for Whistler Blackcomb, we’ve been looking back at the early days of operations on Whistler Mountain.  Much of the information we have on these early years comes from oral history interviews, some lift company records, and Garibaldi’s Whistler News (GWN).

Earlier this year, a volunteer for the museum conducted a series of interviews with none other than Lynn Mathews.  Lynn was the editor, and so much more, of GWN, and she shared a wealth of knowledge about both the paper and her experiences at Whistler.

The Skiers Chapel was still under construction when the Mathews first came to town. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Mathews was born on Staten Island, New York.  She is a journalist and writer by profession, and before moving to Whistler worked for magazines and at Harshe-Rotman & Druck, one of the leading PR firms in New York City.  In the early 1960s, Lynn spent a winter in Quebec, teaching skiing at Gray Rocks Inn.  It was there she met Dave Mathews, who was involved in resort business in the area, and the two were married the following year.  The couple soon moved west to Vancouver, and Dave planned to leave the ski business to work full-time for an irrigation company where he had previously worked summers.  The ski industry, however, would prove hard for the pair to leave behind.

During their first winter in BC, Lynn taught skiing at Grouse Mountain, while also working for various magazines and publications.  The irrigation business was slow in the winter, and so for the season of 1966/67, Dave and Lynn planned to spend their weekends teaching at a new ski area north of Vancouver that was just opening for its first season of full-time operation.

Even by 1970, the Creekside area was a little empty. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Lynn’s first trip to the Whistler Valley in August 1966 didn’t necessarily impress her.  As she put it, “There was nothing here.  There was the gondola, that was there, the daylodge had been built, there were two A-frames on the hillside,” and not too much else.  Due to extensive logging and burning, Lynn said that without snow, the Creekside area “looked like a war zone.  It wasn’t a pretty alpine village at all.”

For about $125, Lynn and Dave rented one of the log cabins at Jordan’s Lodge for the season.  Lynn chose the cabin “that tilted the least,” and the self-described “city girl” prepared for a winter with no electricity, no plumbing, and a wood cookstove.

In the 1970s, this was more likely to be the scene at Jordan’s Lodge. Benjamin Collection.

Lynn recalled that in December, Franz Wilhelmsen, who was acting as a combination of general manager, CEO, and chairman of the board, got very sick with pneumonia, right when Whistler Mountain was heading into its first full season.  Two managers were brought on board, Dave Mathews as operations manager and Jack Bright as mountain manager.  According to Lynn, Dave was responsible for “anything that moved,” and Jack was in charge of ticket sales, administration, image, publicity, and much more.

Lynn worked in the mountain’s office as well.  Though some ski passes were sold at the Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. offices in Vancouver, others were sold at Whistler Mountain and Lynn was in charge of making those passes.  Without any computer systems, she used a polaroid camera and a hand-cranked laminating machine.  Each person got two photos, one for their pass and one for the files, and a lift ticket to go skiing.  At the end of the day they could pick up their pass at the office.

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing more tales from Lynn and others who have told their stories to the museum.  Have a story about Whistler to contribute to the Museum’s collection?  Please come see us!

This Week In Photos: September 27

1978

Trucks head up Whistler Mountain during the summer construction of the new chairlift.

The top drive station of the new “Little Red” chairlift being built at the top of Whistler Ski area.

1979

Smoke pillars up from the fire behind Garibaldi last week.

The concrete is poured on Wedgewood Properties Package #8 while workers get up to the roof level on the condominiums above Packages #4 and #5.

David Fairhurst proudly shows off the first Pine mushrooms he found last month.

Air West’s new Twin Otter on Alta Lake after bringing the C.O.A. delegates to Whistler.

The students give Dennis Lamarche’s wagon a good wash while the bake sale goes on behind.

The ad for Espresso Express Line, a unique business set up in Whistler.

1980

BC CABINET AT WHISTLER: Mayor Carleton greets Premier Bill Bennett and Labour Minister Allan Williams as they get off the train.

The Mayor shows the Town Centre off to Health Minister McLelland, Premier Bennett, Mrs. Aubrey Bennett, Provincial Secretary Hugh Curtis & Labour Minister Allan Williams.

Bennett poses with some Myrtle Philip students.

Miss Pemberton 1980 Kristi King presents the Premier with a giant potato casserole dish on behalf of the people of the Pemberton Valley.

Work on bridge over Fitzsimmons to bring skiers from Blackcomb into Town Centre.

Franz and Annette Wilhelmsen admire new Whistler pin while Hastings West president Ken Tolmie, Peter Alder and Trudi Salmhofer look on.

Heavy rain caused deep mud near the Town Centre. Golf course practice fairway 1 – Mark Clark truck 0.

Kayak is totally submerged at this portion of the course.

1982

Awarded a winged hat for being the fastest base runner in the beer league. Don Beverley of the 2.5 Rollbacks has all of next season to look forward to. Jan Simpson and M.C. Terry Boston presented him with his memento.

This W5 crew was on location in Whistler last week while covering a story on human rights. Segment of story covered here involved the theory of relocating Garibaldi residents to protect Whistler.

Students from UBC and the infamous University of Whistler braved chilly temperatures over the weekend to compete in the First Annual Intercollegiate Windsurfing Championship.

No one was hibernating on Whistler Mountain this summer. Renovations are nearly complete on the Roundhouse, including this new sundeck and snack stand on the east side of the building.

As the new Director of Ski Racing for Whistler Mountain, Dave Murray will be coordinating downhill race clinics, ski promotions and special events. Murray, 29, retired from the Canadian National Ski Team last year after the World Cup held at Whistler.

Parks Planner Tom Barratt and plant specialist Karen Edwards bone up on some of the plant species indigenous to this area.

1983

Brownies Karen Kogler, Sonja Richli, Madeleine Domries, Sara Jennings, Marika Richoz, Jessica Wilson, Adrienne Richters, Joanne DenDuyf, Jessica Humphrey, Melanie Busdon, Leah Wuolle and Heather Paul listened attentively to leader Brown Owl (alias Bettina Weidermann) at the first meeting of the season at Myrtle Philip School Wednesday. Brown Owl says that Brownies meet once a week, from 6:30 to 8 pm at the school, and are open to girls aged six through nine.

John Hunter Trucking goalie Steve Brunn misses a shot that grazes the post in Saturday’s Howe Sound Hockey League game opener against Tapley’s Winterhawks. Brunn was pestered with shots from Winterhawk forwards and defencemen all game long. A porous John Hunter defence coupled with fast skating Winterhawks players proved too much for the Squamish team as they went down to defeat 6-3.

Getting down is the way to get in shape at Bodyworks. Workouts will be moving to Myrtle Philip School starting Monday.

The skiing never stops for Philippe Lavoie and Brent Wood, seen here atop Whistler Mountain Sunday before boot-skiing on remaining snow.

Alpine Paving workmen roll along Mountain Lane and put the finishing touches to the route. With Village Stroll paving now complete, all that remains is completing Whistler Way from Tantalus Lodge to the underground parking entrance.

Greg Lee, new head skiing coach at Blackcomb, gets a head start working out with local girls and boys Sunday morning. Lee, a former World Pro Skiing Circuit skier, also does colour commentary for CBC Sports. Before Sunday’s soccer game Lee showed kids how to take their heart rate for better fitness.

Out for a postprandial training ride, cyclist Todd McPhalen coasts down Village Gate Boulevard. Not seen are Dave MacPhail, Don Barr and Murray Sudden, nuclei of the soon-to-be Team Whistler.

1984

An unidentified dog finds refuge from the rain beneath a Wedgemount Blasting truck parked in village parking lot “A”.

Chilly temperatures kept crowds to a minimum Saturday, but sunny skies brought throngs out Sunday for the fourth year of Whistler’s Fall Festival.

Pat Earley was one of six Vancouver-based artists who demonstrated their creative talents during the Sept. 22-23 Fall Festival. Earley specializes in oil pastel portraits which are exquisitely detailed and warm. Although the displays were moved indoors to the Delta Mountain Inn because of chilly weather, it was the first time artists were allowed to demonstrate and sell their wares in the streets of Whistler.

Playland set up an instant amusement park…

… but some youngsters weren’t too sure if they enjoyed the pony rides or not.

Television and movie producers seem to have developed a taste for Whistler. Actor Sean Connery, best known as James Bond, agent 007, starred Tuesday in a Japanese TV commercial for Biogur yogurt. Production coordinator Martin Yokata said they needed a “strong, healthy, clean” image, and 007 fit the part. In the ad, Connery is seen doing calisthenics and running alongside a golf green at the Whistler Golf Club with a Doberman Pinscher.