Tag Archives: Whistler history

Whistler’s Answers: November 24, 1983

In the 1980s the Whistler Question began posing a question to three to six people and publishing their responses under “Whistler’s Answers” (not to be confused with the Whistler Answer).  Each week, we’ll be sharing one question and the answers given back in 1983.  Please note, all names/answers/occupations/neighbourhoods represent information given to the Question at the time of publishing and do not necessarily reflect the person today.

Some context for this week’s question: It’s no surprise that conditions on Highway 99 have been a topic of conversation and concern since the road to Whistler opened in 1965. The highway was not infrequently closed or rerouted due to washouts, floods, and accidents, at times leaving communities cut off from the Lower Mainland for multiple days. On Tuesday, November 15, 1983, highway officials closed Highway 99 between Squamish and Horseshoe Bay after over 52mm of rain fell in the area within 24 hours.

Question: How should driving conditions on Highway 99 be made less hazardous?

Peter Kirk – General Manager – Burnaby

My main concern is that a road to Squamish should never have been built; the houses along the route should never have been built. It should be on the watershed route. Maybe the secret is to get the Olympics. Then the focus would be on Whistler and the government might be forced into action.

Jim Klement – Corporate Pilot – Coquitlam

I’ve been coming up here since 1966, and I’ve seen a great improvement. The highway has gotten a tremendous boost, and gets a greater share of revenue than any other highway in BC. It’s not true they haven’t done anything for it; you have to consider the severity of the problem. You have to give them credit.

Chuck Cook – Dentist – Whistler Village

From here to Squamish I think the driving conditions are fine with the exception of Brohm Ridge, but that’s under construction. Our problem’s between Squamish and Horseshoe Bay. The depth of the creeks seems to be a problem. They should place the bridge abuttments further apart and move the whole bridge further up.

A Bizarre Fundraiser

There are many options when it comes to holiday shopping in Whistler and, for many, craft fairs and markets are looked forward to as an opportunity to fine something unique while supporting local artists. For many years, the best known craft market in Whistler was the Bizarre Bazaar.

Ten years before the first Bizarre Bazaar was organized by the Whistler Community Arts Council (now called Arts Whistler) in 1987, the Alta Lake Community Club (ALCC) began hosting their annual Fall Fair fundraiser for the Club where local artists could sell handmade crafts among other activities. The first Fall Fair in 1977 was held in the gym of Myrtle Philip School and was so successful that it made a profit in its first year. By 1985, the Fall Fair had grown large enough that it moved into the recently opened Conference Centre.

Christmas decorations are sold at the Alta Lake Community Club’s Fall Fair in 1984. Some tables at the Bizarre Bazaar would have looked similar. Whistler Question Collection, 1984

Like the Fall Fair, the Bizarre Bazaar began in the Myrtle Philip School gym as a fundraiser, this one to support the Whistler Children’s Art Festival. At the time, the Arts Council was still young (Arts Whistler celebrated their 40th year of operations this year), had no office space, and was run by a group of dedicated and hands-on board members and volunteers, including Gail Rybar who coordinated the first Bizarre Bazaar in 1987.

Held on December 5, 1987 the first Bizarre Bazaar included sales of local arts, crafts and food, a raffle, live entertainment from flautist Dorothy Halton and Celtic harpist Theodore Gabriel, lunch and dinner, a “beverage garden,” children’s craft workshops with Pene Domries, and photos with Santa. Like the Fall Fair of the ALCC, the first year of the Bizarre Bazaar was reportedly a success and raised enough money to fund the Children’s Art Festival in 1988. According to long time Arts Council board member Joan Richoz, however, the first year was not without its challenges.

Gail Rybar, organizer of the first Bizarre Bazaar in 1987. Whistler Question Collection, Bonny Makarewicz, 1993

Looking back over 25 years of Bizarre Bazaars in 2013, Richoz recalled that the volunteer organizers had to put long hours and a lot of effort into the first market. They had borrowed tables from the Delta Mountain Inn (now the Hilton) and, though the hotel was located not far from the school had to transport the tables over snowbanks. A heavy snow on December 4 meant that some vendors from outside of Whistler were not able to make it, while others left the market early in order to make it home. Volunteers set up stalls and workshops and even made chili so that everyone working the market would have dinner to eat.

In the following years, the Bizarre Bazaar grew and also came to include a bake sale fundraiser for the Whistler Museum & Archives Society. Museum volunteers including Florence Petersen, Joan Deeks, Lil Goldsmid, Isobel MacLaurin, Kathy Macalister, Shirley Langtry, Viv Jennings, Darlyne Christian and more would spend weeks ahead of the market baking in order to raise money for the organization. Other community groups also got involved, with the Girl Guides running activities, the Whistler Community Services Society operating the food concession, the Whistler Public Library selling tickets to their own annual fundraiser, and both the Whistler Singers and the Whistler Children’s Chorus performing seasonal numbers.

When a new Myrtle Philip Community School opened on Lorimer Road in 1992, the Bizarre Bazaar moved with it and continued to run out of the school gym until 1996 when it moved into the Conference Centre. In the 2000s, the market continued to expand and change, moving to a weekend in November, partnering with Bratz Biz (a youth artisan market for local young entrepreneurs) in 2006, occasionally switching location to the Westin Resort, and changing its name to the Arts Whistler Holiday Market.

Mary Jones inspects one of the delicate and exquisitely crafted small wood boxes by Mountenay of Squamish at the 1994 Bizarre Bazaar. Whistler Question Collection, Bonny Makarewicz, 1994

This winter, though there is no Bizarre Bazaar or Arts Whistler Holiday Market, Bratz Biz and the Whistler Artisan Market will be taking place in the Upper Village on November 26 & 27. If you’re in search of archival images of Whistler, we will be at the Whistler Artisan Market and can’t wait to see you there!

Whistler’s Answers: November 17, 1983

In the 1980s the Whistler Question began posing a question to three to six people and publishing their responses under “Whistler’s Answers” (not to be confused with the Whistler Answer).  Each week, we’ll be sharing one question and the answers given back in 1983.  Please note, all names/answers/occupations/neighbourhoods represent information given to the Question at the time of publishing and do not necessarily reflect the person today.

Some context for this week’s question: While various bus services had operated in Whistler, both between Whistler and Vancouver and (like the “Purple People Eater” run by the Ski Boot Lodge Hotel in the 1970s) between various accommodations, the base of the mountain, and the Gondola area. By 1983, however, there was still no public transportation system. In the winter of 1982/83, Lance Fletcher of Stoney’s Restaurant coordinated a one-van shuttle service which cost riders $1 and was supposed to be paid for by money from local businesses. The following year, three local business people organized an intra-valley shuttle bus service that would be paid for by advertising, as well as charging riders between $1 and $2/ trip. It was proposed that the bus would run from 6pm to 2am between the Gondola area and either White Gold or Emerald Estates. There were no plans for service during the day. The main question behind a bus service seemed to have been who was going to pay to provide the service.

Question: Does Whistler need a public bus service?

Ann Byrne – Village Shop Employee – Cedar Springs

There’s no other type of transportation for people who come in by plane and travel up here, and taxis get expensive. It’s also needed for locals who don’t have transportation. The bus should run in the morning and definitely afternoons and evenings. It’s definitely worthwhile.

Dale Heggtveit – Village Store Employee – Emerald Estates

I think a bus would be a good idea. It wouldn’t be worth their while from the local’s point of view if it didn’t run in the early morning, though. It would prevent accidents from drinking drivers at night, but if it only ran in the evening the bars and restaurants should pay.

Lance Fletcher – Restaurant Co-owner; Co-ordinator of Last Year’s Bus Service – Whistler Village

In a first class resort people expect some sort of public transportation. Hitchhiking here is dangerous. People have been run over and killed. Last year we were planning early morning service, starting at 6:30 or 7 am, running until 10 or 11 am, and then beginning again after the mountains close.

Paying with Borgal Bucks

For many businesses that involve retail or food services, staff discounts are a common benefit for employees. Staff discounts can take many forms, with some offering more savings than others. In the 1980s, staff discounts on food at Whistler Mountain had a physical presence in the form of “Borgal Bucks.”

Borgal Bucks took their name from Lorne Borgal. Borgal had first come to Whistler as a teenager and spent weekends volunteering for ski patrol on Whistler Mountain. In 1980, he was hired by Hugh Smythe to work in administration at the soon-to-open Blackcomb Mountain, where he got to wire telephones and direct traffic. After three years, Borgal left Blackcomb Mountain and went to Europe for a long-awaited vacation. While on his vacation, he received a call from Mike Hurst at Whistler Mountain letting him know that Franz Wilhelmsen was retiring and Borgal was being considered as his replacement. Borgal joined Whistler Mountain as President and CEO in 1983, a role he kept for six years.

Lorne Borgal poses outside the Blackcomb “offices” soon after his arrival in Whistler. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

During his time there, Whistler Mountain replaced multiple triple chairs with the Village Express gondola, built Pika’s Restaurant at the Roundhouse, added the Peak Chair, and celebrated Whistler Mountain’s 20th birthday. He also tried introducing new programs and initiatives to update and improve Whistler Mountain’s customer service and management. Members of management were required to spend one day a month during the ski season working in a frontline position, which could lead to improvements for both customers and employees as management experienced the difficulties of different jobs and were sometimes more willing to spend money or try new things to fix them.

One benefit that was introduced for employees was the “Borgal Buck” or “Dusty Dollar”. Whistler Mountain staff could pay for the physical coupons, which could then be used to purchase food from Whistler Mountain at a discounted price. On the coupon itself, the name of the coupon appears to be “Dusty Dollars,” no doubt a reference to Dusty’s at the base of Whistler Mountain where the coupons could be used. Prominent on the paper coupon, however, was also a photo of Lorne Borgal.

According to a recent interview with Janet Love Morrison, Borgal Bucks entitles staff to 40% off food from Whistler Mountain and could also be purchased against one’s next payday “if you were hungry and couldn’t make your paycheque.” It would seem that these coupons became quite popular, as Janet claimed, “Everybody had Borgal Bucks.”

Janet Love Morrison and Gordy Harder pose with Sidney Poitier, who they met while they were living on Whistler as alpine caretakers and he was filming a scene from Shoot to Kill on Whistler Mountain. Photo Courtesy of Janet Love Morrison & Gordy Harder.

Janet recalled other staff discounts offered by Whistler Mountain in the mid-1980s as well, including significant discounts on ski equipment and the offer of a payment plan spread over multiple paycheques, which Janet remembered using to purchase banana yellow Atomic downhill skis for her boyfriend Gordy Harder.

Like Lorne Borgal, Janet Love Morrison filled various roles at Whistler Mountain during her years working there, including cleaning the volunteer cabin, working at the daycare, and living at the top of the mountain with Gordy as alpine caretakers.

Today, staff discounts are still a popular way to provide benefits for employees, though they vary from organization to organization. As far as we are aware, however, there are current no discounts in Whistler that feature the face or name of the company President and CEO.