Tag Archives: ski trails

Trail Names Celebrate History: Own A Piece Thursday

On Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, names are often used to tell a story.  Even names that began as simple descriptions of a place have evolved over time to share a part of Whistler’s history (after all, there is nothing round about the Roundhouse these days).  Names of trails, lifts and structures on the mountains are recorded on trail maps, in operational lists and, most visibly, on the signs that direct skiers and snowboarders around Whistler and Blackcomb.

The trail names of the two mountains have hundreds of stories behind them, some hotly contested and some documented.  Because we’ve got names on our minds, we’re sharing the meaning behind a few here.

One of the best-known stories is likely the tale behind Burnt Stew, which actually occurred before Whistler Mountain even opened for skiing.  During the summer of 1958, museum founder Florence Petersen and friends Kelly Fairhurst and Don Gow were camping on Whistler and, forgetting to stir the dinner left cooking in an old billycan, the smell of burning stew began to waft through the air, setting up the moniker we still use to this day.

Florence Petersen and friend Don Gow enjoy a (possibly overcooked) meal in Burnt Stew Basin.  Petersen Collection.

Other trails were named by or for people who loved to ski them.  Chunky’s Choice was the favourite run of Chunky Woodward, one of the founding directors of Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. and a member of the Vancouver department store Woodward family.  Over on Blackcomb, Xhiggy’s Meadow was named for Peter Xhignesse, one of the original ski patrollers on Blackcomb Mountain.

A Whistler Mountain trail map from simpler days. Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Many of the names on Blackcomb reference the valley’s forestry history, which was active into the 1970s.  A catskinner, for example, is a tractor driver, a cruiser is a logger who surveys standing timber for volume and a springboard is a board used to provide a place to stand when hand-felling large trees.

There are also names that describe something about the trail.  According to our sources, Boomer Bowl gets its name from the vibration that rattled windows in Alpine Meadows when the bowl was bombed by avalanche control.  Windows today may not rattle in quite the same way, but it is still noticeable in Alpine when avalanche control is active near Harmony.

While trail names don’t change frequently, the signs they are inscribed on are replaced every so often.  On Thursday, February 7, the museum and Whistler Blackcomb Foundation are offering the chance to own a piece of Whistler’s mountain history with the sale of over 250 unique trail signs taken off of Whistler and Blackcomb as a fundraiser for both organizations.

Some of the signs have quite literally taken over the Whistler Museum.

Whether you love the trail the name signifies or the significance behind the name (or you just really want to let people know when to lower their restraining device) chances are you’ll find a sign that reminds you of days spent on the mountains.

Signs will be available for purchase at whistlerblackcombfoundation.com from 10 am on February 7.  Signs can be picked up from the Whistler Museum during our opening hours on February 9, 10 & 14.

If you want to learn more about the stories behind trail names, take a look here and here.

Plans for Lost Lake: Then and Now

By guest blogger, Diana Caputo

In 1980 Alta Lake Sports Club compiled a proposal to build cross-country ski trails in the Lost Lake area. At that time cross-country skiing was on the rise and was already a major sporting activity, with many competitor resorts progressing with new terrain for the sport.

The goal of the initial idea was to offer cross-country ski trails suitable for a variety of purposes; the Floodlight run was designed for evening skiing, and runs to support competitions were in the works. It was important to provide grooming and separate hiking trails in winter but also attract hikers, walkers and runners in summer.

The network of trails proposed were split into three areas:

  • School Ground to Lost Lake
  • Northwest of Lost Lake
  • High plateau north of Lost Lake
alsc map003

Proposal for the Construction of Crosscountry ski trails in the Lost Lake Municipal Park, 1980.

The proposal went ahead, although not to the exact specifications. So what has been changed and what is it like today?

Comparing the two maps we can see traces of the original proposed trails in the current landscape; however, today Lost Lake offers much more than originally envisioned. Even the cross-country ski trails boast a wide range of skill-levels. Although the former idea of the Floodlight run is not as originally intended, there are currently four kilometres of lit trail constructed for night skiing. Besides that, there are many snowshoe and Nordic hiking trails provided in winter; although, on the down side, winter walkers are not permitted nowadays.

As soon as the snow hits, it is quite busy on the Lost Lake trails. Unfortunately, the snow conditions over the last two years have been less than ideal, which has caused delays for opening day. Because of this recent pattern of reluctant snowfall, the Municipality of Whistler is considering installing snowmakers to avoid delays in the coming years.

In summer the Lost Lake Park provides much more than planned back in 1980. Lost Lake attracts hikers, runners, dog-walkers, and bikers, with its great multi-use trail network. Lost Lake even offers a disc golf course, sandy beaches, docks, and BBQ areas. Not a bad place to spend your summer days.

[Click to view summer map]

Lost Lake Park also offers cross-country ski, snowshoe, and bike rentals, as well as lessons, and guided tours of the area. I can’t stress enough how enjoyable and impressive the park is in both summer and winter. We’re fortunate to have such a place here in Whistler.