Tag Archives: Whistler Pride and Ski Festival

The First Pride Parade in Whistler

Last month, the Whistler Museum opened our latest temporary exhibit, Pride & Progress: From the Grassroots Altitude to the Fearless Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, which looks back at the thirty year history of the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival. One of the most public and visible events of the festival is the Pride Ski + March, where skiers and snowboarders and rainbow flags make their way down Whistler Mountain towards Olympic Plaza. The first march through Whistler Village, however, took a shorter route and happened not during the festival but during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. It was led by the first Pride House.

Pride House in Whistler. Photo courtesy of Clare Johnson

The idea of an LGBTQ2S+ space modeled on the hospitality houses set up by national Olympic committees took a few years to come together. While attending the 2007 InterPride conference in Zurich, Switzerland, WinterPRIDE (now the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival) organizer Dean Nelson was inspired while learning more about what pride meant in other countries, especially nations more hostile towards LGBTQ2S+ communities.

Three years later, with a lot of hard work, organization, and dedication, the first Pride Houses opened in February 2010, one in a portion of the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre and another in Vancouver (Pride House hosted a daily in QMUNITY, BC’s Queer, Trans, and Two-Spirit Resource Centre, while the sports bar SCORE on Davie St. served as a celebration space). In both locations, Pride House was designed to have multiple functions. They served as educational centres, with resources on many topics including homophobia in sport and Canadian immigration and refugee protection. They were also a welcoming space for LGBTQ2S+ athletes, coaches, officials, family, friends, and fans. Additionally, Whistler’s Pride House hosted a media room for unaccredited media, to which Nelson credits the high exposure of Pride House, as it offered a new Olympic story and a chance at more airtime. Over the 2010 Games, 5,000 people visited Whistler’s Pride House, including skeleton gold medallist Jon Montgomery and Olympic swimmer Mark Tweksbury.

The parade down Village Stroll to Whistler Media House. Whistler Pride Collection.

Whistler Pride House’s march through the Village came about in response to disparaging remarks made by two commentators about American figure skater Johnny Weir, in which they questioned his gender and the example he set for young skaters. Pride House contacted Whistler Media House (located in the Maury Young Arts Centre) to arrange a press conference with accredited media (Weir held his own press conference in Vancouver to respond to the remarks) and, quite literally, marched over with rainbow flags and banners.

Their march took them from the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre, down the stairs, along the Village Stroll, down to Celebration Plaza (today Olympic Plaza), around the Olympic Rings, and back to the theatre in what Nelson described as “probably the most dramatic press conference that the Whistler press team held during the Olympics and Paralympics.”

The parade takes a pause on the steps outside Pride House. Whistler Pride Collection.

With a few changes to the route the following year, the march became part of WinterPRIDE. According to Nelson, “We’ve held onto that tradition ever since and I think it’s really important to have that visibility.” The festival has grown increasingly visible within Whistler over the past thirty years, from the Resort Municipality of Whistler raising rainbow banners in the Village to businesses putting flags in their windows.

You can learn more about the growth of the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival and the legacy of Pride House at Pride & Progress, which will be on display at the Whistler Museum through April 19, 2022.

New Exhibit Opening Tonight!

The 29th annual Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is right around the corner! This week of January 23 – 30, 2022 will be chock-full of events dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and fun. Coinciding with this year’s festivities, the museum is pleased to announce the launch of a new temporary exhibit titled Pride & Progress: From the Grassroots Altitude to the Fearless Whistler Pride and Ski Festival.

Opening to the public this evening, Tuesday, January 25, 2022, the exhibit will take visitors through a visual and descriptive history of Whistler Pride.

Whistler’s rainbow crosswalks are just one example of increased visibility mentioned by Dean Nelson during our online talk in February 2021. Photo courtesy of Dean Nelson.

The challenges and triumphs leading up to the world-renown festival we know today weave a fascinating narrative. The story begins in 1992, when Altitude – as it was known then – covertly hosted around seventy participants for a gay ski week at Whistler Mountain. From these humble beginnings, the festival continued to grow, welcoming more guests and hosting increasingly renowned performers with each year, all the while working to create a safe space for the LGBTQ2s+ community in our mountain town.

The story of Whistler Pride wouldn’t be complete without an exploration of the relationship between the LGBTQ2S+ community and mountain sports. Centering on Pride House, the LGBTQ2S+ pavilion established during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games was a beacon of courage, visibility, and support for queer athletes to be their authentic selves. As the struggle for acceptance continues, this section of the exhibit invites visitors to reflect on the presence of homophobia in sport, and the importance of safe spaces to create awareness and encourage important conversations.

Whistler’s Pride House was located at the Pan Pacific Village Centre and was very visible from outside. Photo courtesy of Clare Johnson.

The exhibit will also feature artifacts, photographs, and films from the past 29 years of the festival in its various forms that will give insight to these historic Pride events. Thanks to Dean Nelson, former festival director (2008 – 2018), for donating many of the artifacts and archival materials being used for the exhibit.

We’re also happy to announce that our extensive collection of Whistler Pride records and materials have now been officially catalogued, rehoused, and published on our online database. Here you can find descriptions on various events, promotions, photographs, and audiovisuals to name a few. Please browse through at your leisure for more information on the history of the festival.

Some of the materials donated as part of the Whistler Pride collection.

We will be celebrating opening night of Pride & Progress: From the Grassroots Altitude to the Fearless Whistler Pride and Ski Festival on this evening, January 25, 2022 with evening hours from 6 to 9 pm. We will also be open from 11 am – 5 pm on Wednesday, January 26. As ever, entry is by donation and masks are required for all visitors to the museum – we hope to see you all here! Otherwise, the exhibit will be on display during our normal operating hours until April 19, 2022.

Not quite ready for an in-person visit? Our 2021 Speaker Series conversation with Dean Nelson is also available to watch on our YouTube channel here.

Chris Monaghan is the assistant archivist at the Whistler Museum and Archives. He has been here on a Young Canada Works contract through the fall and winter.

Exhibit Opening Tuesday

One of the larger donations to the archives in 2020 was a collection of materials from the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival, charting its evolution from the 1990s to the 2010s. That donation forms the backbone of our next temporary exhibit, looking at the history of Pride in Whistler.

We will have extended hours for the opening evening of Pride & Progress on Tuesday, January 25 from 6 – 9 pm and will be open 11 am – 5 pm on Wednesday, January 26. The exhibit will run through April 19. We hope to see you there!

The times they are a-changing in Whistler’s historical collections

Time are changing in the world of archival and artefact collections, and it’s definitely hard to keep up with the resulting backlog. This is a good problem to have, because it means the community trusts the museum to preserve its past. We have had a significant increase in the number and size of donations to the Whistler Museum and Archives over the past two years (thanks to those who donated!), and we hope we will continue to be on the minds of locals when older things are looking for a new home. We have a few theories as to what led to the increase of donations, the main one being that the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns and business closures allowed some locals the time to do a bit of cleaning and clearing of their homes.

Some of the materials donated as part of the Whistler Pride collection.

While the influx of donations is a particular challenge for us in terms of having enough storage space, it’s also very exciting for the Collections Department here, as there have been items donated on more varied subjects, which can help us fill gaps in our collections. For instance, we have welcomed more documents on the origins of Blackcomb Mountain, more artefacts and photographs relating to the history of snowboarding in the area, a large collection of Whistler Pride documents and artefacts, and even some of the COVID-19 signs which were put up in Whistler Village during 2020. It is very important to us that our collections reflect the community we serve, and this can be a difficult task at times due to donations being a voluntary and charitable act. We always encourage donations, and for locals to remind others that donating items to the Whistler Museum is a much-appreciated option before sending older items and documents to the trash.

Digital files could be stored on many different devices, and are donated to the archives in various forms.

It’s not just our own collections at the museum that are changing, but also the types of media being donated to archives in general. Photographs, videos, and documents that were born in a digital environment are now being donated to archives, and we are no exception here. USB sticks, hard drives, and .jpg files have been donated to the Whistler Museum and Archives this year, heralding the Age of Information which will surely make the process of archiving more complex over time. If a donor were to donate the entire contents of their email account, it would make for some very grueling description work for entering into the archival catalogue, which connects researchers to our collections, and this is just one part of that growing complexity for archivists. In this day and age, data, photos, and files are being created at ever-increasing speeds as technology smooths the path. While this may help future generations learn about ours due to the wealth of evidence we’ve created, it also makes it very difficult to weed through our data to decide what is of value and worth keeping. Endless information is only useful if it is mapped in some way to allow us to access the information that is meaningful to us.

For the time being, the Whistler Museum and Archives has still been able to keep up with the amount of born-digital donations, but the future of preserving the history of Whistler through digital means may become more complicated in the coming decades!