Tag Archives: Trudy Alder

Snow Way to Get Around

While we may not know how much snow Whistler will get each winter, one thing that can be relied upon is that snow makes travelling within the valley more interesting.  Historically, snow and ice greatly affected people’s mobility through the winter months.

While the snow could slow down the train (one year the railway snowplow reportedly got stuck in the snow near Pemberton for two weeks), the frozen lakes provided the early residents with another way to travel around the valley.

Myrtle Philip and Jean Tapley on their way to Tapley’s Farm over the snow. Philip Collection.

Bob and Florence Williamson moved to Alta Lake in 1930.  One year, Bob remembered, it snowed over two metres in just 48 hours at about -25°C.  According to him, “The snow was just like sugar.  When we got the roof shovelled off, the snow level was higher than the eaves and we had to shovel out the doors and windows.”  On occasion, the couple would skate to the end of Alta Lake, walk over to Green Lake, and skate over to visit with those living at the mill at Parkhurst.

By the late 1960s, when Trudy Alder arrived in the valley, the area had roads and automobiles weren’t such an uncommon sight.  In the winter, however, cars were still not an entirely reliable way to get around.  Trudy worked as a caretaker at the Tyrol Lodge on Alta Lake Road.  Because the road was not always cleared of snow, she would park the car at Alpine Village and walk home across Nita Lake.  To attend movie nights at the community hall, Trudy walked, often in the dark through deep snow (her first winter season at Alta Lake had 1.5 to 2.5 metres of snow in the valley) and accompanied by a pack of coyotes in the distance.

Ice skating across frozen Alta Lake was one way to get around the valley. Philip Collection.

For another group, the snow could be a bit of a burden.  Not too long after Whistler Mountain opened for skiing, Dorothy and Alex Bunbury purchased property almost a kilometre up the old Microwave Road (now known as Gondola Way) and built their ski cabin there.

The dirt road up to the cabin was used by BC Rail about once a week to access the microwave station.  In the winter, the Bunburys were fortunate if BC Rail’s trip had taken place on a Friday as that meant they got an easy walk up a packed-down road before their weekend of skiing.  If BC Rail hadn’t gone up recently, the skiers could be in for a long walk.

The development of Creekside and the surrounding areas as of 1970.   While there were roads, they weren’t alway plowed and some weren’t very drivable.  Whistler Mountain Collection.

On one memorable evening, the worst night Dorothy could remember, they arrived in Whistler to find 38 centimetres of powder with “an icy, breakable crust.”  Even snowshoes were no use on the icy surface.  Dorothy wrote, “There were four of us, all heavily burdened with packs, and we took turns breaking trait.  It took us about an hour and a half to walk into the cabin that night, and in the morning all awoke with bruised and painful shins.  That was one night when I would have gladly sold the whole mess for a train ride back to Vancouver.”

As we hope for more snow this season, consider your own favourite way of travelling through the cold, whether with skis, skates, snowshoes or very warm boots.

A Night at the Movies

For some people the long, dark and cold nights of winter are reason to stay warm indoors and catch up on episodes of something on television or watch movies in the comfort of your own home.

Though now a common way to spend an evening, television did not arrive in Whistler – then Alta Lake – until the 1960s and movie nights in Alta Lake began as community events.

In 1954, the Alta Lake Community Club (a social club formed by residents and regular visitors in the 1920s) raised enough money to buy a projector and began holding weekly movie nights in the community hall throughout the year.  On Saturday nights a film was shown using a sheet for a screen and a gas-powered generator for electricity.  In the busy summer season these screening would be followed by dancing.  Alta Lake resident Dick Fairhurst said of the film selection that, “perhaps they were not the most up to date, but they were fine as we had never seen them.”

The original Alta Lake schoolhouse also served as the valley's first community movie theatre.

The original Alta Lake schoolhouse also served as the valley’s first community movie theatre (among other purposes).

In recalling her first year living in the valley in 1968, Trudy Alder provides a description of a winter’s night at the movies: “The films started when it was dark as the hall did not have any curtains.  The shows were usually the social event of the week.  Everyone who could walk would come.  Sometimes there was a large audience of 25 people.  We could buy popcorn and soft drinks from the children.  Dogs were only allowed in the movies when you promised to have them sitting under your seat.  But they found out fast that it was better to snuggle with the children in a cozy pile on the floor in front of the front row.  You should have heard the howling if there was a dog or two in the movie.  For us these movie nights were half an hour walks each way in the deep snow.”

Denis and Pat Beauregard, who ran movie nights as ALCC volunteers, receiving silver coins for Whistler Mountain's 25th Anniversary from Maurice Young (centre).

Denis and Pat Beauregard, who ran movie nights as ALCC volunteers, receiving silver coins for Whistler Mountain’s 25th Anniversary from Maurice Young (centre).

Pat and Denis Beauregard ran the movie nights for eight years as volunteers in the 1960s and 70s, first in the community hall and then later in the cafeteria at the base of Whistler Mountain using a portable screen donated by Myrtle Philip.  For those who missed a show due to impassable roads, the Beauregards would provide an extra showing in their home.

The building of the Rainbow Theatre during the construction of the Village in the 1980s marked Whistler’s first commercial theatre.  Due to having only one screen and limited show times, however, movies continued in many ways to be community events (without the howling dogs), especially during the slower spring and fall seasons.

Today visitors and residents of Whistler have many options when deciding what to watch; Village 8 Cinemas opened in December 2002 with multiple showings of various films daily, the Whistler Public Library has a large collection of movies that can be borrowed for free and streaming services such as Netflix provide access to films without the need for walking through the snow at all.

From Drinks to Whistler

Wandering around the Village late afternoon in March, you would be hard-pressed not to stumble across patrons enjoying a frosty glass of suds in one of the many frequented Après-ski bars here in Whistler.

Ski-après often includes food, music, dancing, socializing, and having a few drinks after a long day of skiing

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

A woman holding up an empty beer keg peers into the camera outside a lodge on Whistler or Blackcomb.

The act of Après-ski originated in Telemark, Norway during the 1880s after a rise in the popularity of Telemark Skiing (named after the region).  At this point recognizable ski-après made a modest entry, first informally in skier’s homes, then in newly developed ski clubs—the inevitable second step of the arrival and growing popularity of skiing [Lund, Morton. (2007, March). Skiing Heritage, 19(01), 5-12]

WORLD CUP WEEK '93 - National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley's

WORLD CUP WEEK ’93 – National Team members Luke Sauder, Ralf Socher, Cary Mullen and others pour beer at Tapley’s

In 1893, Ski-Après made its way to the Alps with the founding of Ski Club Glarus in Switzerland, one of the first ski clubs in the Alps, and from this point ski-après started to spread through Switzerland, France, Austria, and the rest of Europe. Sometime after the First Winter Olympic games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, the French coined the phrase après-ski.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of 'Canadian' beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

A man, still in his ski boots, carries two flats of ‘Canadian’ beer on his shoulders, fittingly a huge grin is spread across his face.

The arrival of Ski-Après to Whistler may have its roots in the arrival of the Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club, whose members (composed of mostly Austrian and German people) started to frequent Whistler during the late 1950s/early 1960s, eventually buying a 5-acre lot in 1962, and building Tyrol Lodge in 1966.

Long time Whistler Local Trudy Alder worked as the caretaker at the lodge from 1968 to 1970. At the time, she considered entertaining lodge guests with spirited ski-après to be as important a duty as clean linens and stacked firewood.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

The two bad boys. Ivan Ackery and Alex Philip drinking beer.

Ski-après certainly is an important part of socializing in Whistler with many locals and tourists alike gathering around to enjoy a fine wine, a cold pint, and other spirited drinks. Enjoying a glass of intoxicating beverage is nothing new to the valley, and certainly didn’t arrive in the valley with the arrival of the skiers. Whistlers own origin story involves liquor to some extent with John Millar, a trapper who was living in Alta Lake, meeting Alex Philip at the Horseshoe Bar and Grill (a  restaurant owned by Philip) in 1911 on one of his yearly trips to Vancouver. Millar told Alex of Alta Lake’s beauty and excellent fishing, and though inebriated, he got Alex very excited, for Alex had always wanted to run a fishing lodge. Millar was invited to dinner the following night, with Alex and Myrtle making plans for a trip the following summer. In August 1911 they set out on a trip to visit AltaLake, eventually developing Rainbow Lodge and tourism in the Valley.

Rainbow Lodge became the centre of socializing in the valley in the following years, with fine food, dancing, and of course enjoying a few drinks. Alex Phillip was known to partake in a few glasses of suds with guests while they were staying at the lodge, with some guests later becoming good friends

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

Brad Wheeler and Ben Schottle of the Whistler Brewing Company (1995)

These days, Rainbow Lodge no longer stands, and Ski-après is no longer confined to Tyrol Lodge and Dusty’s. There’s no shortage of pubs, clubs, and lounges around WhistlerVillage to provide a wide variety of après experiences. Between the Whistler Brewing Company and the Brewhouse, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a number of Whistler beers after a hard day on the slopes. Looks like Whistler, as per usual, has put a new twist on an old tradition!

Celebrating Tyrol Lodge’s 50th

Travelling along Whistler’s westside, properly known as the Alta Lake Road, is a bit like travelling back in time.

The arrival of downhill skiing in the 1960s caused the pace of life in our valley to shift gears completely. While gondolas and condos, followed by full neighbourhoods and villages grew around the flanks of Whistler Mountain, across the valley the sliver of railway-accessed waterfront that formed the backbone of the community of Alta Lake was left to develop at a gentler pace. As such, despite the glitz, hustle and bustle of our modern resort, much of the Westside’s nostalgic charm has persisted to this day.

Tucked away on the west shore of Nita Lake, Tyrol Lodge has managed to survive through these eras as well as any other property.  When members of the Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club first chose the site for their cabin in 1963, the gorgeous view across Nita Lake to Whistler Mountain (still officially named London Mountain at the time) didn’t include any ski lifts.

The lodge under construction

The lodge under construction. Frank Grundig Photo.

The Tyrol Club envisioned their cabin according to the traditional ski lodges of their Alpine motherland. It was simply to provide a comfortable if modest base from which club members and their guests could explore the surrounding mountains on foot and on skis.

While outdoor play was an obvious draw, maintaining a vibrant social life was just as important. Long-term Whistlerite Trudy Alder worked as the Lodge’s caretaker, along with her first husband Helmut, from 1968 to 1970. At the time, she considered entertaining lodge guests with spirited après-ski full to be as important a duty as clean linens and stacked firewood. What the lodge lacked in luxury, it made up with rustic charm and a sense of community.

The festive Tyrolean spirit was, and remains today, a defining characteristic of the Tyrol Club.

The festive Tyrolean spirit was, and remains today, a defining characteristic of the Tyrol Club. Frank Grundig Photo.

To this day there is no television in the lodge to distract from socialization. In fact, once on the Tyrol Lodge grounds, there is very little to indicate that you haven’t been warped back to the 1960s. Strategic upgrades like energy-efficient windows were deemed higher priority upgrades than video games and trendy décor. Perhaps counter-intuitively, bucking the trends of the modern ski industry seems to have been a winning strategy.

The Games Room, today. Very little has changed over the years. Jeff Slack photo.

The Games Room, today. Very little has changed over the years. Jeff Slack photo.

Today, the Tyrol Club continues to boast a sizeable and cohesive membership, with many young families joining who sought a departure from the typical ski-in, ski-out experience. Those involved with Tyrol Lodge all cite the club’s strong camaraderie and its devotion to its founding values as reasons why it has survived, even thrived for so long, as most other ski clubs and cabins have long-since ceased.

This Saturday, August 3rd, from 1-4pm, the Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club will be welcoming the community to Tyrol Lodge to celebrate the property’s 50th anniversary. There will be a bbq, historical displays, and other fun activities for all ages. The event offers the perfect opportunity to tour the beautiful grounds, experience the Tyrol Club’s renowned hospitality, and experience firsthand some of our community’s living heritage, no time machine required.

The Lodge, today. Jeff Slack photo.

Tyrol Lodge, today. Jeff Slack photo.