Tag Archives: John Millar

From Drinks to Whistler

Wandering around the Village late afternoon in March, you would be hard-pressed not to stumble across patrons enjoying a frosty glass of suds in one of the many frequented Après-ski bars here in Whistler.

Ski-après often includes food, music, dancing, socializing, and having a few drinks after a long day of skiing

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

The act of Après-ski originated in Telemark, Norway during the 1880s after a rise in the popularity of Telemark Skiing (named after the region).  At this point recognizable ski-après made a modest entry, first informally in skier’s homes, then in newly developed ski clubs—the inevitable second step of the arrival and growing popularity of skiing [Lund, Morton. (2007, March). Skiing Heritage, 19(01), 5-12]

WORLD CUP WEEK '93 - National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley's

WORLD CUP WEEK ’93 – National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley’s

In 1893, Ski-Après made its way to the Alps with the founding of Ski Club Glarus in Switzerland, one of the first ski clubs in the Alps, and from this point ski-après started to spread through Switzerland, France, Austria, and the rest of Europe. Sometime after the First Winter Olympic games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, the French coined the phrase après-ski.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of 'Canadian' beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of ‘Canadian’ beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

The arrival of Ski-Après to Whistler may have its roots in the arrival of the Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club, whose members (composed of mostly Austrian and German people) started to frequent Whistler during the late 1950s/early 1960s, eventually buying a 5-acre lot in 1962, and building Tyrol Lodge in 1966.

Long time Whistler Local Trudy Alder worked as the caretaker at the lodge from 1968 to 1970. At the time, she considered entertaining lodge guests with spirited ski-après to be as important a duty as clean linens and stacked firewood.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

Ski-après certainly is an important part of socializing in Whistler with many locals and tourists alike gathering around to enjoy a fine wine, a cold pint, and other spirited drinks. Enjoying a glass of intoxicating beverage is nothing new to the valley, and certainly didn’t arrive in the valley with the arrival of the skiers. Whistlers own origin story involves liquor to some extent with John Millar, a trapper who was living in Alta Lake, meeting Alex Philip at the Horseshoe Bar and Grill (a  restaurant owned by Philip) in 1911 on one of his yearly trips to Vancouver. Millar told Alex of Alta Lake’s beauty and excellent fishing, and though inebriated, he got Alex very excited, for Alex had always wanted to run a fishing lodge. Millar was invited to dinner the following night, with Alex and Myrtle making plans for a trip the following summer. In August 1911 they set out on a trip to visit AltaLake, eventually developing Rainbow Lodge and tourism in the Valley.

Rainbow Lodge became the centre of socializing in the valley in the following years, with fine food, dancing, and of course enjoying a few drinks. Alex Phillip was known to partake in a few glasses of suds with guests while they were staying at the lodge, with some guests later becoming good friends

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

These days, Rainbow Lodge no longer stands, and Ski-après is no longer confined to Tyrol Lodge and Dusty’s. There’s no shortage of pubs, clubs, and lounges around WhistlerVillage to provide a wide variety of après experiences. Between the Whistler Brewing Company and the Brewhouse, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a number of Whistler beers after a hard day on the slopes. Looks like Whistler, as per usual, has put a new twist on an old tradition!

Let’s Get Poetical

We’ve brought you dozens of blog posts about historical characters and events from our archives, crazy photos, and other Whistler stories. One thing that we feel we’ve brought you too little of is poetry composed by Museum staff. I’m sure you’ve been thinking the same thing. I can almost hear you thinking, “‘H – E – double hockey sticks’, when will Sarah, Jeff, Robyn, Allyn, and Myles write some goddamn poetry? A limerick maybe? A Haiku? Is that really too much to ask?”

Well, patient reader, the wait is over. Without further delay, here is a selection of poetry (mostly haiku) composed by the Museum staff (and friends).

Two mountains, strung with
cable- rise above this town,
this valley of dreams.

– Robyn

Seppo Makinen:
The mighty man among us.
His spirit rests here.

– Robyn

Stillness on Alta –
Alex Philip falls in drunk,
Myrtle shakes her head.

– Sarah

Myrtle and brother Phil Tapley on shores of Alta Lake

We love history.
We love Whistler’s Whistory!
Whistler is awesome.


Extreme sports paired with
endless good times, paradise
is Whistler-Blackcomb.

– Robyn

Jack Bright and Jim McConkey skiing Whistler Mountain, 1972

Silently gliding
Through deep, endless white powder –
Another Whistler day.

– Robyn

Truth Hurts

Rainbow Lodge, Seppo,
Crazy Canucks, HISTORY!
Kids just want LEGO.

– Jeff

On hot afternoons
Molly and McGee nap on
While Freckles watches.


Molly and McGee share a nap while a forlorn Freckles the Dog surveys the scene, alone in the distance.

Outside is too hot?
Museum has two words for you:
Air conditioning.


There once was a Texan named Millar
Whose life was something of a thriller.
He first was a cook,
But two lives he took,
So he fled here where life was much stiller.


There once was a pub called the Boot
Just next to the highway’s main route.
It had dancing girls
And drinkers who twirled
In a “ballet” of well-known repute.


Ski Boot Hotel, later the Shoestring Lodge and Boot Pub

An ode to the archives

Last night I dreamt of a magical place,
Dreamers, doers, and icons all shared one space.
Oh, to visit this land where our legends can thrive.
Why, it already exists, our almighty archives!

Our collections are vast, rich with ripe tales,
From diaries and drawings to bent, rusted nails.
All with the ineffable scent of the past,
A real-life time machine that’s built to last.

Archival documents in acid-free boxes,
Fight group amnesia from LSD memory losses.
Fifty thousand pictures worth fifty million words.
Fishing rods, ice axes, taxidermied birds!

We record more than elections, wheelings and dealings,
Our shelves carry facts, dates, but also a feeling.
Whistler’s free spirit – it’s impossible to fake it,
Live here long enough you’ll end up in here naked!

Cynics deride Whistler’s history as short,
But we prove that the truth is none of the sort,
Our peaks, trees, and tales are all very tall,
And we’ve done big things for a town that’s so small.

Next time you’re curious of Whistler’s glorious past lives
Stop in (appointments only) at the Whistler Archives!
Thus concludes these haiku, limericks and jingles,
From the only folks in town still selling Boot Pub shingles!



All night long (all night)
All night (all night) All night long,
All night long (Ooh yeah)

– Lionel Ritchie


The Story Behind “100 Years of Dreams”

*Note: this post was originally published in July 2011*

While deep snowpacks, sprawling ski lifts and downhill dirt made Whistler the international mega-resort it is today, it was actually fish that brought the valley’s first fun-seekers. And it was 100 years ago, this summer.

In a community as young as Whistler, 100 years is nothing to sneeze at. In celebration of the centennial of the Philip’s fateful first visit to this valley, the Whistler Museum and partners are hosting a 5-day series of free events, entitled “100 Years of Dreams.”

John Millar in front of his cabin, where you could get a plate of steller’s jay pie for 50 cents.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, the Whistler Valley–then known as Alta Lake–was home to a handful of trappers, prospectors, and loggers. Life was rough and the only connection to the outside world was the Pemberton Trail, a rugged path leading from Squamish (then Newport) to Lillooet and the interior goldfields.

In the spring of 1911, a local trapper named John Millar (for whom Millar Creek in Function Junction is named) was in Vancouver selling some of his furs and picking up provisions. One day a hungry Millar stopped by Gastown’s Horseshoe Bar & Grill where he struck up a conversation with the restaurant manager, Alex Philip.

Millar’s description of his secluded mountain valley struck a chord with Alex, who had recently moved to BC from Maine with his wife Myrtle. It was the Philips’ dream to one day open a fishing retreat in the Canadian wilderness, so they were enthralled by this string of glacier-fed lakes teeming with trout. They took  Millar up on his offer and made the 3-day trek to Alta Lake that August.

The Philips on the Pemberton Trail, en route to Alta Lake, August 1911.

It was perfect. They fell in love with Alta Lake, instantly recognizing that this was the place to pursue their fishing-retreat dreams.

In 1913 they returned and purchased 10 acres of land on the west side of Alta Lake from another local trapper, Charlie Chandler. To raise money Alex returned to managing the Horseshoe in Vancouver, while Myrtle’s family, the Tapleys, moved out from Maine to help build their lodge.

The next summer Rainbow Lodge–named after the bountiful rainbow trout in Alta Lake–was ready to go. That same year the PGE railway, running from Squamish into the BC Interior, opened up, making Rainbow Lodge a much more accessible day-trip from Vancouver.

Rainbow Lodge

The Philips jumped at the PGE’s offer of running “fisherman’s excursion” packages in partnership with Rainbow Lodge. The first such trip brought 22 men up from Vancouver, who returned to the city raving of the great fishing and grand mountain views. From that moment on the Philips had little trouble attracting business.

Rainbow Lodge quickly became the centre of the Alta Lake community. By the 1930s the Philips had added 45 outbuildings to support their growing operation, including a general store, a horse-stable, tennis courts, and a dedicated railway station. Rainbow Lodge advertisements boasted that it was the most popular tourist resort west of Jasper.

An expanded Rainbow Lodge and surrounding facilities, ca 1930.

It may seem modest compared to the excess and grandeur of Whistler today, but Rainbow Lodge and the Philips deserve credit for recognizing Whistler’s unique beauty and promoting it to the outside world. They’re one of the biggest reasons why you live here today (or wish you did).

Alex and Myrtle Philip were the first in a long line starry-eyed visionaries to visit the Whistler Valley and encounter a landscape grand enough to fit their dreams. 100 years later, the Whistler Valley continues to be re-shaped by the Philips’ special brand of hard work and bold ambition.

3 remaining guest cabins at Rainbow Park. Jeff Slack Photo.