Tag Archives: Jim McConkey

Remembering Jack Bright

There are many prominent figures from our valley’s history whose names recur often on this blog and elsewhere: Myrtle & Alex Philip, Franz Wilhelmsen, Stefan Ples, Eldon Beck, Hugh Smythe, Florence Petersen, Nancy Greene & Al Raine, just to name a few. But one name which has not received its due is Jack Bright.

Jack Bright was the first General Manager of Whistler Mountain, and was a pivotal figure in the nascent ski resort’s quick ascent as Canada’s premier ski resort. Sadly, we received word that Jack Bright passed away last week in Vancouver.

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Franz Wilhelmsen hired Jack to run Whistler Mountain at the ripe old age of 28, a decision that turned out to be a resounding success. Considering Jack’s previous work experience was 5 years managing the tiny (and now-defunct) Pigeon Mountain ski area near Canmore, Alberta, Jack must have given a pretty good interview!

In any case, Jack turned out to be a marketing and management savant. Recognizing the power of celebrity and the draw of larger-than-life personalities, he managed to snag skiing superstar “Diamond” Jim McConkey to run the resort’s ski school, rental & retail operations.

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

A few years later in March 1971, at the height of “Trudeaumania” then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his bride Margaret honeymooned at Whistler. Clearly, such esteemed guests required “above-and-beyond” service, so Jack and Jim McConkey served as the newly-weds personal ski instructors during their stay. Trudeau, a strong skier, returned to Whistler often, and Jack or Jim were always prepared to accompany him.

Jack Bright (right) showing the Prime Minister how it's done.

Jack Bright (right) showing the Prime Minister how it’s done.

The publicity from such high-profile associations is hard to overstate, and foreshadows the prolific use of celebrity and athlete “ambassadors” that is common practice throughout the ski industry today. For more recent local examples, think Dave Murray ski camps, Mike Douglas “Embedded,” and local Olympic champions Ashleigh McIvor & Maelle Ricker, to name just a few.

Jack was also instrumental in arranging countless ski races, spring skiing parties, and other events to attract skiers and raise the resort’s profile, another example of his forward-thinking marketing mind. During his tenure, Jack oversaw Whistler Mountain’s quick ascent to the biggest and most renowned ski resort in the province.

One look at the Creekside Gondola line-up from the early 1970s is testament to Jack’s success at growing the resort. It was also Jack’s decision to institute a boarding-pass system, lift tickets that included a pre-scheduled up-load time, to take some of the sting off what could easily be a two or three-hour wait for the lifts.

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More than just a promotions guru, Jack  also built and managed the Whistler Inn, one of the valley’s first hotels, was the inaugural president of the Canada West Ski Areas Association, he helped found the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, the Canada Day Parade and was the chair of Whistler’s first bank, the North Shore Credit Union.

He stopped working for Whistler Mountain in the mid-1970s, but stayed in town for some time, continuing to manage his hotel and various other community interests. He eventually moved to Vancouver where he remained an active and respected businessman, though he remained connected to the Whistler community and came back to ski and visit frequently.

Franz Wilhelmsen, an unidentified man, and Jack Bright (from l to r), overlooking their kingdom. early 1980s (after Jack had stopped working for Whistler Mountain).

Franz Wilhelmsen, an unidentified man, and Jack Bright (from l to r), overlooking their kingdom, early 1980s.

Why is that ski-run called ‘Hooker’?

A Whistler Mountain trail map from the simpler days

A Whistler Mountain trail map from the simpler days

It is with some trepidation that I write this post, as place names are notorious for having multiple people claiming that they named them.  Speaking to the archivist at the BC Geographic Names Index she tells me with a laugh how she’s lost count of the number of times that people have claimed that their ancestor named this or that mountain, only to discover that the mountain was named before their ancestor was born!

I’m sure Whistler Blackcomb’s ski runs will be no exception to this rule, so if you disagree to any of the descriptions to follow, feel free to correct us by commenting below – we are always looking for new information at the Whistler Museum.

So here goes, I roll up my sleeves and give you a brief guide to Whistler Blackcomb’s ski run names. Of course, there are many, many more runs than I can include in one blog post, but here are a selection that caught my attention:

Whistler

Jimmy’s Joker

Not named after Jim McConkey, as I had assumed.  Apparently one of the surveyors, named Jimmy, got lost in the fog and marked out a trail that turned out to be very different than he had expected.

McConkey’s

Is named after Jim McConkey! ‘Diamond Jim’ took over management of Whistler Mountain Ski School in 1968.

Pig Alley

A short cut from Whiskey Jack to Ego Bowl.  Named after ski patrol’s first skidoo, -a pig of a machine that always got stuck. The patrol had the trail cut because it was easier to cross over to Ego Bowl and climb that with the skidoo than to climb Whiskey Jack.

'Diamond' Jim McConkey, the eponymous hero of McConkey's but NOT Jimmy's Joker

‘Diamond’ Jim McConkey, the eponymous hero of McConkey’s but NOT Jimmy’s Joker

Blackcomb

Once slated for logging, many Blackcomb runs have logging themes to them:

Jersey Cream: Extra good timber; cream of the crop

Stoker: A person employed to fuel the steam engines used to pull the logs.

Hooker: A foreman of a logging “side”.  The yarding crew had 8-10 men. (So, in answer to the title question, ‘Hooker’ is in fact a logging term, not a ‘lady of the night’.)

Cruiser: A logger who surveys standing timber for volume.

Catskinner: A tractor driver.

The Bite: an area in the curve or slack of a cable.  When the cable pulls a log, the slack snaps out causing this area to be very dangerous.

Couger Milk: A term referring to the grease used on logging equipment.

Crosscut: Means to cut across like “crosscut saw”.

Skid Row: A rod on which logs were dragged by bulls.  Later horses, then logging skidders.

Springboard: A board that a hand fallers stood on above the broad base when falling a large tree.

Choker: A short length of wire rope used to wrap around the log to be yarded to the landing.

Gearjammer: A nickname given to a heavy equipment operator.

7th Heaven

Blackcomb president Hugh Smythe named the area after he figured out that the lift servicing it was Blackcomb’s 7th lift.

Ladies First

I got this little gem from the Guide to Whistler Blackcomb. Ladies First on Blackcomb Glacier was named after Whistler Patroller Cathy Jewett who was first to (sort of) ski the line in 1984. Jewett dropped in and instantly set off an avalanche that she rode down the slope until she managed to self-arrest. So, although she was theoretically “first”, she didn’t really ski it that day!

Bushrat

A technical chute off of Chainsaw Ridge, Bushrat was named after Museum President John Hetherington who was working on Ski patrol at the time. Ken Newington, Blackcomb’s first Ski Patrol director named this run after John soon after the area opened.

That’s all for now, but if you liked this post, let us know and we’ll do some more!