Tag Archives: Valleau Logging

Cooking at Mons

While a disused logging camp may not seem like the most likely place to find a great meal, that is exactly what could be found at Mons Crossing from 1978 to 1981. The Cookhouse, described as a “little hut by the tracks,” opened in June 1978 to provide breakfast and lunch to local contractors, workers, and any residents or visitors who chose to stop by.

The Cookhouse at Mons. Whistler Question Collection, 1981.

Everett Valleau moved Valleau Logging Ltd. to the Alta Lake and Green Lake areas in 1955. The company was a family affair, with Everett’s sons Laurance, Eugene, Bob, Howard, Ron and Lindsay all working there; over the years, at least ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren would also work for Valleau Logging Ltd. As Whistler Mountain, and then the Resort Municipality of Whistler, grew, the Valleaus expanded their business to include excavation work, road building, and more. They established a logging camp at Mons near the railway and offered space to the community to build a firehall, operate a post office, play horseshoes, and even pave an area for ice stock sliding. The logging camp was in use until the Valleaus decided to move their business to Pemberton in the 1970s.

In 1978, the RMOW granted Jan Systad and Helene Allen temporary permission to operate the camp’s cookhouse as a home-made breakfast and lunch food service. Before they could open, however, the building needed some work done. The building inspector reported that the interior of the building required a thorough cleaning, the installation of two fire extinguishers and a new sink, and repairs for the rear porch in order to make it the main entrance instead of having customers enter through the kitchen. Given these changes, the health inspector gave the business the go ahead.

The Cookhouse had separate entrances for those doing the cooking and those doing the eating. Whistler Question Collection, 1981.

From accounts we’ve seen, the Cookhouse was a big success with Whistler residents. In August 1978 the Whistler Question food column called the Cookhouse’s pancakes “a dream” and “a perfect cure for the Monday morning blues,” describing them as “light and fluffy with a deep, rich flavour… served last week with a pinch of raspberry and maple syrup.”

The Cookhouse operated as a seasonal restaurant, opening in the spring and then closing in November. With no social media, opening and closing dates traveled partially by word of mouth. In 1979, Question staff and other hungry customers arrived at the Cookhouse only to find that it had been closed for the season since the Friday before. When the Cookhouse opened back up in April 1980, it reportedly opened “with an air of secrecy about the operation.” Systad and her assistant Donna (if anyone knows Donna’s last name, please let us know!) told the Question that they “didn’t want to get overwhelmed on a Monday morning by a crowd whipped into a home-cooking frenzy due to advertising,” instead opting for a slower start as word of its opening was passed around Whistler. Despite the lack of formal advertising, there was a steady stream of customers at the Cookhouse, a testament to the quality of the food.

Jan Systad serves Christoper Systad at the final closing of the Cookhouse in November. Whistler Question Collection, 1981.

The Cookhouse only operated for four years before closing permanently in November 1981. Beginning in January 1982, however, Systad continued to serve her “much-sought after home-cooked goodies” from the Husky in today’s Creekside. She also took over the operation of the deli, grocery store, and laundry facilities at the Husky. The buildings from the Valleau logging camp, including the Cookhouse, were removed from Mons and the area grew into the industrial centre it is today.

Before Opening Day

One of the most-talked about topics in Whistler each November is opening day: when it will be, what the conditions will be like, and how the rest of the snow season looks.  Often this causes us to look back at previous opening days, but this week we thought we’d look further back, and see what the community of Alta lake was talking about 60 years ago, years before lifts started operating on Whistler Mountain.

Alex Philip stands on the snow he’s been clearing from the door. A fascination with snow and weather was just as popular in the early days of Whistler. Philip Collection.

According to the Alta Lake Echo, the (more or less) weekly newsletter of the Alta Lake Community Club (ALCC), those living at Alta Lake in 1959 found the topic of November weather just about as fascinating as we find it today.  The newsletter of November 3 reported clear skies, a brisk north wind, and snow within a couple hundred metres of the lake, with a chance of flurries int he afternoon.  Don Gow was even reported to have said, “This is the year of the big snow.”

The next few weeks didn’t seem quite as promising.  A lack of snow, however, didn’t seem to be as unwelcome as the thawing ice on Alta Lake.  By the beginning of December, there was reportedly “beautiful” ice forming on the lake, but rain and warmer temperatures washed it away with the snow.  This, it would seem, was particularly frustrating for some “would-be skaters who got their Christmas presents early.”

Though ice stock sliding came later in the 1970s, Alta Lake residents spent many winter days out on the frozen lake. Petersen Collection.

Unlike today, when many people arrive for the season in November and businesses are busily preparing for a bustling winter, Alta Lake residents were looking ahead to a slower pace after a full summer.  Rainbow Lodge officially closed for the season soon after the Armistice Day Holiday, and the fishing season would appear to have been finished.  Bill and Phyllis House, who visited Alta Lake each November to fish, determinedly went out in the snow but reportedly caught nothing, a first in 20 years.

Some Alta Lake residents took the slow winter season as a chance to take a holiday, visit friends and family, or even return home after seasonal work, such as Ivor Gunderson who returned to Norway once Valleau Logging ceased operations for the winter.  Alex and Audrey Greenwood, the owners of Rainbow Lodge, left for two weeks to San Francisco, and Russ and Maxine Jordan, the proprietors of Jordan’s Lodge, left to wait out the cold season in warmer climes.

Many of the cottages and lodges on Alta Lake were built for the summer, and were not always winterized to keep occupants warm through the winter. Photo: Mitchell

There were few evening entertainments at Alta Lake once the summer guests left and the days grew shorter.  The ALCC began organizing poker sessions in November.  Participants took turns hosting, and some games were played at the Alta Lake School building.  Though scores and winnings were not printed, the Alta Lake Echo did give a fair impression of how the games went, reporting on December 8 that, “Last week saw a good turnout at Cruickshank’s Casino.  This week, Kelly & Dick [Fairhurst] are going to win their shirts back.  They’ll use their own cars.  Come one, come all…”  Interestingly, these reports were printed in the newsletter’s “Wildlife” section.

We, and many others, are looking forward to a busy winter, but it was not so long ago that winters meant something very different in the Whistler valley.

This Week In Photos: July 5

1978

Sherri Bilenduke smiles during the Pemberton parade on July 1st.

Workers (currently on a break) sweat under the sun at the scene of the new Hydro substation expansion project. Some locals are involved.

The BC Rail bridge over the Fitzsimmons Creek showing how the gravel buildup has drastically reduced the space between the water & the bridge.

1980

The Valleau Logging Truck float rounds the bend carrying the new Miss Pemberton, Kristi King.

Ron Jensen and Larry Packer pause before continuing their Utah to Alaska bike or two years on the road, whichever comes first. Malmute huskies carry their own food and water.

(L to R) John Derby, Andrew Nasedkin and Jeff Stern enjoy the Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camp now in progress.

(L to R) Narumi Kimura, Al Karaki and Masahito Tsunokai stand beside the Subaru-donated vehicle for their use while they train in Canada for the FIS freestyle circuit.

Sid Young hoists one of his 120 East Coast lobsters he had airlifted in for his summer party. Each one of the crustaceans weighed near 1.5 pounds.

Too many trucks and cars parked in “no parking” areas means no clear sightlines for drivers trying to enter Highway 99 from Lake Placid Rd.

1981

Picnic site at Daisy Lake – soon to be one of the many recreational facilities closed by the provincial government.

The sunworshippers poured out of the shadows and onto the wharf of Lost Lake on July 5 to enjoy a bit of Old Sol, whom some believe to be on the endangered species list.

Diver leaps from “swinging tree” at Lost Lake.

Paving helps smooth things out in the Village entrance.

Florence Corrigan, Whistler’s new pharmacist.

Looking like the stark rib cage of a whale, the support beams to the roof of the Resort Centre are put in place.

Stuart McNeill and 16 of his sunny students take to the shade on the first day of Camp Rainshine. McNeill is assisting Susie McCance in supervising the program.

The first Miss Bikini of Whistler, Keli Johnston, 19, of Whistler won herself a crisp $100 bill in the Mountain House’s first bikini contest held July 6.

1982

Alta Lake hosted the District 11 Windsurfing Championships over the weekend. First overall went to Thierry Damilano.

Strike up the band and pedal a brightly-decorated bike for Canada Day! These kids were only too eager to parade their creations around Village Square July 1.

Wow! Eyes agog, patient cake lovers were distracted for but a split second by a passing batch of bright-coloured balloons at Canada’s birthday party. The wait in line proved well worth it.

A birthday party deserves lots of bright colours and fun, and these kids weren’t disappointed by the Happy Birthday Canada celebrations held July 1 in Village Square. Const. Brian Snowden in full dress uniform gave Willie Whistler a hand passing out balloons.

Any explanation of this photograph would be greatly appreciated.

1984

Whistler Mountain’s Village Chair is now open for rides aloft for picnics and sightseeing. The chair opened Saturday, and will be running Thrusday to Monday, 11 am until 3 pm all summer.

Mountain bike racers competed Sunday and Monday in a pair of contests around the valley.

Tony Tyler and Linda Stefan, along with the invaluable help of Willie Whistler, drew the names of two lucky North Shore Community Credit Union customers Tuesday morning. Winners of the credit union’s opening draw are Fred Lockwood and Heather McInnis, both of Whistler. Lockwood receives a dual mountain ski pass and McInnis a summer’s windsurfing.

Canada’s birthday didn’t go unnoticed in Whistler, where a Maple Leaf cake baked by The Chef & Baker was distributed after birthday celebrations. RCMP Constable Russ Grabb managed to take a moment away from posing for tourists’ snapshots in his full dress uniform and cut the cake.

It’s not just what you make, it’s how you make it! Winner of showmanship laurels for Sunday’s chili cook-off went to the Medics, whose chili didn’t go down well with the judges, but at least stayed down.

Winning team (The Gambling Gourmet) consisting of (l to r) Ted Nebbeling, judge Dean Hill, Wendy Meredith, Sue Howard, judge Phil Reimer, Val Lang.