Tag Archives: Ski Boot Motel

Building the Boot

Visitors coming to Whistler today have a variety of accommodation options, from campsites to luxury hotel suites, but in the 1970s there weren’t nearly as many choices. In 1972, Garibaldi’s Whistler News described the situation as: “There are no big, fancy resort-type hotels in the area offering everything under the sun. Instead, scattered around the base of the lifts are numerous inns and restaurants offering a good selection of accommodations and dining facilities.” Most of these establishments, such as the Cheakamus Inn, Highland Lodge, and Christiana Inn, were located around the area now known as Creekside. The Ski Boot, however, was a little further away.

Ski Boot Hotel, later the Shoestring Lodge and Boot Pub

In 1966, David and Irene Andrews purchased a ten-acre site along Highway 99 and Fitzsimmons Creek for $10,000, about 5 km north of the newly opened gondola base. Over the next year, they began construction of the Ski Boot Motel, a “modern” motel expected to open during the 1967/68 ski season. The Andrews offered a variety of accommodations in their 32 units, from private rooms to suites that slept eight. During its first season, the Ski Boot Motel provided reasonable rates, sometimes as low as $5/night, and even offered a “ski week” that included five nights accommodations, meals, and lift tickets for just $67.50.

Over the next few years, more development was planned and built north of the ski lifts, though the majority of the lodges and nightlife continued to be found around the gondola base. In 1971, the Andrews announced a major investment of $100,000 (today about $1.35 million) in their Ski Boot property, now called the Ski Boot Lodge Hotel, to turn it into “Whistler’s Largest and Most Complete Tourist Resort.” They proposed to add a full-service dining room, cocktail lounge, beer parlour, convention facilities, laundromat, Finnish sauna, and additional accommodations, along with plans for live entertainment and a bus to transport skiers between the lifts and the lodge (the purple bus became known to some as the “Purple People Eater,” no double from the 1958 song). The beer parlour opened to the public (guests and residents alike) in January 1972, with the dining room following that March. The lodge also introduced two new members of staff that season: two St. Bernard puppies named Ski and Boot. While rates did increase during the period, the Ski Boot continued to be known for reasonable prices.

The Ski Boot Hotel and Bus, with additions under construction. WMSC Collection

The Andrews reportedly sold the Ski Boot Lodge Hotel for $350,000 in 1973, though not much is known about this period. Over the next few decades, the property was sold numerous times and went by various names, including the White Gold Inn (during which time exotic dancing was first introduced), Fitzsimmons Lodge, Bavarian Inn, and the Shoestring Lodge. The term “Boot,” however, continued to be associated with the property and specifically the Boot Pub.

Despite being located outside of both the gondola base and later the Whistler Village, the Andrews’ early commitment to reasonable rates and additions to the original lodge laid the foundation for the Boot to grow into an institution as the Whistler area continued to develop and grow. Though it closed its doors in 2006 and was then demolished, many residents and visitors still fondly share their stories of times spent at the Boot, whether they stayed there when they first arrived in Whistler, ate at Gaitors as a child, or spent memorable evenings at the bar.

Visiting a Different Whistler

There is a lot to do in Whistler in the summer, even with the restrictions currently in place across British Columbia.  You can go up the mountains to hike and ride the Peak 2 Peak, hike throughout the valley, relax at a lake, or even visit Whistler’s Cultural Connector (which includes the Whistler Museum).  What about, however, if you had visited Whistler during the summer of 1980?

Thanks to Whistler News, a supplement published by The Whistler Question, we can get an idea of what summer visitors to Whistler could have expected forty years ago.

The Whistler Village at the base of Whistler Mountain as visitors would have found it in the summer of 1980. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The first step to visiting Whistler was getting here.  Though it’s relatively easy today to find your way to Whistler, in 1980 there were no directional signs in Vancouver pointing the way and Whistler News encouraged drivers to obtain a road map and head north on Highway 99.  The drive up included a 12km section through the Cheakamus Canyon that was set to be realigned and improved by 1981 but was still somewhat treacherous.  This was still an easier route than those from the north.  The route to Whistler through Bralorne was suitable only for 4-wheel drive vehicles and the Duffy Lake Road would not be paved until 1992.

Visitors had a choice of lodgings, both in and near to Whistler.  While some of these lodgings, such as the Highland Lodge and Whistler Creek Lodge, are still standing, others such as the Alpine Lodge (a lodge and cabins located in Garibaldi, which the provincial government declared unsafe in 1980) and the White Gold Inn (more commonly known as the Ski Boot Motel) have since been demolished.  Those looking to camp had quite a few options, including a BC Hydro campground at Daisy Lake and a forestry camp at the Cheakamus and Callaghan Rivers.  Supposedly, the summer of 1980 was also going to see the construction of new camping facilities as part of Lost Lake.

Lost Lake south shore showing where a beach and picnic ground will be built. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

Whistler also offered a variety of dining options, from Chinese cuisine at the Alta Lake Inn Dining Room to the Keg at Adventures West.  Those looking to provide their own meals, however, were encouraged to plan ahead, as the only grocery shopping in the area was at the Gulf and Husky Mini-Marts.

Visitors could still do many of the things that have brought people to Whistler in recent summers.  They could go hiking around the valley (Lost Lake was recommended as having the “spectacular sight” of the ski jump) and spend time around and on Whistler’s lakes, where windsurfing was becoming increasingly popular.  Those more interested in snow could attend the 15th year of the Toni Sailer Ski Camp, perfecting their skiing under the direction of Toni Sailer, Nancy Greene, Wayne Wong and Bob Dufour.

The group at the Sailer Fischer Ski Camp party catered by the Keg. (L to R) Wayne Wong, Wayne Booth, Schultz, Nancy Greene, Toni Sailer, Rookie, Alan White. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The summer of 1980 was also a season of huge changes in the area and would have offered visitors many opportunities to view construction in the valley.  There was not yet a Whistler Village as we know it today.  In the Town Centre the first buildings of Phase I were expected to open that season and construction of Phase II buildings was underway.  Late in the summer Whistler Mountain installed its first lifts that ran from what would become the Whistler Village.  At the same time Blackcomb Mountain was building its first lifts, as well as on-mountain restaurants and utility buildings.

Blackcomb’s President and General Manager Hugh Smythe shows Whistler Mayor Pat Carleton the new ski runs from the base of Lift 2 during a recent tour by the mayor of the Blackcomb facilities. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

With all this construction, changing businesses and development, it’s no surprise that summer visitors to the museum will often tell us that Whistler is almost unrecognizable as the same place they visited in the 1970s or 1980s.