Tag Archives: Paul Burrows

Paul Burrows’ Early Years in Whistler

This past September we were lucky enough to welcome Paul Burrows, founder of the Whistler Question in 1976, to the museum to talk about the early days of the paper.

The stories he told of The Question then are amazing, but while looking through our collection of oral histories we came across an interview Paul did with Whistler Cable nearly 20 years ago in which he described his early days in Whistler, back when it was still known as Alta Lake.

Paul first arrived in Canada in 1960 on a flight that hopped from London to Scotland to Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland to Toronto.  He came west because “that was the place to be” and he and his friends started skiing.  It was thanks to some bumps and twists on the mountains that he first met and became friends with members of ski patrol in Vancouver.  They soon heard about a new ski area in Alta Lake and in 1965 Paul came up by train to take a look.

When Paul Burrows first came to the area Whistler Mountain was still under construction. Whistler Mountain Collection.

The second time he came up he was with a group in a Volkswagen and they brought their skis.  It was August.  As Paul recalled, “we put our skis on our back and walked up through the trees and we walked right up the west ridge of Whistler and we peered over the edge of Whistler Bowl and then we got to see them building the chairlifts on the Red Chair and cutting the ski runs.  So then we skied down and we got mixed up and ended up on a cliff and we got stuck there for a while.”  The group did eventually make it down the mountain.

Bill Southcott and Paul Burrows sport snow beards after a few run on Whistler in the 1970s. Whistler Question Collection.

In 1966 Paul returned as a member of the brown-jacketed ski patrol for the season before leaving to work for the ski patrol in Aspen for a year.  When he returned he got a job working on the pro patrol alongside Murray Coates and Hugh Smythe.  In his words, “It was pretty hairy.  We got buried a lot.  The safety procedures we used to knock avalanches down and everything else would not be tolerated today.  We didn’t even talk about the WCB.”

During this time Paul, like quite a few other “residents” at the time, was squatting.  He rented a 15-foot trailer from a place in Richmond for the season for $550 and parked in a lot at the bottom of the mountain.  The trailer was put up on bricks, insulation was installed beneath it and plywood was put around it and the trailer became home to six or seven people.

Parking lot and gondola at Creekside base, ca. 1980, a decade after the trailer took up residence.. Whistler Mountain Collection.

With no electricity or water the wash facilities in the day lodge came in very useful, as did a trusty oil lamp.  According to Paul, “I would shut all the doors and windows and you’re in there but the trouble is you keep running out of air.  So when you had a party in there in the winter and there were guys in there you kept running out of air.  So if you had this little oil lamp cranked up, it was a bit like the miner’s lamp, when the light started to flicker and go out you knew you had to open the door and let some more air in.”  Condensation was also an issue in the trailer.  Condensation build up could freeze the doors and windows shut and the lamp would then be used to melt one’s way out of the trailer in the morning.

After that season Paul again left Whistler, this time for Grouse and then work in the printing business.

The Burrows’ A-frame on Matterhorn, where the first editions of the Whistler Question were created.

In 1971 Paul married Jane and when she was offered a job teaching in Pemberton the pair moved back to Whistler, staying in their Alpine A-frame until 2000.

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Sharing and Naming Whistler’s History

A huge thank you to everyone who came out last Friday evening (September 15) to the opening of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History and to those who came out on Thursday for our first Naming Night!

It was great to see so many familiar (and new) faces at the museum, as well as so many past and present Question staff members.  We would also like to thank our amazing special guest speakers Paul Burrows and Glenda Bartosh for joining us for the evening and for creating the paper.  Without The Question we wouldn’t have these photos that we now get to share with both the community and visitors.

Paul Burrows speaks to a packed house at the opening of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History.

Paul and Glenda both let those present in on a few secrets about the early days at The Question and the years when the survival of the paper and of the town seemed questionable at best.

The Burrows’ A-frame on Matterhorn, where the first editions of the Whistler Question were created.

The Whistler Question was started by Paul and Jane Burrows in 1976 in their A-frame home on Matterhorn Drive.  After an unsuccessful run to be Whistler’s first mayor, Paul had to decide whether to start a bus company or a printing company.  At the time the Burrows couldn’t afford to buy the buses needed for a bus company and so The Whistler Question was born.  The first issue was given out for free; the second issue cost buyers 15¢ and, as Paul Burrows explained, the paper’s readership dropped dramatically.  He continued publishing, however, and today The Question continues to be printed and distributed each week.

If you weren’t able to see the exhibit on opening night or are planning to come again to take your time and leisurely peruse the photographs (to view all of the images takes over 20 minutes), The Whistler Question: A Photographic History will be on display through the end of November.

As you may have read last week, community members have been identifying the subjects of some of our photographs on social media and here on our blog.  To continue this important work, we recently hosted our first Naming Night.

Community members came out to help us identify many of the people and places in 100 photographs.

As the title suggests, we invited everyone to the museum to help us add names to the subjects of our mystery photos.  We also wanted to know the stories behind the photographs and the memories these photographs brought to mind.  We had a great time listening as those who came out debated various names, locations and dates for the photographs on display.  In one evening we were able to add over 250 names to our photographs!  We can now tag all of these people and places in the photographs so that when you’re searching for something or someone in our database it is more likely that these photographs will come up.

Just one of the photographs on display. Photo: Whistler Question Collection, 1984

We’ve got a lot more photographs we need information for so keep an eye out for our next Naming Night!

The Whistler Question: A Photographic History

We are very excited to announce that The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978 – 1985 will open Friday, September 15!  To celebrate the opening of our latest exhibit and the completion of the Whistler Question Digitization Project (you can read more about that here) we would like to invite everyone to join us and special guests Paul Burrows and Glenda Bartosh for appetizers and drinks at the Whistler Museum.

Featuring photographs from the Whistler Question Collection, this new exhibit captures the town of Whistler during a time of transition and rapid change.  Come and view the development of the resort and the growth of the community through nearly seven years worth of photos!