Tag Archives: Sandy Boyd

Expo 86 – Putting BC on the Map

Expo 86 is widely credited as turning Vancouver from a sleepy regional city into the international destination that is it today, while also increasing the awareness of surrounding areas including Whistler and Victoria.

Expo 86 was a big deal throughout BC. Here Expo Ernie, the Expo astronaut mascot, is being paraded through Whistler in March 1984. Whistler Question Collection.

In 1986, Vancouver threw a party and the world accepted the invite. The 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication, usually just called Expo 86, ran from May to October and had a visitation of over 22 million people, far exceeding original estimates. Many hopes for the region were pinned on Expo, which also far exceeded its initial budget. Full colour brochures were distributed extensively to encourage Expo visitors to travel to Whistler. According to the Whistler Question ahead of the opening of Expo on May 3 1986, the brochures were to be as ‘ubiquitous as the Gideon bible in Lower Mainland hotels and information centres this summer.’

Telemark Skiers, Luise and Pascal, and the Whistler Singers, during a performance of Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow during Expo 86. Expo 86 Collection.

World Expo is a long-running exhibition designed to highlight global achievements. Over 40 nations from around the world descended on Vancouver with their pavilions centred around the theme of transportation and communication.

Opening week of Expo saw over 55,000 people join the celebration in Vancouver, including hundreds of Whistlerites, and special guests the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana. In the first week a group of talented Whistler locals, including the Whistler Singers, performed Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow, a song, dance and comedy production created for Expo and performed in the BC Pavilion. They had previously performed the witty well-orchestrated theatre piece for the community at Rainbow Theatre in the lead up to Expo, finishing with a standing ovation.

Sandy Boyd, the ‘downhill comedian’ in Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow. Expo 86 Collection.

Despite the visitors flocking to Vancouver, Whistler did not initially receive the influx of guests that it had anticipated. At the beginning of July, two months into Expo, visitor numbers were down for Whistler when compared to May/June 1985. At this time, summers were already quiet, and this was not the world-stage premiere that Whistler had been hoping for. Additionally, visitors who booked accommodation in Whistler expecting to commute to Expo daily were often sadly mistaken, wiping their brows as they arrived after the long and windy drive. However, the nice weather eventually arrived and visitation picked up with August and September becoming the busiest summer months yet for Whistler.

While the visitor numbers were not dramatically different, the Expo in Vancouver brought a different clientele. The usual visitors from the Lower Mainland enjoyed the Expo atmosphere, playing host and tourist closer to home, while the guests visiting Whistler over the summer were coming from further away and staying longer. Traffic from the USA in particular increased. Studies commissioned at the time found that awareness of BC had increased more than 60% amongst people in California due to Expo.

Additionally, having Expo in Vancouver was pushing lots of conventions to Whistler because there was more accommodation. The Convention Centre had finally opened in June 1985 and many conferences made Whistler their home for the first time in 1986, including the Social Credit Party Leadership Convention, spreading the word throughout a population who might not otherwise visit.

The finale of Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow in the BC Pavilion, May 7 1986. Expo 86 Collection.

According to Drew Meredith, who became mayor in 1986 after Expo ended, until this time when people heard ‘Whistler’ they thought of pot-smoking hippies and a ski resort. Expo 86 changed that. “You had to get the right people and get the right message out, and I think Expo 86 did that. Expo was such a huge showcase of BC in the summertime. It was all killer whales, forests, mountains, and waterfalls. It was an amazing advertising campaign around the world.” Whistler went on to host another big party, the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2010, and today visitors come from all around the world in both summer and winter.

Making It Snow

For the first decade of operations on Whistler Mountain, an abundance of snow was normal for the ski season. The season of 1973/74 was a record-setting winter, with Whistler Mountain recording a base of just over 5 m in the early spring. After so many seasons, most people had grown to expect Whistler always to have lots of snow. According to John Hetherington, who was working on ski patrol at the time, “We just thought it would go on forever.” Then, just a few years later, it didn’t.

The season of 1976/77 is often described as one of the worst ski seasons Whistler Mountain has ever had. The Whistler Question reported that over the American Thanksgiving weekend, “a few hardy souls went up the mountain to hike up & down either at the top of the red or the ridge behind the top of the blue chair.” By Christmas it had snowed a little bit more and Whistler Mountain was able to open, but skiers had to download by the Red Chair and the gondola. Then, in January 1977, it rained to the top of the ski area and washed away what little snow there was. The lift company closed for the rest of the month and well into February.

The Whistler Question, January 1977.

This complete lack of snow inspired the first attempt at making snow on Whistler Mountain. While today snowmaking is carefully planned, has a large infrastructure, and follows procedures, that was not the situation described by Hetherington and fellow patroller Roger McCarthy. According to Hetherington, “Back then, Whistler was pretty wild and out there and things were pretty loose… Nobody gave a damn what you did on the mountain.” In this case, what ski patrol did was use an entire case of Submagel (the explosive often used in avalanche control) to blow a huge crater in the creek at the bottom of the Green Chair.

They built a dam at one end of the crater, got some pumps, borrowed a snow gun from Grouse Mountain (Grouse had installed the first snowmaking system in British Columbia in 1973), and began making snow to get skiers to the bottom of the Green Chair without having to carry their skis for the last 100 m or so. Once the crater slowly filled, it could support about two to three hours of snowmaking. However, McCarthy recalled that the system was far from perfect: “The challenge was that any time we tried to make snow, it got cold enough to make snow, the water would stop running and stop filling the little creek and we’d end up sucking mud into the pumps. So it wasn’t that successful, but it was the beginning.” Packer drivers were able to spread what snow they did make to form a narrow run to the bottom of the Green Chair, providing some temporarily skiable terrain.

Ian Boyd demonstrates the ins and outs of an SMI snow-making machine capable of producing enough snow to cover one acre one-half inch deep in one hour in 1982. With the addition of more machines and proper reservoirs and infrastructure on Whistler, snowmaking became more common through the 1980s. Whistler Question Collection, 1982.

This first attempt at making snow signalled a shift in thinking as the lift company was forced to realize that they would not always get the snow there were used to. In 1981, Sandy Boyd was hired as Gondola Area Coordinator for the lift company and, already having experience with snowmaking, Boyd brought more snowmaking to Whistler through the 1980s. Today, as the questions of snowfall and the impacts of climate change on Whistler are never far from mind, snowmaking is an important part of mountain operations and it is not uncommon on a clear night to see the snowguns at work on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

This Week In Photos: December 6

If there’s one thing most of the photos from this week have in common, it’s snow!  Seeing these images, we’re hoping for some more in the valley soon.

1978

Only at Whistler – local top-hatted chimney sweep at work in the snow!

Thursday was not a good day for some! Above, Squamish Freightways truck tangles with the school sign.

Municipal 4×4 tries to get a motorist out of a ditch on Thursday.

All smiles! John Howells (left) receives the Citizen of the Year award from Paul Burrows while Drew Meredith looks on.

The Rotary Exchange students on the steps of the Roundhouse.

The new municipal skating rink recently constructed adjacent to the school.

1979

Kindergarten students build their first snowpeople of the season – left to right: Brie Minger, Joanne Den Duyf, Nonie Bredt, Beau Jarvis, Andrew Hofmann.

The gondola area showing the early arrivals in the parking lot – the Wosk lot is the empty one centre right.

Bridge abutments for the new bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek to service Blackcomb Mountain.

RCMP officer Terry Barter and Major with students at Myrtle Philip School.

1980

The giant cake prepared for the Fourth Inaugural meeting of the Resort Municipality of Whistler Council.

The Blackcomb Snowhosts: (l to r) Cathy Hansen, Shelley Phalen, Tom Kelley and Charlotte Sheriff.

The balloon shape is covering Whistler Resort & Club’s pool from Whistler’s harsh winter.

The new sign at the entrance to the Town Centre is completed.

An unidentified fireman, Chief Lindsay Wilson and Rick Crofton hose down a fire damaged cabin in Alta Vista.

Leo Lucas checks out the newly refurbished Roundhouse before the crowds arrive. New appointments include carpets, roll-away seating and various touchups.

1981

Barb Newman, of Whistler Tops, models a cap and one of the many rugby shirts available in the new Village Square store.

Jason, Harley and Dylan Stoneburgh stand proudly in front of the snowmen they built in Alpine Meadows after the first storm of the winter.

Sandy Boyd, the new Gondola Area Co-ordinator for Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. Sandy, who has twelve years experience in the ski industry, will be responsible for the organization of all systems at the Gondola base.

Bearing gifts and a song, Susan Jacks, formerly of the Poppy Family, will be one of the stars in an upcoming CBC special partly filmed in Whistler.

Myrtle Philip students take part in a ‘Western Day’ at the school.

A sneak preview of the new Black Forest Restaurant in the former White Gold Inn.

1982

Highways crews clear up the debris left by a December 3 rock slide on Highway 99 near M. Creek.

Slim and Margaret Foughberg open a gift presented to Slim for his service to the Howe Sound School Board. Together they have served Howe Sound continuously (except for two years) since 1946.

Mayor Mark Angus is sworn into office by Municipal Clerk Kris Shoup-Robinson at Council’s inaugural meeting December 6.

A young batch of new skiers shapes up for the slopes under the rigorous command of ski shop owner Jim McConkey, who put them through their paces December 6.

Myrtle Philip School library helpers enjoy a well-earned lunch. Irene Pope, Judy Fosty, Kelly Macwell and Candy Rustad. Missing is Mrs. Demidoff.

1984

Twyla Picton and Rolf Zeller were out cross-country skiing in the sub-freezing temperatures Whistler has experienced for the previous week. Cross-country skiing in the valley is the best in years with a total of 195 cm of snow fallen in November.

Work on the Conference Centre continues with the construction of a wall partition above the second floor. The wooden frame structure behind the scaffold will be attached to a moveable partition that will allow Conference Centre organizers to divide the main hall into two separate meeting areas.

Ski instructor Stephanie Sloan from Whistler Mountain was the grand prize winner in the Beaujolais Nouveau contest. Sloan will receive a trip for two via CP Air and KLM plus two days in Burgundy hosted by Rene Pedauque. Select Wines representative Wendy Taylor, Sarah Kuhleitner from Citta’s and the WRA’s June Paley picked the winners Sunday in Whistler’s first ever Beaujolais Nouveau celebration.

BC Supreme Court Justice Samuel Toy swears in Whistler’s four new aldermen in council chambers Monday. Moments before, Judge Toy also officially authorized Mayor Terry Rodgers as the municipality’s third ever mayor. The four new aldermen are (left to right) Doug Fox, Paul Burrows, Diane Eby and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. A reception followed the inaugural meeting of council.