Tag Archives: Labatt’s

Beer Woes of Whistler

The summer of 1978 was a dry one for British Columbia, though not because of the weather. In early June 1978, workers at the three major breweries in the province were locked out during contract negotiations. For the next few months, beer became a limited commodity in BC, including in Whistler.

That spring, Labatt, Molson, and Carling O’Keefe, each of whom employed about 500 workers in BC, decided to negotiate jointly with the Canadian Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink and Distillery Workers. Talks began in May but by June little progress had been made and workers at all three breweries were locked out. With few craft breweries in the province and labour disputes with breweries also occurring in Alberta and Manitoba, liquor stores and customers turned to American breweries to try to meet demand. While the Liquor Administration Branch (LAB) imported products through official channels, individuals were not always so dutiful. On June 14, the Whistler Question informed residents that, “with Alberta now dry, all mercy missions must be directed towards dangerous smuggling operations to the US,” and Macleans reported that “Petty smuggling became an art form, and a customs inspector at the Washington border allowed that ‘Canadians are becoming pretty proficient liars when it comes to making declarations.” (“No rest for the beer,” Dan’l Larocque, Macleans, July 24, 1978)

Paul Burrows picks up his two cases of Olympia. Whistler Question Collection, 1978.

Within Whistler, the state of beer in the area was discussed almost every week throughout the summer. On June 28, amid predictions that the “near-drought (beer-wise) seems to be sticking around,” the Question reported the supply of local establishments such as the Highland Lodge, the Boot, and L’Après like they would sporting statistics, with the Highland Lodge “checking in” at 25 domestic cases of beer. Though the Liquor Store implemented a two-case limit and tried to buy imported and American brands, the Whistler store was just one of many stores in the province competing for a limited supply. By the end of June, the Liquor Store had no beer at all and did not expect to get any in until July 5 at the earliest, well after the long weekend ended.

Schlitz and Olympia, American beers, attempted to fill the gap left by the breweries being shut down. Whistler Question Collection, 1978.

When the July 5 shipment did arrive, Whistler’s Liquor Store received only 135 cases of imported European beer our of an expected 500. The beer, which was priced between $11.50 and $13 per dozen (between $45 and $50, when adjusted for inflation), went on sale at 1pm and was sold out by 6pm, even with a one case/customer limit. According to store manager Dennis Lemarche, a couple of local restaurants tried to circumvent the limit by asking people in the parking lot to pick up a case, but this was quickly stopped.

Not all beers brought in to fill the gap were American – imported European beers were also popular that summer. Whistler Question Collection, 1978.

Through August, rations of Olympia, Schlitz, Heineken and other brands continued to arrive in Whistler periodically, usually selling out within a day or two. In the lodges and hotels around the valley, supplies of American and imported beer were kept on hand but, as the weather in Whistler got hotter, prices were also reported to rise.

Negotiations between the breweries and the union had progressed and by the fall employees were able to go back to work. In the stores, however, a new problem developed; the LAB announced that it had a backlog of around 2 million cases of American beer that needed to be sold before they could begin stocking Canadian brands as usual. Brands that during the summer had been in high demand were put on sale at prices comparable to Canadian beer in an effort to reduce stockpiles in warehouses and store but it was not until mid-October 1978 that Whistler’s Liquor Store once again sold Canadian beer. The summer, however, had changed some people’s habits and, according to the LAB, one case in four sold continued to be imported.

Welcoming Fall to Whistler

In may technically still be (and at times even feel) like summer, but for many people the beginning of September signals the beginning of fall.  While many people will have spent this weekend celebrating a certain beverage at the Whistler Beer Festival, in the 1980s this past weekend would have featured a celebration of the upcoming season with the Whistler Fall Festival.

The Fall Festival was first organized by the Whistler Resort Association (WRA, now known as Tourism Whistler) in 1981.  At the time, the Whistler Village was beginning to emerge from a craze of construction and Blackcomb Mountain was looking forward to its second season of operations.  There was a lot to celebrate in Whistler and the festival featured many of the growing community’s arts, crafts, sports, and activities.

The Fall Festival also included a Paint a Snowflake contest, leaving the fences around construction sites covered in snowflakes. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

One of the local characters showcased at the Fall Festival was Willie Whistler, the new mascot of the WRA.  Willie’s name came from a “Name the Whistler Marmot” contest for children in the area in which the winner, eight-year-old Tammi Wick, won a Blackcomb season pass.  The mascot was created to promote Whistler at local and other events and the Fall Festival, which included time each day to “Meet Willie Whistler,” was his first big event.

Willie Whistler takes a ride with Bo Bo the Clown during the Fall Festival in Village Square. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

The festival also featured local artists and artisans who demonstrated their crafts in the village, including pottery, fibre spinning, stained glass, and painting.  Performers over the weekend included acts such as Evan Kemp and the Trail Riders, the Alpini Band, and local favourite Doc Fingers, as well as dance performances and Bo Bo the Clown.

For visitors and residents alike, the Fall Festival offered different ways to see the Whistler valley.  Snowgoose Transportation offered free 50 minute bus tours, showing off everything from residential areas to the gondola base in Creekside to the Blackcomb daylodge.  To see the valley from above, participants could enjoy a flight from Okanagan Helicopters, take advantage of Blackcomb Mountain’s offer of free chairlift rides, or, subject to wind conditions, go up in Chuck Bump’s hot air balloon, billed at the festival as the “World’s Largest Hot Air Balloon.”

Evan Kemp and the Trail Riders perform in Village Square. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Perhaps not surprisingly, sports and competitions also featured prominently at the Fall Festival.  Spectators could take in volleyball, Pro/Celebrity tennis matches that paired pro players with notables from politics, business, and media, a softball game between the Whistler Contractors Association and the Whistler A’s, or even a parachuting demonstration.  For those looking to compete, the Waiters Race challenged Whistler’s servers to run a timed obstacle course without spilling a drop, and the Labatt’s Great Whistler Water Race relay covered four lakes and the River of Golden Dreams through canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and windsurfing.

A softball game was fun for participants and spectators. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Though the Fall Festival was primarily about showcasing Whistler, it also raised money for several different causes.  On the Sunday, Whistler hosted a run as part of the first national Terry Fox Run, raising over $7,600.  The proceeds from a beer garden hosted by the Whistler Athletic Society that evening were also donated towards cancer research.

Local causes benefited as well.  The WRA donated enough funds from the Village Centre beer garden to replace the snowmobile of the Alta Lake Sports Club that had been destroyed in a fire.  Umberto Menghi, who was then opening his new restaurant Il Caminetto, contributed to the festival by both providing the firework display for the Saturday evening and hosting a gala dinner at Myrtle Philip School to benefit the Whistler Health Care Society.

If you look really closely, Chuck Bump’s balloon also featured some advertising for local restaurants. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation.

According to Glenda Bartosh of The Whistler Question, the first Fall Festival was about far more than raising money and generating revenue for the resort.  She reported that the festival “created laughter, high energy and a true appreciation of what Whistler is all about.”  The WRA must have agreed, as they continued to organize the Fall Festival for at least three more years.

This Week In Photos: April 5

Depending on the year, the photos from each week of the Whistler Question Collection show a very different side of Whistler.  Some weeks are dominated by photos of skiing and resort events (like Labatt’s World Cup Freestyle this week in 1980) while others demonstrate a community similar to many other small towns (think an Easter egg hunt and the completion of a new playground).


Scott Brooksbank shows fine form in the men’s ski ballet portion of Labatt’s World Cup Freestyle event.

Stephanie Sloan shows her ballet style on a socked-in Saturday competition.

Combined champion Hedy Garhammer thanks the crowd while runners-up Janice Reid and Lauralee Bowie stand by.

A competitor flips over the aerials portion of the event.


Getting ready for a toast to the newlyweds! (Can anyone identify the newlyweds?)

New smiling face at the Whistler Post Office – Barbara Jennings sorts the mail.

Kristi King and Garth Leyshon head out from Whistler on their way to Squamish.

Man and dog pose at the Whistler Vale Hotel.

Pat and Kay Carleton enjoy a toast from the goblets given to them at a surprise party on April 3 to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

The new snow on Blackcomb provides a pleasing backdrop to the Whistler Village plaza.


The Walk-A-Thon from Mt. Currie to Vancouver in support of a Youth Centre passes through Whistler.

Hundreds of kids showed up for special treats courtesy of E. Bunny on Blackcomb Sunday. despite heavy snowfall.

Whistler Mountain Ski School instructors hand out certificates and prizes following an Easter race.

Yummy in the tummy! Alyssa Wilson, 3, enjoys Easter treats the bunny brought to the schoolyard Easter morning.

Not even a blizzard on Easter Sunday kept kids from using the new Adventures Playground, recently completed at a total cost of $3,624.11.


A sure sign of spring – Connie Kutyn decks out Whistler Village in its finest banners designed by Suzanne Wilson and Penny Domries. Banners tell the story of Whistler’s theme “Summer Side of the Mountain”.

A brand new surrey with a fringe on top is the latest addition to Mountain Carriage Tour Co. Visitors may enjoy an old-fashioned ride through town.

Ears to you, said this creative skier – one of the many who paraded on the mountains in Easter finery, or funnery.

This strange aquatic being was pulled from the depths of Green Lake on Saturday, April 2. Mons Towing driver Denver Snider hooks up the stolen van that the RCMP frogman discovered. The van had been stolen from Burnaby, stripped and pushed into the lake.

Only place a man can get away from it all… Trevor Weakley, originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, took a three-day tour of Whistler with friends and unfurled the kiwi colours in the full Easter sun.

E. Bunny delighted hundreds of kids in the annual egg hunt at Myrtle Philip School.

Patricia Fennell turned up Sunday in her finest Easter bonnet.


You know spring is definitely here when Tapley’s A’s start their annual tryouts.

With the Whistler Valley Housing Society’s 20-unit project at the gondola base near completion, potential renters had a chance Thursday and Friday to see what they’ll get. Another open house is set for this Saturday afternoon.

Whistler’s Gourmet Club met for yet another Epicurean celebration Saturday. Members of the five-year-old club were treated to a six-course (not to mention many rounds of hot saki) Japanese meal prepared by this month’s hosts Ted Nebbeling and Jan Holbery. The club tucks in together once a month, and has sampled the cuisine of just about every country on the globe. Left to right are: Ted Nebbeling, Judy Grant, Doug Schull, Laurie Vance, Jan Holberg, Lance Fletcher, Buffy and Nigel Woods, Drew Meredith, Judy Fletcher, Mike Vance, Jan Simpson, Peter Grand and Wendy Meredith.