Tag Archives: Mitch Sulkers

This Week in Photos: February 8

You might have noticed that while the Whistler Question Collection covers the years 1978 – 1985 not all years are shown in This Week in Photos.  The simple explanation is that the photos for some weeks are missing, damaged or in the possession of the photographer.  We’re looking forward to April when we can start sharing more photos of 1978 and 1984!

1979

And they’re off! At the mass start of the Molson Cup race held in Whistler recently.

Whistler hockey players faced the Budget team on Wednesday night and made the front page of the paper!

The new sign at the White Gold Inn (better known today as Whistler’s beloved Boot and Shoestring Lodge) was recently damaged by vandals. After this picture was taken, it was further vandalized.

A red tag and bylaw notice posted on Whistler Vale buildings.

The children’s corner at the new Pemberton Library promises to be well used.

1980

You can’t really tell, but this was the brand new powder blue RCMP vehicle in the valley!

1924-style swimmer Grace at the Pemberton Teachers Frolic – though the costumes look great, what the teachers were up to is anyone’s guess.

Cross country enthusiast Nello Busdon carefully waxes his skis before heading out on the Lost Lake Trail.

1981

THE stop sign in Whistler Village – a newsworthy addition to town.

New Whistler pharmacist Neil Massoud at work in Whistler United Pharmacy.

The Sears catalogue store in Pemberton on the Perkins property that was used up until February 10.

Gay Parker-McCain with baby Dana at the ‘Well Baby Clinic’ with Public Health Nurse Marilyn McIvor.

Manager Rob Nelms stands behind the remodelled bar at Dino’s, now open for business!

1982

The official map of Whistler Village as of 1982. Can you tell what’s still to come?

Competitors are photographed twice in the Pacific Western ProTour held on Blackcomb Mountain.

Vancouver’s Hellenic dancers perform at L’Apres’ Greek Night on February 5.

Ken Thornton of Tapley’s Pub soaks up a few rays while catching up on a little news during Whistler’s recent sunny spell.

Dogcatcher Geoff Playfair who is having a busy time with the Whistler strays.

A snowy view of the Husky and Creekside.

1983

Wowee – it was a hot time in the old town with the swoons and tunes of Vancouver’s R&B All Stars who cranked up the energy level in Delta’s Stumps Lounge to maximum enjoyment last weekend.

A face from yesteryear – Scott Paxton, who worked at The Keg at the Mountain many years ago when it was located in Whistler Cay has now resurfaced at the new Keg as the official “bunmaster”. Paxton and fellow employees geared up for the opening night at The Keg Friday, February 4 for another era of Keg lovers.

Guy Labelle connects one of the power hook ups being installed in the overnight parking lot to make life a little more comfortable for Whistler’s RV visitors. While partial services are now available, full-service pads may be a long time coming.

Heading for the finish must be lot easier when you’ve got wings!

The Brandywine Inn display suite developed a bit of a list as it was being moved off its foundations February 3. Nickel Brothers house movers recovered the situation by jacking up the building and rearranging a wooden ramp which had collapsed under it. The house was enrolee to High Forest.

Mitch Sulkers, Snowcat crew, Blackcomb. Those who answered the Question’s weekly question had their portraits published, often with their occupation and neighbourhood of residence.

1985

Corporate Cup teams ran, hopped, slid and jumped through an obstacle course wearing snowshoes Saturday at Myrtle Philip School.

Ken Domries (right) shows Paul Grilles (middle) and Glen Mitchell how to operate the Whistler Volunteer Fire Department’s ladder truck. The $20,000 LTI pumps out 4,500 litres a minute of water and is usually operated by a five-man crew.

Whistler Mountain day skiers stand in line Saturday for refunds after the power to the north side lift system went out of commission. Inconvenienced skiers were given refunds, food vouchers and hot drinks while the mountain’s staff coaxed the lifts into operation again.

Grand prize winner, Paul Burrows (right), receives his pair of Blizzard Quattro skis from Nigel Woods, president of Coastal Mountain. Unfortunately, the caption for this photo failed to mention what the prize was for.

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“Huts Don’t Build Themselves” – Wendy Thompson Hut Work Day

Every backcountry skier would agree that huts and cabins are a godsend. They offer shelter and improve access to otherwise inhospitable environments, and can become glorious havens of comfort and sociability deep in the mountain wilderness. But, to quote Mitch Sulkers, Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) Whistler section chair, “huts don’t build themselves.”

Nor do they maintain themselves, and beyond wear and tear from users, the harsh mountain environment takes its toll on human structures as well. This summer and fall the ACC members and other volunteers have been working on major renovations and upgrades to the Wendy Thompson Hut, which was built by the ACC-Whistler in 2000. We tagged along on one of their work parties this week to check it out and see exactly what that entails.

After the group all met at the Pemberton heliport, the first group of 5 were flown directly to the hut to prepare the site, especially clearing pathways and digging out work sites in the metre deep snowpack. The rest of us drove to the staging point just off the Duffey Lake Highway and began preparing loads of firewood and building materials that would be shuttled to the hut by the helicopter.

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The staging area. Firewood was collected into large mesh nets for transport. Slings were used for stacks of lumber. Jeff Slack Photo.

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Liftoff for the first stack of lumber. Goggles and hoods were mandatory attire during all loading and unloading due to violently blowing snow. Jeff Slack Photo.

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Off to the Hut. Jeff Slack Photo.

In total, 7 loads were transported up to the hut. This all happened remarkably fast, thanks in large part to the heli-pilot’s considerable skill and expertise. While this was going on, a 3rd group of volunteers began the 3-hour snowshoe trek from the staging area to the hut. Once the last load of materials arrived at the hut (and 2 loads of garbage, construction waste, and unneeded equipment was flow down), the last group of volunteers (myself included) were given a quick, scenic ride to the hut in the chopper.

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As the helicopter set down, the area surrounding the hut was already a hive of activity. Jeff Slack Photo.

Once we unloaded ourselves and our gear and the heli had set off, work continued in a bustling but orderly manner as there was an ambitious work plan for the afternoon. Some members had already begun work framing a new mudroom inside the hut, there was no shortage of firewood that needed to be moved and stacked, and I joined a group that began work on a new woodshed to keep the firewood dry and protected from the very deep winter snowpack.

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Sorting through the supplies in front of the hut. Jeff Slack Photo.

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Early stages of the new woodshed. Jeff Slack Photo.

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ACC-Whistler section chair and occasional roofer, Mitch Sulkers, not only oversaw much of the operations, he also put his considerable carpentry skills to good use while delegating the rest of the group. Jess Slack Photo.

After a few frenzied hours light began to fade, flurries started to fall, and small groups began to snowshoe back down the trail to the awaiting vehicles. But not before an impressive amount of work was accomplished, especially considering the deep snow and sub-zero temperatures.

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The work party prepares for the trek back down. Jeff Slack Photo.

It was a wonderful experience to tag along with such an enthusiastic and dedicated group of backcountry folk. Watching the crew at work underscored how much time and effort goes into maintaining our recreational infrastructure, be it huts or trails. If you find recreating in the backcountry rewarding, perhaps you should consider joining a local club and contributing your time as well (one not be a member to join many of these work days).

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The second-storey sleeping platform highlights the Gothic arch design that one frequently encounters in the Coast Mountain backcountry. Jeff Slack Photo.

The new and improved Wendy Thompson Hut will be fully ready to go for the upcoming winter season. It is available only through reservation, which must be pre-arranged through the ACC-Whistler website.  While it is certainly an idyllic bit of mountain paradise, it must be noted that this hut is in a remote and wild setting, and all visitors should be self-sufficient, prepared for self-rescue, and equipped with all the necessary gear and knowledge to contend with hazards inherent to mountain and wilderness environments such as avalanches, extreme weather, and more. 

As mentioned before, the Wendy Thompson was built according to the classic gothic arch design first developed by members of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club in the 1960s and which has been since replicated throughout the Coast Range. The Whistler Museum has a soft spot for these simple, tough, and charming structures, and is currently researching and compiling a comprehensive history of these huts. Look for more related content in the coming months.

Does the Backcountry Need Rules?

There’s a reason that the book commonly referred to as “the mountaineer’s bible” is called Freedom of the Hills. One of the main draws of the backcountry is the freedom one experiences there. Free from social constraints, free from the stresses of urban life, and free from many of the written and unwritten law that are necessary to keep society functioning smoothly.  Freedom to enjoy and explore the natural world.

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Members of the 1939 George Bury ski expedition to Garibaldi Park, beneath the imposing Black Tusk.

But freedom is always a relative concept. Most laws apply to backcountry areas just as they do in the heart of the city. And for all the much-vaunted solitude of backcountry recreation, most of our excursions are to relatively popular areas that still entail a degree of interaction with other people. With surging popularity, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that, like it or not, backcountry skiing is becoming an increasingly social activity.

Do we need one of these for the backcountry?

Do we need one of these for the backcountry?

Maybe, it follows, more social norms are in order back there. We all know the Alpine Skiers Responsibility Code, that yellow card that lists the rules to abide by when at a ski resort. Well, increasing crowds and associated safety concerns mean a formal backcountry code of conduct may well be in order.

That’s exactly what we intend to produce at our first Speaker Series event of the 2013-14 season.  Featuring a very esteemed panel and a healthy dose of audience participation. we’ll be drafting a preliminary Backcountry Alpine Responsibility Code, or BARC.

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Ryan Bougie: Blackcomb Avalanche Forecaster, avid adventurer, Coast Range traverser.

Keith Reid: Former president of the ACMG and lead backcountry guide for Extremely Canadian.

Dave Sarkany: ACMG ski guide, mountain instructor, Whistler Search-and-Rescue.

Mitch Sulkers: Avalanche instructor, hiking guide, outdoor educator.

Dave Treadway: Professional Freeskier, Snowmobiler, Pemberton SAR.Gazing up at the north face of Mount Garibaldi.

Cliff Fenner (right) and friend gazing up at the north face of Mount Garibaldi, mid-1950s.

With this well-rounded and supremely knowledgeable panel, we hope to craft a pretty solid document. But we need your help. There will be a large audience participation component. So come armed with your suggestions for the BARC. What do you think? What are your backcountry safety concerns and pet peeves? What rules should we all abide by to keep each other safe, happy, and having fun?