Tag Archives: RMOW

The Village that Could Have Been

Over the past few weeks, as we’ve been working on our temporary exhibit Construction of Whistler Village: 1978 – 1984, we’ve also been thinking about Whistler Village could have looked like if earlier proposals had gone forward.  Before development of the village we know today began in earnest in 1978, town centres for the Whistler area were proposed in various different styles and locations.  Three of the earliest of these plans predated the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), and were proposed by the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA), purpose designed to host the Olympic Winter Games.

GODA first put forth an Olympic bid in 1963, with hopes of hosting the 1968 Olympic Winter Games.  At the time, they proposed to build a town centre at the base of the lifts planned for Whistler Mountain, today’s Creekside.  This idea of a planned town centre continued to be developed by further bids.

In 1968, GODA submitted a bid to host the 1972 Olympic Winter Games.  The plans from this bid placed the town centre at the same location as today’s Whistler Village.  According to a painting currently on display at the Whistler Museum, this town centre would have included a large plaza area with a view of the proposed ski jumps on Whistler Mountain, an airport, and a landing area for helicopters, as well as lodgings and retail spaces.

The proposed town centre for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, as they imagined it would have bee seen by skiers. GODA

Neither bid was successful, in part because Whistler Mountain had not yet become firmly established as a ski resort.  By 1970, however, when GODA was putting forth a bid for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, Whistler Mountain had become better known and the available amenities had increased significantly since 1963.  Garibaldi/Vancouver was selected by the Canadian Olympic Committee as Canada’s official national bid for 1976 and a full IOC bid was developed.  This has left behind lots of official material that gives insight into the Canadian Olympic organizers and their vision of the Whistler areas as an Olympic venue, including architectural drawings for a proposed town centre in the official 1976 Vancouver/Garibaldi bid book.

Some of the elements envisioned in the architectural drawings done for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games. GODA

According to the bid book, a prominent selling point for this proposal was the idea of a single-host area, with all events held within four kilometres of the town centre at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

The town centre envisioned in the bid book is not too different from the 1972 bid.  Ski Jump Plaza provided views of the ski jumps on Whistler Mountain and was accessible through a pedestrian concourse.  The concourse was to be lined on either side by tall, angular buildings and lifts beginning at the concourse would carry skiers and spectators up the hill.  Close by would be an ice rink, biathlon course and other Olympic venues.

The ski jump planned for the base of Whistler Museum. GODA

The proposed town site for the 1976 Games was very different from the village that was designed just eight years later, but certain elements, such as a focus on pedestrians and lift access to Whistler Mountain are defining features of the village we know today.

We’ll be learning more about how Whistler Village came to be this Thursday (October 24) during the first of a three-part storytelling event on Whistler’s history.  You can find more information about the Legends of Whistler event here.

First Steps to Building A Village

On October 10 (this Thursday!) the Whistler Museum will be opening Construction of the Whistler Village: 1978 – 1984, a temporary exhibit featuring images of a village in progress from the Whistler Question collection.

The planning and development of the Whistler Village is often referred to as one of the first tasks of the newly formed Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) in 1975.  Before a town centre could be constructed, however, a very important (though possibly not as glamourous) facility had to open: the Whistler Sewer Plant.

The Whistler Sewer Plant was one of the first steps taken before constructing the Whistler Village. Garibaldi’s Whistler News

Prior to 1977, a small number of condominium complexes had their own private systems to deal with waste, but most of the plumbing in Whistler ran on septic tank systems.  Investigations into a sewer system for the area were begun by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and continued by the RMOW when it was created.  According to the Garibaldi’s Whistler News, in 1977 Whistler had a year-round population of approximately 800, which increased during peak season to near 7,000.  Plans to build a town centre and expand the resort raised concerns about the environmental and practical impacts of continuing to use septic systems.

The Good Shit Lolly Pot on a raft at Alta Lake – some approaches to plumbing in Whistler were rather interpretive. George Benjamin Collection, 1969.

The sewer system in Whistler was planned in phases, with the first phase designed to service areas from the sewer treatment plant located three kilometres south of the gondola in Creekside to almost five km north of the gondola base, accommodating a population of 14,000 with provisions for expansion to 21,000.  Thanks to financing from the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation Sewer Program, this first phase and the treatment plant were completed by June 1977.  By the fall, the second phase, which extended the reach of the sewer treatment plant from Alta Vista to the site of the future town centre, was underway.

The official opening of the Whistler Sewer Plant was an exciting occasion for the young municipality.  It was scheduled for September 17, 1977, and the RMOW hired Lynn Mathews to plan the event.  Earlier this year, one of our amazing museum volunteers conducted a series of oral history interviews with the incredible Lynn Mathews, who first came to Whistler in 1966, and one of these interviews included a mention of the opening.  According to Mathews, who had previously arranged public relations events in New York City, the opening reception for the Whistler Sewer Plant “went over very, very nicely.”  Her claim is supported in The Whistler Question by both Paul Burrows and Jenny Busdon, who reported on the event.

Lonely toilet stands ready to serve Parcel 16 in the Town Centre.  Whistler Question Collection, 1978.

The opening of the plant began at Myrtle Philip School, where there was a display of photographs and diagrams showing the plan construction and a brief history of Whistler, tours of the valley by bus and helicopter, and a display of Ice Stock Sliding, a sport that became popular during the winter months when Whistler Mountain had closed due to lack of snow.  The main event was a lunch prepared by chef Roger Systad, including roast duck, salmon, imported cheeses and liver pate.

The lunch was accompanied by speeches from Mayor Pat Carleton and special guests including the Honourable Hugh Curtis, Minister of Municipal Affairs, and the Honourable Jack Pearsall, the MP for the area.

The day also included guided tours of the plant facilities with representatives from the engineering firm on hand to answer questions.  The review from Burrows said, “The plant is a modern design that provides complete treatment based on the proven extended aeration process.  It is quite interesting to see the plant in full operation.”

Though it may seem like an odd occasion to celebrate, the importance of the Whistler Sewer Plant was clearly stated by Mayor Carleton, who concluded that, “The foundation of Whistler’s future is this plant and sewer system.”  Construction of the Whistler Village officially began one year later.

Construction of the Whistler Village: 1978 – 1984 will run through November 22.

Over 20 Years of Whistler Welcomes

November has traditionally been a time of arrivals in Whistler: the snow arrives in the valley (we hope) and new faces arrive for the upcoming season.

Over the past week you may have seen some (or been one) of these new residents throughout town getting their scavenger hunt passports stamped, attending classes at Meadow Park Sports Centre or playing board games at the Whistler Public Library.

While many board games can by played at Games Night at the Whistler Public Library, we don’t think the Whistler Challenge will be among those found there.  Does anyone have a copy of this Whistler game? Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

All of these activities are part of Connect Whistler, a weeklong Whistler introduction put on by Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) and community partners.  Though the name may not sound familiar, the idea behind it should be.  After all, WCSS has been officially welcoming new arrivals to Whistler for over a decade.

The first Whistler Welcome Week was put on in November 2003 by WCSS youth outreach workers Tessa McLoughlin and Greg McDonnell.  The week was designed to resemble “a healthier version of a university frosh week” and offered five alcohol-free events attended by over 1,300 people.

Some events, such as a volunteer fair and scavenger hunt, familiarized attendees with services and businesses available in Whistler.  There was also a snowboard film screening and the Moist Pool Party held at Meadow Park.  The week’s festivities culminated in Saturday’s Community Welcome Dinner.

Community meals have been held in the Whistler valley for decades.  Here the Alta Lake community gathered to ring in the new year.  Philip Collection.

Held at the conference centre, the Community Welcome Dinner sat new residents and old at a table together to share a meal provided by some of the town’s top chefs.  Whistler’s then-Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and his wife got to know eight young Australians the first year, discussing travel and the upcoming season.

The following year, the dinner was renamed in honour of Jill Ackhurst, a long-time community member and chair of the WCSS board of directors who died in 2003.

With the support of community partners such as LUNA, Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the RMOW, most of these events would remain Welcome Week staples over the next 12 years.

Other events were also added, ranging from a community rummage sale to workshops on tenants’ rights.

In 2016, WCSS announced a rebranding of Welcome Week.  The scavenger hunt, which used to be a single afternoon’s activity, has been reformed as a week-long opportunity to find and get familiar with local businesses and services, including the new WCSS building, the Re-Use-It Centre, the Whistler Library and even the Whistler Museum, with the incentive of some pretty great prizes.

Participants are also offered a chance to try out classes at Meadow Park, devour Rotary pancakes and ensure a good winter season by taking a plunge in Lost Lake.

With a few variations in dress, this photo easily could have been taken at the Whistler Museum last night. Whistler Question Collection, 1978.

Last night the Whistler Museum hosted Feeding the Spirit, the last in a long list of Connect Whistler events.  Thank you to everyone who joined up and we hope you learned something about Whistler’s history (if not, we’re open daily!).

A huge thank you to Creekside Market for their ongoing support of Feeding the Spirit, as well as all the local businesses that generously provide prizes.

Train Wreck Mystery Revealed

Train Wreck – the site of several abandoned box cars just south of Function Junction – has always been a little bit of a mystery to visitors.

We had always known that it had been there since the 1950s, but apart from that we knew very little about it. In 2013, our “Museum Musings” column in the Whistler Question newspaper featured the “mysterious” train wreck. We were subsequently approached by two members of the Valleau family (who ran a big logging operation in Mons at the time of the accident) who set the record straight once and for all.

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The abandoned box cars have been given new life by Whistler’s artist community.

The first to approach us, Rick Valleau, remembered his father talking about the train wreck. The second, Rick’s uncle Howard Valleau, actually remembered the incident first-hand!

Museum staff are frequently asked about Train Wreck’s backstory, so  we are delighted to have these accounts which shed light on one of Whistler’s most unique attractions.

Here, therefore, is the firsthand account of the definitive guide to Train Wreck: The crash occurred in 1956 shortly after the Valleau family had moved to the area. The wreck happened on an area of track constricted by rock cuts, and there were three boxcars loaded with lumber jammed in there, blocking the line. The PGE Railway’s equipment couldn’t budge them so the company approached the Valleau family.

The Valleaus took their logging machinery (a couple of D8 Cats) down to the site, put a hitch (luff) on with two moving blocks to the boxcar and pried them out. They then dragged the cars up the track and into the forest, where they lie today. To all those who were confused by the fact that there is no damage to the trees around the wreck, this is because the train did not come off the rails at this point, but the boxcars were moved there after the fact.

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The unique ambiance of these colourfully graffitied boxcars amidst mature, open forest (not to mention the impressive mountain bike stunts) makes for one of the Whistle Valley’s favourite attractions.

The train had been assembled in Lillooet by John Millar, a conductor for the PGE. Millar told the story to Howard Valleau, as follows: The train had four engines. There was a mistake made on the tonnage of the train, making it too heavy, and they had to split the train to get up the grade to Parkhurst (on Green Lake). This put them behind schedule, and they tried to make up time by  travelling a little faster than usual. The speed limit on that section of rail was only 15 mph (24 km/h). The fourth engine turned a rail, causing the train wreck. They checked the tape in the engine, which told how fast they were going – the crew had thought the speed was 15mph, but in fact it was 35 mph (56 km/h).

Millar told Howard Valleau that had they known the actual speed, they would have taken the tapes out. The engineer and crew were subsequently fired after the investigation into the wreck.

Access to the Trainwreck site has in recent years been complicated by the fact that it involved a sustained stretch of walking on the train tracks – illegal trespassing. We are very excited to spread the news that the RMOW has overseen the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Cheakamus River, providing alternative, legal  access to the outdoor museum and impromptu art gallery. We hope you are able to go visit the Trainwreck, for the first or the fiftieth time, again soon.

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Revolution: Whistler MTB in Photos & Art

So we’re in the final countdown leading up to our first ever Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week. Here we’d like to focus on one specific event that we’re especially excited about, Revolution: Whistler MTB in Photography and Art.

This is a photography and art show we’ve organized that will be on display in the Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre (formerly known as Millennium Place) from May 16 th -June 13th . The show features some of the world’s leading mountain bike photographers, artists, and athletes, including the work of Sterling Lorence, Justa Jeskova, Reuben Krabbe, and many more.

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This photo by Robin O’Neill, portraying an epic climb on Whistler Mountain during the Samurai of Singletrack race, is one of more than 30 images comprising our Revolution MTB art show.

While the art on display is absolutely top-notch, the images have been selected to portray the full range of the Whistler MTB experience, including the strong sense of culture and community that exists here. Images range from alpine to valley bottom, in all weather and light conditions, with world-class pros and Average Joes, showcasing the trails, terrain, talent, and passion that makes Whistler a Mecca of the global mountain biking scene.

As with all shows in the Gallery at Maury Young, this is 100% free to check out, just head in at any time during the Arts Centre’s regular hours.

Artwork on display has been generously donated by the artists and will be available for purchase via silent auction, with all proceeds going to support mountain bike-related programming and archival work at the Whistler Museum. To check out all of the pieces, and to place a bid, simply head to: http://www.32auctions.com/mtbweek

This exhibit is produced with generous support from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and in partnership with the Whistler Arts Council.

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Even if you weren’t able to get one of your biking shots included in the show, we’ve devised a way for everyone to get in on the action. We’re having a mountain bike photography contest, with the chance to win a canvas print of one of the photos on display at the show.

Entry is easy, simply post your best Whistler mountain biking photos to Facebook or Instagram, tag the @WhistlerMuseum and #WhistlerMTBWeek, and you’re entered. The contest will stay open until May 31st , after which we’ll select our favourite for the grand prize. Easier than changing a flat!

We hope to see you at some of this week’s MTB Week events, kicking off Wednesday May 18th at 6pm at the Whistler Museum with “Dirt Masters: Whistler Trail-building Through the Decades” featuring panelists Eric Wight (Whistler Backroads), Jerome David (former WORCA Trails Director), and Dan Raymond (builder of Wizard Burial Ground, Lord of the Squirrels, and many more). Tickets are $10, $5 for members of WORCA and the Whistler Museum.

See you there, or on the trails!

Whistler MTB Heritage Week

Over the last three decades, mountain biking has woven itself into the fabric of our community and Whistler’s distinct biking scene has spread its influence across the world. To celebrate this proud tradition, the Whistler Museum is hosting our first ever Mountain Bike Heritage Week, a full series of daily events running from May 18-23rd.

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We will be holding three separate Speaker Series events, each focusing on different aspects of Whistler’s MTB scene, beginning with an ode to those unsung heroes of the biking world – the trailbuilders. Dirtmasters: Whistler Trailbuilding through the Decades will explore the past, present, and future of Whistler’s world class trail network.

With thousands of dedicated riders, it’s safe to classify Whistler’s biking community as a horde of raving die-hards. Find out how our local scene grew from niche to enormous at Whistler MTB: Building a Community, a panel discussion featuring local organizers, coaches, and more on Saturday May 21st. The Speaker Series trilogy concludes the following evening as we expand our view outward with Whistler MTB Gone Global, featuring local riders and entrepreneurs speaking firsthand to the worldwide influence and appeal of Whistler mountain biking.

photo: Robin O'neill

Riders climb towards Whistler Peak during the Samurai of Singletrack race. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Robin O’Neill

 

It is a mountain bike festival, after all, so there’s more than just panel discussions going on. May 19th, being a Thursday night, we’ll be teaming up with the leading institution of Whistler’s MTB community, WORCA’s weekly Toonie Ride. Riders will be encouraged to break out the spandex, the clunkers, and any other retro gear stashed away in storage that you just couldn’t bear to part with. The ride will begin at the bottom of Scotia Creek on Whistler’s westside.

For all the freeriders out there, we are organizing a free screening of the classic freeride film Kranked 3 on Friday May 20th at Forlise Whistler in Mountain Square. We’re especially excited to be able to include a filmmaker Q&A with special guests Bjorn Enga and Christian Begin.

A legendary rider on a legendary feature. Brett Tippie on Whistler Mountain. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Margus Riga

A legendary rider on a legendary feature. Brett Tippie on Whistler Mountain. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Margus Riga

Underpinning the whole festival is Revolution: Whistler MTB in Photography and Art, featuring some of the world’s leading mountain bike photographers, artists, and athletes, including Sterling Lorence, Justa Jeskova, Reuben Krabbe, and many more. Running from May 15th until June 14th at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, this exhibit will showcase the trails, terrain, talent, and passion that makes Whistler a Mecca of the global mountain biking scene.

Artwork on display has been generously donated by the artists and will be available for purchase via silent auction, with all proceeds going to support mountain bike-related programming and archival work at the Whistler Museum. This exhibit is produced with generous support from the RMOW, and in partnership with the Whistler Arts Council.

Local riders enjoying the recent expansion of bike trails into the alpine. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Justa Jeskova.

Local riders enjoying the recent expansion of bike trails into the alpine. Check out this photo and many more at The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, May 15-June 14th. Photo: Justa Jeskova.

The Whistler Museum will also be showcasing historic photographs and artifacts as we unveil a new display about Whistler’s mountain bike heritage in our permanent exhibit. Everyone is invited to come check it out during our regular admission hours or during one of the three evening Speaker Series events.

Everyone is encouraged to enter our Instagram contest, simply by tagging their riding shots with #WhistlerMTBWeek between now and May 23rd. Our favourite shots will be selected for great swag and prizes from our many awesome sponsors.

Of course it wouldn’t be a mountain bike festival without a ton of actual riding, so keep your ears and eyes open for a number of impromptu and informal group rides and bike park hot laps throughout the week.

Whistler Mountain Bike Heritage Week is produced by the Whistler Museum in partnership with WORCA, the Great Outdoors Festival, the Whistler Arts Council, and Forlise Whistler. It would not be possible without the generous support of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Province of British Columbia, Deep Cove Brewing, Chromag Cycles, Vorsprung Suspension, Whistler-Blackcomb, Whistler Bike Co., & David’s Tea.

Al Raine – Ski Industry Legend, Visionary, and a Pretty Cool Dude

When ski racing legend Al Raine made the move to Whistler in 1973, he had already established himself as head coach and program director of the Canadian National Alpine Ski Team at the age of 32. Around this time, the provincial government was looking for an individual to provide technical expertise and coordinate provincial ski expansion, as well as oversee the development of Whistler as a tourist destination resort. With his extensive background in the ski industry, Raine was the perfect candidate to act as a liaison between the municipality and the provincial government. Thus, Al was approached about a position and he accepted in May 1974. As acting Ski Area Coordinator of B.C. and alderman for the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), one of Al’s first tasks was assisting in the building of a sewer plant that would service the entire valley.

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With the completion of the new sewer system, the Whistler council turned their attention to creating a central village. When the government asked their appointed ski coordinator to report on the realistic achievable goals for Whistler, Al remained positive that it had the potential to become a world-class ski resort, despite the weakness that was B.C.’s coastal climate. He was confident that with good skiing on the upper mountains, solid lifts, and a village, success would be imminent. At the same time, this meant that more lifts were vital, seeing as upward of 2400 people could be seen standing in line for hours at a time, waiting to get onto a mountain with a capacity of 600 skiers per hour.

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The original Resort Municipality of Whistler Council. Pictured from left to right: Alderman Bob Bishop, Alderman Al Raine, Treasurer Geoff Pearce, Mayor Pat Carleton, Alderman John Hetherington, Alderman Gary Watson

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Al Raine and wife, Nancy Greene Raine, enjoying a day out on the slopes

With local government starting to take shape, Al began to look toward the possibility of a future for Blackcomb. In September of 1976, he put out a proposal call to develop the mountain. After months of silence, a bid finally came in from the Aspen Ski Corporation of Colorado in joint venture with the Canadian Federal Business Development Bank. Once final terms were ironed out and the deal agreed upon, investors had the go ahead to complete phase one of development, and on December 6, 1980, Blackcomb Mountain opened with 1240 vertical meters of skiing available.

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Al Raine shaking hands with Whistler’s first mayor, Pat Carleton, ca. 1975

Al’s position as B.C.’s ski area coordinator included more than just Whistler. He also studied 45 areas province wide, giving site evaluations on their probability. In 1980, Al stepped down from his position and took the job of General Manager of the newly formed Whistler Resort Association. The organization was responsible for scheduling events at Whistler while providing basic information, central reservations, and marketing promotions for the resort. Today, Al and his wife Nancy can be seen in Whistler skiing, golfing, and playing tennis. After years of hard work and dedication, Al Raine has the opportunity to enjoy the vision of Whistler that he assisted in creating.