The official blog of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society
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Tag Archives: summer skiing
It’s been a long, nostalgic winter of celebrating Whistler’s Golden Anniversary. But just as Whistler is known for deep snowpacks that sustain the snow-sliding revelry well past winter, we have an abundance of stories this year to push our regular Speaker Series programming well into spring.
Considering the circumstances, it is only fitting that we prolong our season-long retrospective on our resort’s proud ski history with an event paying tribute to that seasonal oddity peculiar to Whistler, summer skiing. The evening of Friday May 6th we will be hosting a Speaker Series focused on fifty years of summer skiing camps on Whistler’s glaciers.
Summer glacier skiing in Whistler is as old as the resort itself, having begun during the inaugural season of 1966. Beginning with the original Toni Sailer camps and later Dave Murray camps on Whistler, then moving to Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier in the 1980s, with Camp of Champions, Momentum Camps, to name just a few, summer skiing in Whistler has been a novel way to compliment and extend the regular ski season, promote the resort with a veritable who’s who of celebrity athletes and guest coaches, and create fifty years of memorable and unique experiences.
Former camper and ski history enthusiast Alex Douglas has organized a weekend long “Whistler Summer Camp Reunion” series of events, with this Speaker Series included. There will also be a reunion dinner hosted at Creekbread on the Saturday, and, of course, group ski outings during the day. One need not be a former camper to attend the Speaker Series event.
The crew from the 1969 Toni Sailer Summer Camp, including (front row at left) Alan White and Nancy Greene, and Toni Sailer himself (back row, 2nd from right).
The Speaker Series will open with a screening of footage and a short film dating back to the original Toni Sailer Summer Camps of the 1960s and 70s. After the film will be a panel discussion featuring Canadian ski racing legend and former summer camp coach Nancy Greene-Raine, Alan White, founding manager of Toni Sailer camps and one of the true ski pioneers of Whistler, and former coach from the Dave Murray Summer Camp era, Mark Taylor.
Needless to say, this is a wonderful panel of speakers and we are extremely excited to host them and hear their stories.
Doors will open at 6pm, with the presentations beginning at 7pm. Tickets are $10, $5 for museum members. To purchase tickets, stop by the Whistler Museum or call us at 604-932- 2019. To ensure a seat, make sure to purchase in advance as this event will sell out.
As always, we will be serving complimentary coffee provided by the Whistler Roasting Company, assorted tea, and a cash bar serving beer and wine.
With daily temperatures reaching 20°C, lakes warming up, and the faint hint of sun tans beginning to appear, this can only mean one thing… summer is coming. Despite Whistler Blackcomb boasting the longest ski season in North America, June 7th 2015 marks the end of an extended ski season in Whistler for many. However, this is not the case for those die-hard skiers and boarders that defy the stereotypical image of a summer spent laying out on the beach with a cold drink in hand. For those wanting to get their ski/ride fix while simultaneously working on their tan (or goggle tan, to be more exact), you’re in luck as glacier skiing atop Blackcomb Mountain opens this year on June 20th.
While taking a look through our archive, I came across a 1980s video on summer glacier skiing on Whistler peak. It would seem that “ski bums” have been finding ways to escape the bustle of the mountain base and extend their ski season into June and July since the inception of Whistler Mountain in 1965, even before the merging of Whistler and Blackcomb in 1997/98. If you thought the trek from the base to Blackcomb’s peak was extensive, involving a ride up two chairlifts, followed by a bus ride to the base of the 7th Heaven Express, this is rather a simple means of transportation compared to what those dedicated snow bunnies did to reach some summertime snow in the 1980s.
As the video reveals, the trek from Whistler base to its glacier used to involve a 45 minute ride up the chairlift, followed by a 20 minute hike at 6000 feet across the face of Whistler mountain. Unlike today, in which Horstman Glacier is open to anyone looking to get some T-shirt clad skiing and riding in, glacier skiing during this time of year was only available to those registered in a ski camp. With less time-consuming transportation routes to Blackcomb’s peak now in operation and the ever-growing popularity of Whistler Blackcomb, glacier skiing has gone from being exclusive to those that are very serious about the sport to being accessible by all. That being said, due to the vertical of the glacier, its terrain park features, and world-class race training facilities, it tends to draw a crowd of more advanced/expert skiers and riders.
Regular operating hours for the Horstman Glacier are from 12:00 pm to 3:00pm daily, but for those that are eager to get a start on their summertime training, participating in one of Whistler’s many ski camps has its bonuses. These include earlier upload times and select private ski areas. Some of the more long-standing camps include the Camp of Champions, Treeline Summer Camps (formerly the Dave Murray Summer Ski and Snowboard Camp), and Momentum Ski Camp.
While I remain strictly a winter skier, I find the dedication of those willing to challenge mother nature and look for a different way to spend their summer months to be inspiring. As a relatively new Whistler local, I am delighted to become a part of a community that simply loves skiing and snowboarding.
Post by Alexandra Gilliss
Skiing in summer? In Whistler, that isn’t as crazy an idea as it sounds. With its year-round glaciers, everyone from pint-sized campers to larger-than-life ski stars have taken advantage of Whistler’s unique setting to squeeze in some turns during the “offseason.”
The sun-filled sky acts as a perfect balance to the chilled mountain air, leading to peak skiing conditions – pun definitely intended.
Since the first lifts were installed in the 1960s Whistler has always been was a popular ski destination. Perhaps a victim of its own success, long lineups during the Winter discouraged many impatient skiers, but during the summer this was not the case. Many become occupied with the variety of summer activities available in the Whistler area, such as canoeing on Alta Lake, so the mountain was left to the die-hard skiers.
Whistler’s Glacier Bowl was also the only permanent snowfield in Canada that was easily accessible by lifts, a convenience factor which trumped earlier summer skiing efforts powered by helicopters, or simply placing one foot ini front of the other with your ski gear on your back.
The first summer ski camps on the Whistler glacier were pioneered by Toni Sailer, a medal-winning member of the Austrian ski racing team. Sailer’s motivation behind developing the ski camp program on Whistler was largely driven by the need for competitive skiers to stay in shape and to improve their techniques between competition seasons, but as word of the camps spread recreational skiers also became active participants.
Four types of instruction (Advanced Racing, Intermediate and Novice Racing, Recreational, and Freestyle) became the norm, and accommodated skiers of all levels who received personalized instruction by internationally known skiers such as Nancy Greene Raine, Wayne Wong, and Jim McConkey.
These ski camps inspired many young skiers to enter the competitive world of ski racing, among them being Dave Murray, who attended his first Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camp at the age of 15. Murray quickly rose to fame as one of the Crazy Canucks – the Canadian ski racing team – who took the European-dominated ski racing world by storm with their reckless style of skiing.
After 10 years on the competitive ski racing circuit Murray retired to become the director of skiing at Whistler Mountain, as well as the organizer and lead instructor of the summer ski camps. In 1984, the name of Whistler’s most popular summer ski camp was officially changed to the Atomic Dave Murray Whistler Summer Ski Camp, and its fame grew to attract many skiers from Europe and Japan.
During the late 1980s the popularity of snowboarding on Blackcomb Mountain was also growing, prompting a need for the development of summer camps that catered to this new breed of mountain rider. The Snoboard Shop Camp of Champions (established in 1989) was one of the first summer camps to cater to snowboarders, and by 2008 60% of Whistler-Blackcomb campers were snowboarders, indicating a mass migration away from camps dedicated to the traditional snow sports.
Camps for all types of snow sport – as well as for the newer mountain biking market – have continued to grow in popularity in Whistler as the draw of the year-round glaciers continue to provide excellent conditions for Whistler’s summer ski and snowboard camps.