Tag Archives: Jim McConkey

This Week In Photos: December 6

If there’s one thing most of the photos from this week have in common, it’s snow!  Seeing these images, we’re hoping for some more in the valley soon.

1978

Only at Whistler – local top-hatted chimney sweep at work in the snow!

Thursday was not a good day for some! Above, Squamish Freightways truck tangles with the school sign.

Municipal 4×4 tries to get a motorist out of a ditch on Thursday.

All smiles! John Howells (left) receives the Citizen of the Year award from Paul Burrows while Drew Meredith looks on.

The Rotary Exchange students on the steps of the Roundhouse.

The new municipal skating rink recently constructed adjacent to the school.

1979

Kindergarten students build their first snowpeople of the season – left to right: Brie Minger, Joanne Den Duyf, Nonie Bredt, Beau Jarvis, Andrew Hofmann.

The gondola area showing the early arrivals in the parking lot – the Wosk lot is the empty one centre right.

Bridge abutments for the new bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek to service Blackcomb Mountain.

RCMP officer Terry Barter and Major with students at Myrtle Philip School.

1980

The giant cake prepared for the Fourth Inaugural meeting of the Resort Municipality of Whistler Council.

The Blackcomb Snowhosts: (l to r) Cathy Hansen, Shelley Phalen, Tom Kelley and Charlotte Sheriff.

The balloon shape is covering Whistler Resort & Club’s pool from Whistler’s harsh winter.

The new sign at the entrance to the Town Centre is completed.

An unidentified fireman, Chief Lindsay Wilson and Rick Crofton hose down a fire damaged cabin in Alta Vista.

Leo Lucas checks out the newly refurbished Roundhouse before the crowds arrive. New appointments include carpets, roll-away seating and various touchups.

1981

Barb Newman, of Whistler Tops, models a cap and one of the many rugby shirts available in the new Village Square store.

Jason, Harley and Dylan Stoneburgh stand proudly in front of the snowmen they built in Alpine Meadows after the first storm of the winter.

Sandy Boyd, the new Gondola Area Co-ordinator for Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. Sandy, who has twelve years experience in the ski industry, will be responsible for the organization of all systems at the Gondola base.

Bearing gifts and a song, Susan Jacks, formerly of the Poppy Family, will be one of the stars in an upcoming CBC special partly filmed in Whistler.

Myrtle Philip students take part in a ‘Western Day’ at the school.

A sneak preview of the new Black Forest Restaurant in the former White Gold Inn.

1982

Highways crews clear up the debris left by a December 3 rock slide on Highway 99 near M. Creek.

Slim and Margaret Foughberg open a gift presented to Slim for his service to the Howe Sound School Board. Together they have served Howe Sound continuously (except for two years) since 1946.

Mayor Mark Angus is sworn into office by Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup-Robinson at Council’s inaugural meeting December 6.

A young batch of new skiers shapes up for the slopes under the rigorous command of ski shop owner Jim McConkey, who put them through their paces December 6.

Myrtle Philip School library helpers enjoy a well-earned lunch. Irene Pope, Judy Fosty, Kelly Macwell and Candy Rustad. Missing is Mrs. Demidoff.

1984

Twyla Picton and Rolf Zeller were out cross-country skiing in the sub-freezing temperatures Whistler has experienced for the previous week. Cross-country skiing in the valley is the best in years with a total of 195 cm of snow fallen in November.

Work on the Conference Centre continues with the construction of a wall partition above the second floor. The wooden frame structure behind the scaffold will be attached to a moveable partition that will allow Conference Centre organizers to divide the main hall into two separate meeting areas.

Ski instructor Stephanie Sloan from Whistler Mountain was the grand prize winner in the Beaujolais Nouveau contest. Sloan will receive a trip for two via CP Air and KLM plus two days in Burgundy hosted by Rene Pedauque. Select Wines representative Wendy Taylor, Sarah Kuhleitner from Citta’s and the WRA’s June Paley picked the winners Sunday in Whistler’s first ever Beaujolais Nouveau celebration.

BC Supreme Court Justice Samuel Toy swears in Whistler’s four new aldermen in council chambers Monday. Moments before, Judge Toy also officially authorized Mayor Terry Rodgers as the municipality’s third ever mayor. The four new aldermen are (left to right) Doug Fox, Paul Burrows, Diane Eby and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. A reception followed the inaugural meeting of council.

This Week in Photos: April 26

1980

Jim McConkey displays the McConkey Cup Trophy.

Kris Shoup instructs John Garnet in the school mini-course knitting class while Serap Graf and Monica Niederlich concentrate on the task at hand.

Recently engaged couple Deanna Chan & Graeme O’Neill.

On the Coast Mountain Outdoor School farm site – (L to R) Outdoor Education Coordinator Rick Price, W.L.B. Hawkes of the Ministry of Education, and Pemberton School Trustee T.B.M. (Slim) Fougberg.

A class visiting the Coast Mountain Outdoor School farm learns about chickens.

Johnson’s Trucking gravel crushing plant at work in the Alpha Lake Aggregate pit.

1981

And the winners are: (L to R) Tom Simister, Richard Juryn, Perry Rousseau & Debbie Wood – with the Whistler Cup.

Architect Barclay McLeod and developer Brian Moran indicate to council and concerned Adventures West owners the proposed plans for the ‘Keg property’.

May the Force be with you. Ezekial and His Force rock and reggae it up at the Mountain House until May 2.

Constable Klaudt of Whistler RCMP and Ron Mallinson of Ike’s Towing try to figure out how this Plymouth Horizon ended up in the ditch by the Alta Lake Inn turnoff late on Saturday, April 25!

1982

Survivors of the April blizzards, these crocuses stand proudly in Whistler Village.

Youngsters give it their best during an end-of-season match of Snowball (created by Doug Calder) held at Myrtle Philip School grounds.

Skiers on Whistler enjoyed the sun as much as the runs Sunday.

After a day on the mountain, a little recovery is in order. A siesta helps revive tired muscles.

Sowing so he’ll reap, Resort Municipality of Whistler maintenance man Brian Sandercock prepares the turf for summer.

Two contestants go under the pole during Friday’s Caribbean Night held at L’Apres. Michael Chidley limboed his way to Mexico taking first place in the competition. Val Wong’s style won her first prize in the women’s competition and a heli-skiing trip.

1983

A top-notch mogul basher takes one of the two required air times in his run down Whistler’s Raven run in the Schloss Laderheim Dual Mogul Classic on Sunday, April 24.

A march protesting nuclear weapons makes its way through Vancouver towards Stanley Park.

Anti-nuclear weapons protestors congregate at the rally.

Bill Runge of Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. fastens down the village’s newest signs on Monday reminding ski enthusiasts to keep heading south to the Gondola side of the mountain.

Got the summertime blues of what to wear this season? Not if you were at The Keg’s Fashion Show Sunday, April 24.

1984

The Whistler Question staff pose for a sunny photo in the Whistler Village.

Dr. Peter Oberlander of Vancouver is the lucky winner of a lifetime Whistler/Blackcomb ski pass. The final draw of the Whistler Rotary Club lottery was held Friday afternoon, and proceeds from the sale of tickets go towards the Whistler Health Planning Society. Rotary Club President Geoff Pearce drew the winning ticket.

Picnickers and powder skiers flew to Powder Moutnain Friday for the annual Powder Mountain Heli-Skiing picnic.

While most people brought along only skis and sunglasses, Pascal Tiphine thought to import a little champagne, which he literally splashed into anyone who didn’t ming a few bubbles up their nose.

The surprised look on Drew Meredith’s face was no surprise, considering that 100 people were gathered at the Carleton Lodge Wednesday night to pay tribute to him. Meredith, who thought he was coming to attend a meeting, listened to roasts and toasts throughout the evening, which paid tribute to his work as Interim Director during the toughest year in the history of Whistler Resort Association.

It was an Easter sunrise service without sunshine, but that didn’t stop approximately 80 people from attending the special 7 am service Sunday morning on the shores of Lost Lake. Molly Boyd, playing the organ, led the Whistler Singers who also turned out in full force.

Celebrating Peak Chair’s 30th Birthday

To most non-advanced skiers Whistler’s Peak was completely inaccessible before 1986.

No panoramic view, no glimpse of the vast expanse of Garibaldi Park and no feeling of being on top of the entire mountain.  This past month marked the 30th anniversary of the Peak Chair opening on Whistler Mountain.  In 1986, the 1,000-metre lift was imported from Grand Junction, Colorado, at a cost of $900,000, costing $1.48 million overall.

Since 1980, Whistler Mountain had been struggling to make ends meet and part of the strategy behind adding the new lift was to broaden the appeal of Whistler to Lower Mainland skiers.  Additionally, Whistler Mountain intended to keep pace with Blackcomb Mountain, which had opened their new T-Bar System and 7th Heaven in the high alpine in 1985.  Just a year later, Whistler Mountain countered this opening of new high alpine terrain with their opening of the Peak Chair on December 22, 1986.

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The first poster advertising the new Peak Chair.

The official opening of the Peak Chair was attended by a few big names: Premier Bill Vander Zalm, Mayor Drew Meredith, Female Athlete of the 20th Century Nancy Greene-Raine, Mount Everest climber Sharon Wood, Whistler Mountain president Lorne Borgal and the event’s master of ceremonies Jim McConkey.

“For years, people have been climbing and skiing off the peak and hiking to the peak in summer,” said Nancy Greene-Raine in the original December 24, 1986 Whistler Question article.  “It’s wonderful that now they’ll be able to ride p and ski it, with a little caution.”

The mayor cracked a joke at the idea of quick access to all those steep new runs: “I think this is something Lorne dreamed up while riding the Scream Machine at Expo (’86) last summer.”

As we know well today, there are some intense line choices available from Whistler’s Peak, some having gained legendary status in this town, like the cliff drop visible from Peak Chair known as “Air Jordan” and the Peak to Creek run, the longest groomer in North America at 5.5 km.

The chair was first opened only to advanced skiers due to the steepness of the terrain and the early season rock hazards.  More than 70 skiers eagerly awaited the opening of the chair that day.  Unfortunately, intermediate and beginner skiers still missed out on most of the runs coming down from the Peak; the only run accessible for non-advanced skiers was aptly named “Last Chance”.

Today we take for granted the opportunity to zip up to Whistler’s peak as easily as taking a seat on a chair.  Give a brief pause to take in the stunning panoramic vistas when you’re up on Whistler’s peak this winter, and perhaps remember the work that went into making those views possible for every skier and snowboarder to experience without a treacherous hike up.

Jim McConkey’s Movie Magic

Whistler-Blackcomb is a very athlete-driven resort. So much so that when it came time celebrate the resort’s 50th anniversary last winter, the single, official image they chose to promote the anniversary was this:

The famous "Legends & Icons" image. Photo by Blake Jorgensen, courtesy Whistler-Blackcomb.

The famous “Legends & Icons” image. Photo by Blake Jorgensen, courtesy Whistler-Blackcomb.

In the front left, next to freestyle phenomenon Wayne Wong is none other than Jim McConkey, Whistler’s first local celebrity-athlete.

When “McConk” moved here in 1968 to run the ski school and rental/retail operations, he was already an established ski star, with feature roles in films by filmmaking icons like Warren Miller and Dick Barrymore. For nearly two decades he lent his personality, fame, and expertise to the growing resort, all the while still appearing in films and magazines that featured his big-mountain and powder skiing prowess.

McConkey enjoying some of Alta, Utah's famous champagne pow.

McConkey enjoying some of Alta, Utah’s famous champagne powder during the filming of Ski Crazy! (1955).

We have a few photographs of McConkey in our archives, but very little video, until now.

A few week’s ago “Diamond Jim” (his other main nickname) stopped by the museum for a visit. We planned on recording an oral history interview with him, and figured he’d be bringing in a few more photos for us to digitize and share.

What we didn’t count on was him bringing in the original 16mm film reels from 25 of his original ski films!

This is what 25 films on their original 16mm reels looks like.

This is what 25 films on their original 16mm reels looks like.

The collection includes features like “Skiing is Freedom” & “The Snows of Garibaldi,” as well as instructional and promotional films. Jim ran Whistler’s second heli-ski operation, so there should be lots of wonderful early aerial footage of McConkey and friends skiing untracked powder on the Coast Mountains’ vast glaciers. McConkey was such a renowned and well-rounded outdoorsman that we even have “Canoeing the North Country.”

The titles are tantalizing, but unfortunately, we won’t be holding any screenings in the immediate future. We don’t have the means to view the film, and wouldn’t want to run the risk of permanently damaging such fragile and significant film stock.

The classic image of Jack Bright (right) skiing Whistler with "Diamond Jim" McConkey. Photo taken ca. before toques were invented (1972, actually).

The classic image of Whistler Mountain GM Jack Bright (left) skiing Whistler with “Diamond Jim” McConkey. Photo taken ca. before toques were invented (1972, actually).

Our first step is researching to find out which of these gems has not yet been digitized by another individual or institution, then securing funding to digitize those films. This is not a cheap prospect, but as these films represent such an important part of our local ski heritage, and will likely make for highly entertaining viewing, we are confident that this will be accomplished.

So hopefully some day not too long from now, we will have these films digitized and available to see. In the meantime, take some inspiration from Jim himself and go play outside!

 

 

 

A Prime Minister in love

Throughout the decades, the grandeur and excitement of Whistler has inspired a lot of couples to spend their honeymoons at our beautiful valley hideaway. Roots of Whistler’s honeymoon history date back to the 1920s when Rainbow Lodge was one of the main destination accommodations for newlyweds on the west coast. Alex Philip, proprietor of Whistler’s first lodge, would paddle honeymooners down the River of Golden Dreams in a large canoe, often by moonlight, where they could snuggle up and soak in the valley’s natural beauty.

trudeau.jpg

After an afternoon of skiing, the Prime Minister and his bride attended the Sunday Catholic service in the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection.

The most famous honeymooners in Whistler are undoubtedly former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his bride, Margaret. Pierre Trudeau was a 48-year-old bachelor when he became the Prime Minister of Canada in 1968. In March 1971, the hearts of many Canadian women were broken upon the announcement that Trudeau had married 22-year-old ‘flower child’ Margaret Sinclair. They surprised the media with their secret wedding in Vancouver, and afterwards drove directly to Whistler for a three day stay. Here, the newlyweds took a skiing honeymoon, media in tow, with everyone excited about the refreshing hipness of Canada’s First Couple.

Clearly, such esteemed guests required ‘above-and-beyond’ service. So, Jack Bright, General Manager of Whistler Mountain, and Jim McConkey, Whistler’s prominent ski school director, served as the newlyweds’ personal ski instructors during their stay.

“Ski conditions were excellent during their stay with snow falling all three days.” proudly reported Garibaldi’s Whistler News in their spring issue of 1971. The photo shows Area Manager Jack Bright, flowed by Margaret Trudeau and the Prime Minister ski down the Red Chair run. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

“Ski conditions were excellent during their stay with snow falling all three days.” proudly reported Garibaldi’s Whistler News in their spring issue of 1971. The photo shows Area Manager Jack Bright, flowed by Margaret Trudeau and the Prime Minister ski down the Red Chair run. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

The couple stayed at the Sinclair family condo in the Alpine Village complex near the base of the lifts. “This was the second ski holiday at Whistler for Mr. Trudeau” proudly reported the Garibaldi’s Whistler News later in their 1971 spring issue, including three pages of colorful, side-filling photos of the couple. The news also commented on the couple’s ski skills: “Mrs. Trudeau is a good and stylish skier who is able to keep up with her husband. At one point during their stay at Whistler, Trudeau announced that his wife was a better skier than he is. ‘It’s not true, it’s not true’ she laughed.”

Mrs. Trudeau, the former Margaret Sinclair of West Vancouver, had a season’s pass at Whistler and skied the mountain many times before her marriage. This photo shows her skiing with Jack Bright, General Manager of Whistler Mountain. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

Mrs. Trudeau, the former Margaret Sinclair of West Vancouver, had a season’s pass at Whistler and skied the mountain many times before her marriage. This photo shows her skiing with Jack Bright, General Manager of Whistler Mountain. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

Victor Irving, a RCMP officer in charge of the Prime Minister’s security at that time, shares a sweet anecdote of the Whistler honeymoon in the book Pierre: Colleagues and Friends Talk about the Trudeau They Knew. He remembers to drive the Trudeau’s to the Sinclair condo in Whistler after the secret wedding which was by then no secret anymore. “The next morning I received a request from them for ice cream and all the Vancouver papers. I delivered these, leaving the happy couple kneeling on the living-room floor reading the papers. (Pierre still owes me $5.75.) “

Margaret included this photo of her honeymoon in her memoirs Changing My Mind and noted: “Both athletes, we chose to spend our first day of marriage skiing at Whistler.” Source: Changing My Mind by M. Trudeau, Harper Collins Publishers

Margaret included this photo of her honeymoon in her memoirs Changing My Mind and noted: “Both athletes, we chose to spend our first day of marriage skiing at Whistler.” Source: Changing My Mind by M. Trudeau, Harper Collins Publishers

Also, Margaret remembers that first honeymoon morning in Whistler in her memoirs Changing My Mind: “We were woken next morning at 6:30 a.m. by the telephone. The queen was calling to congratulate Pierre; she had got the time difference wrong. Later came a telegram from the president of the United States, Richard Nixon. Scary, but also the stuff of fairy tales.”

Looks like, when it comes to fairy tales, our enchanted Whistler is the right place to be.

Diamond Jim

While writing last week’s post about Okanagan Helicopters, we realized that we hadn’t posted anything about “Diamond Jim” McConkey yet. We couldn’t let that injustice continue, so, here you go.

Jim McConkey was the ski school star of early Whistler Mountain. With a magnetic personality and his shock of white hair — “Diamond Jim” is a Whistler legend. McConkey had already had a long and distinguished career in the ski business when, in 1968, Franz Wilhelmsen sent Hugh Smythe and Jack Bright to ask him to be Whistler’s new Ski Director.

Jim McConkey posing for a formal staff photo in his Whistler Ski School uniform.

Jim McConkey posing for a formal staff photo in his Whistler Ski School uniform.

McConkey had always had an interest in Whistler Mountain and had heard good reports through the ski industry grapevine. The expanding Vancouver population, the long ski season and new road access all pointed towards success.

In the spring of 1968 he took a chance, moved to Whistler, and invested all his money in building a ski shop there. The new building was 20 feet by 50 feet, with two floors — rentals downstairs with a little office, and retail upstairs and the office for the ski school.

The classic image of Jack Bright (right) skiing Whistler with "Diamond Jim" McConkey. Photo taken ca. before toques were invented (1972, actually).

The classic image of Whistler Mountain General Manager Jack Bright (left) skiing Whistler with “Diamond Jim” McConkey. Photo taken ca. before toques were invented (1972, actually).

In an interview the Museum conducted with McConkey in 2010 he recalled:

In those days we used to have snow early. If we didn’t have snow by Nov. 11, we were kind of worried. The first year I had invested all my money in the ski shop and set it all up, Christmas came, and it was freezing cold, and there was a guy who was in charge of the hydro thing. He was a wonderful guy, but I don’t know if he got drunk or whatever it was, but the hydro was run by a couple railway cars down in Mons … and it went out. There was no power to run anything. And the lifts of course were shut down. No gondola, no nothing.

That was at Christmas time, my first winter, after I had gambled everything, and everybody left. People were getting on the trains going, ‘for the love of God, get me on that train!’ They were going and the place became deserted and the floors at Cheakamus Lodge had ice about six inches thick on them and it was closed for six weeks. No business in ski school, but people came up and we survived, and we had unbelievable skiing.

Although that first year was a bit hair-raising, McConkey’s decision to come to Whistler turned out to be a good one. New technology in skiing equipment meant more people were taking up skiing, and consequently there was a great market for instructing. Jim managed the ski school until 1980 and the rental and retail operations until 1985.

Before (and during ) his time in Whistler, McConkey made a name for himself as an early ski film star. Here he is enjoying some of Alta, Utah's famous champagne pow.

Before his time in Whistler, McConkey made a name for himself as an early ski film star. Here he is (at right) enjoying some of Alta, Utah’s famous champagne pow.

Whistler Mountain honoured Jim by naming a run after him (McConkey’s) on Dec. 15, 1994 — the same day that the Harmony Express chairlift was opened. This was clearly not enough for some, as there is also an unofficial McConkey’s on Whistler Mountain — a large unpatrolled area near the Peak to Creek.

A true fun-lover with an infectious joy for mountain life — McConkey’s catchphrase “Every day’s a bonus” is one we can all learn from.

Celebrating Jack Bright

This past Wednesday, homage was paid to one of the most influential figures in our valley’s history, Jack Bright. As would be expected of such an occasion, the gathering drew a long list of prominent and long-time Whistlerites.

Besides it’s main purpose to commemorate the life of a cherished family member, friend, and colleague, the celebration served a sort of window into another era. Whistler’s history is so short and mercurial, it is easy to forget how much change has occurred in just a few  decades. We are fortunate to still have with us many people who have witnessed  (and contributed to) Whistler’s rise from its modest beginnings as a remote venture with an uncertain future. Jack’s celebration drew many such folk, and the informal conversations spreading throughout the crowd were a veritable oral history of the ski resort.

The scene at Roland's Pub.

The scene at Roland’s Pub.

There couldn’t have been a more appropriate venue. If you find that Roland’s Pub has an  unpretentious atmosphere reminiscent of Whistler’s modest early years, that’s no mistake. In its first incarnation the building housed the Whistler Inn, built by Jack Bright himself in 1975. They expanded it a year later to make room for JB’s Restaurant, and the building has been a hub of the Creekside neighbourhood ever since.

Several people volunteered, or were summoned, to speak in front of the crowd. Among these was Hugh Smythe, first hired by Jack as a 19 year old ski patroller in 1966. Hugh described the Brights as a sort of surrogate family for him in those early days, fondly recalling family dinners at their home.

There is an interesting symmetry to Hugh and Jack’s story. Building upon his early experience working for Jack, Hugh went on to work, in a roundabout manner,  at every  level of ski resort management himself, including as Blackcomb Mountain’s first general manager. Focusing on Jack’s mentorship and entrepreneurial intuition, Hugh also recalled a road trip the two of them took to Todd Mountain (now Sun Peaks) to try and lure ski star Jim McConkey to Whistler to head the nascent ski school.

Appropriately enough, a few minutes later, “Diamond Jim” himself was up front, remarking on how well Whistler has treated so many people, and the crucial role Jack played in this success. Several other friends and family members came before the crowd to celebrate Jack’s many qualities and accomplishments. 

Peter Alder, Bruce Watt, Roger McCarthy, and Jim McConkey have a drink and reminisce about Whistler's early days.

Peter Alder, Bruce Watt, Roger McCarthy, and Jim McConkey have a drink and reminisce.

Just for fun we figured we'd throw in this photo of Roger and Bruce from their days as ski patrollers for Whistler Mountain. Evidently Roger's moustache had more staying power than Bruce's.

Just for fun we figured we’d throw in this photo of Roger and Bruce from their days as ski patrollers for Whistler Mountain. Evidently Roger’s moustache had more staying power than Bruce’s.

The event was gracefully hosted by Jack’s son Lance, who, along with his mother Ann (Jack’s wife) and brother Jordan, shared some heartfelt impressions of Jack. 

Despite the unfortunate circumstances there was a warm, relaxed feel, like a sort of high school reunion for the ski resort’s early years. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day and the opportunity to reminisce that it provided, a testament to how overwhelmingly positive those memories are of an era of Whistler’s history in which your Jack featured so prominently.

(Click here to see more photos from the event.)

Three generations of Bright's address the crowd.

Three generations of Bright’s address the crowd.

Before becoming a successful resort management bigwig, Jack was a ski star in his own right. Here are two magazine covers he bagged in 1960, while he was working as a ski instructor in Mammoth, California.

Before becoming a successful resort management bigwig, Jack was a ski star in his own right. Here are two magazine covers he bagged in 1960, while he was working as a ski instructor in Mammoth, California.