Tag Archives: Whistler Pride and Ski Festival

Whistler Speaker Series Launched for 2021

Last month the Whistler Museum hosted its first Virtual Speaker Series of 2021.  We are still getting used to hosting events online and miss the informal camaraderie of our audiences, but we are very excited to continue hosting some amazing speakers and sharing their stories.

For our first event of the season, we were joined by Dean Nelson.  Nelson is an LGBTQ+ activist and a travel expert specializing in LGBTQ+ travel who first came to Whistler in 1993 to help open the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort as part of the front desk team.  He became involved in Whistler’s gay ski week, then known as Altitude, when its founder Brent Benaschak approached him about the Holiday Inn becoming a hotel sponsor for the event.  From there Nelson volunteered to help with the fashion show and became increasingly more involved with the week.  As part of the event on February 17, Nelson told us more about how the Whistler gay ski week came about and how it has grown over almost thirty years.

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

Even if you weren’t able to attend our first Speaker Series, you may have read about what Nelson had to say in the Pique of February 25th, and you can still learn more about the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival and its history by watching our talk with Nelson on the Whistler Museum’s YouTube Channel.

Prior to 2020, the Whistler Museum had relatively few records or materials documenting LGBTQ+ history in the Whistler area.  Late last year, however, Nelson donated a large amount of archival material and artefacts to our collection, including photographs, promotional materials, jackets and much, much more.  Along with oral history interviews (such as the one we conducted with Nelson for February’s event) and other materials, this donation helps to fill one of the gaps in our collection.

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

While the Whistler Pride collection is not currently available to search in our online database, we hope to begin cataloguing the collection this summer.  Most summers, the Whistler Museum is able to hire summer students through the Young Canada Works program, a joint initiative of the National Trust for Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage.  This summer, we are intending to hire a collections student whose main focus would be the describing, cataloguing, and rehousing of this new collection.  In the past, collections students have helped catalogue the Don MacLaurin Collection, the George Benjamin Collection, the Greg Griffith Collection, and many others that are now available to search online.  The ability to find documents and information online is especially important at a time when researchers may not be able to come to the archives easily.

We really enjoyed learning more about the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival with Dean Nelson last month, and are looking forward to continuing to learn more.  Our next Speaker Series event examining the history of journalism and publishing in Whistler will take place at 7pm March 25 and include an audience Q&A with the speakers (while the talk by our speakers will be posted online after the event, the Q&A will not).  Find more information about our upcoming Speaker Series at whistlermuseum.org/events.

News from the Whistler Museum

Back in September 2020 we posted photos on our social media of exploratory trips taken by the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC) in 1964 and the construction of the VOC Cabin from 1965.  The photos were donated by Karl Ricker, a VOC member who had substantial involvement in the VOC Cabin.  Recently, Ricker brought in copies of the VOC Journal from 1964 to 1968 to add to our research collection and, though we’ve only taken a quick look so far (and are looking forward to examining the journals more closely), they appear to be a very valuable addition.

One of the photos posted on our social media, showing the construction of the Cabin by VOC members. Karl Ricker Collection.

The journals cover a period during which the VOC was exploring the possibility of a cabin in Whistler, constructing the cabin in Whistler, and beginning to put the cabin in Whistler to use.  According to the VOC Journal of 1964, the VOC Cabin on Mount Seymour was rarely being used as a ski cabin, as members could drive right up to the lifts, and skiing on Seymour was becoming increasingly crowded.  They also found that Seymour was “inadequate as an area for ski touring, for hiking, or for mountaineering,” the “most important activities of an outdoor club.”  Building a cabin in the Whistler area was thought to be an improvement as the long drive from Vancouver ensured most skiers would stay overnight, there was a proposal to develop lifts on Whistler Mountain, and the surrounding mountains would “present spectacular opportunities for touring and hiking.”  Members of the VOC made their first reconnaissance trips to the area throughout 1964 and began construction of the cabin in 1965.

Skimming the journals, mention of progress on the VOC Cabin are frequent and, as far as we’ve seen, optimistic.  In 1967 then VOC President Paul Sims wrote in his report of the upcoming completion of the cabin, saying: “When the last shake is nailed to the wall, and the last stone mortared into the fireplace, the construction at Whistler will be of a different nature.  The shaking will continue but from dances, pots and pans, sing-songs, laughter and conversation.  The building will bulge with eager and exhausted outdoor groups instead of construction crews.”

Karl Ricker in the midst of a socially distanced recording session (anyone not in front of the camera is also masked at all times).

The journals were brought in by Ricker when he came to the museum to record an interview for an upcoming exhibition by the Museum of North Vancouver.  We were excited to help facilitate the recording as it gave us a chance to try out equipment we’ve now been using in our virtual events.  This past weekend marked our first BC Family Day Kids Après: At Home Edition.  Rather than invite families to the museum, we created Kids Après Packs that brought parts of the museum to you.  Packs were picked up for free at the museum and included materials for two crafts and a Kids Après Activity Book, which combines stories from our exhibits with colouring pages, mazes, trivia and more.  We released craft videos online so that participants could craft along from home, creating their own skiing snowpeople and a (non-edible) mug of hot chocolate, a staple of Kids Après.

The same equipment was also used to create the craft videos as part of BC Family Day Kids Après: Home Edition.

Tomorrow evening we’ll be hosting our first Virtual Speaker Series of 2021, kicking off the series with Whistler Pride: A Look Back with Dean Nelson.  Though the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival was not able to go ahead this year, you could still see the spirit of the festival in the flags along Village Gate Boulevard – we’ll be learning more about how the festival started and how it has grown and become more visible with one of its long-time organizers.  You can register for the free event here.  Find out more about the rest of our Speaker Series line up for 2021 at our website here.

2021 Virtual Speaker Series begins this week!

Our 2021 Virtual Speaker Series kicks off this Wednesday, February 17 with Whistler Pride: A Look Back with Dean Nelson!

The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival has been taking place in Whistler for almost 30 years but it hasn’t always been as visible as it is now.  Beginning as a small weekend gathering in 1992, the Whistler Pride and Ski Festival has since become one of the largest queer-focused ski weeks in the world.  We’ll be taking a look back at how it started and how it has grown with one of its long-time organizers Dean Nelson, followed by a Q&A with Dean and the audience.

Register for the event for free here or contact us at the Whistler Museum.