Tag Archives: Whistler Question

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.

Whistler’s Answers: November 10, 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: After the election of Bill Bennett and a Social Credit government in 1983, Bennett’s party introduced a series of bills that quickly became controversial. Of particular concern to the BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU) were Bill 2, which limited the rights of workers and unions in the public sector to negotiate terms except for wages and benefits, and Bill 3, which gave public sector authorities the power to terminate workers without cause and regardless of seniority. Despite organized opposition to these moves (including an estimated 80,000 person demonstration in Vancouver), these and other bills were passed. At midnight on October 31, 1983, about 40,000 members of the BCGEU went on strike, demanding the government retract Bill 2 and provide an exemption from Bill 3.

Question: How has the BC Government Employees Union strike affected you?

Donna Liakakos – Village Store Manager – Alpine Meadows

If the schools go out everyone with children will be affected. I don’t care about the liquor store, but there could be trouble if road conditions worsen. In Vancouver there’s more awareness about the strike than here because more jobs are affected.

John Ryan – Store Security Worker – Vancouver

Not apart from the liquor store, although if the buses go it’ll be a hassle to go to work. People get laid off all the time but when it happens to big unions they act differently. It seems kind of quiet here – we’ve seen a few pickets, and the exercise class is cancelled.

Joe Bowman – Waiter – Pemberton

Not at all. I’ve seen some pickets. They (strikers) should have done it 10 years ago: shut it down and take a better look at it. It’s got to be done now. The thing to do is to provide jobs. The government has been hired as managers; if we don’t have tenure they shouldn’t either.

Whistler’s Answers: November 3, 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: The Alta Lake Sports Club (ALSC) began building cross-country ski trails in the Whistler valley, specifically around Lost Lake, in the 1970s. The ALSC groomed the trails and, for the first years, they were available for free to anyone with skis. In the early 1980s, when the municipality held a referendum on the development of parks and trails in the valley, it was widely understood that the maintenance would be paid for through taxes. The municipality proposed charging cross-country skiers to access the trails at Lost Lake Park in 1983, causing controversy within Whistler as some residents felt it was one of the only free activities available in the winter, the facilities at Lost Lake Park didn’t warrant a $2 fee, and the ALSC had previously been able to afford to provide the maintenance for free.

Question: Is Council justified in charging cross-country skiers to use Lost Lake Park?

Les Doyle – Unemployed – Brio

I think it’s ridiculous. The trails should be a service to the community. I know a few people who come just to cross-country ski and it’ll turn them off. If it’s a public park you can’t really charge to get in.

Cathy Greenwood – Hotel Office Manager – Whistler Cay

Yes. It’s costing us taxpayers money, not the government. I don’t think people will object to it. Back east they have to pay for cross-country. It’s not like they’re charging $10.

Samuel P. Umpkin – Sci-fi Novelist – Tapley’s Farm

I think it’s a seedy thing to do. I haven’t skied myself since my accident, but I can see that concerns will be voiced that a public park should be a free public park. They may as well charge for… pumpkins, for example.

Having a Blast

When talking to people from Alta Lake and Whistler there are many stories that are almost universal- people come to Whistler for a visit and stay for life, and along that journey most people have experienced housing woes. One experience that I did not expect to be shared among so many locals was the stories of working in drilling and blasting. While the rocky, mountainous landscape draws people to Whistler from around the world, it also creates additional engineering challenges. Lots of rock needed to be moved for the rapid growth of Whistler, and blasting was a relatively well paying summer job.

The Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE), also known as the ‘Province’s Great Expense’ arrived in Alta Lake in 1914, bringing tourism as well as an increase in mining and forestry. The earliest known commercial mining in the area was on Whistler Mountain around 1910, with Green Lake Mining and Milling Company running ten small claims between 1000 and 1300 metres elevation.

Some of the first blasting in the valley was for mining. Here a horse is laden with dynamite bound for Jimmy Fitzsimmons’ copper mine on the north flank of Whistler Mountain, circa 1919. Rainbow Lodge can be seen in the background. Philip Collection.

Many other small operations opened and closed over the years but none struck it rich. As a word of caution, after finding an abandoned mine shaft in the mountains, some early mountaineers were pushing rocks down the shaft and set off unexploded dynamite. Nobody was hurt, but it is worth giving abandoned mines a wide berth for the many hazards they pose.

It was a logging company that gave Andy Petersen dynamite in the 1960s to help put a water line to Alta Lake Road for running water. Andy and Dick Fairhurst, owner of Cypress Lodge, had never used dynamite before. “We drilled about 27 holes and put three sticks of dynamite in each hole. Well, this thing went off. Three of them went off and boulders came up over our heads and hit the power lines. We thought we were going to take the power down. That was our experience with dynamite, but we learned.”

There were more hazards than just flying rock. During blasting and clearing of a trail along Nita Lake in 1985, Jack Demidoff and his 25-tonne hoe fell off the trail and through the ice into the lake. Whistler Question Collection.

When skiing arrived Whistler became a tourist destination in the winter but remained very quiet in summer. Many locals who worked on the mountain would have summer jobs in construction and blasting, including Murray Coates who was in ski patrol and had a blasting company. Fellow patrollers, Brian Leighton and Bruce Watt also worked some summers blasting. “There were no safety precautions”, Bruce recalled on his podcast ‘Whistler Stories that Need to be Told’, “It was just get out there and don’t be a wimp”.

Brian Leighton had a similar experience. “I was way over my head in what I was doing. But no one died, no one was hurt.” One memorable moment occurred after loading some explosives into the drill holes while creating Whistler’s sewage system. “I said to Murray, ‘I think the trucks parked a little close here.’ He said, ‘No, no, no, it’s fine.’ So we get underneath the truck and he hits the blasting machine. Sure enough, a rock the size of a soccer ball goes through the rear window of the truck. I mean we were safe, but the truck not so much”.

An dog finds refuge from the rain beneath a Wedgemont Blasting truck parked in village, not unlike Murray Coates and Brian Leighton hiding from the falling rocks. Whistler Question Collection.

Before she became a lawyer and later the Mayor of Whistler, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden also worked as a driller and blaster for the Department of Highways. She wasn’t so worried about rocks landing on her, but as her boss watched closely to make sure she was setting the dynamite correctly, “I was always worried that he was going to spit this horrible chewing tobacco on the back of my head.”

The Whistler Museum has more stories about drilling and blasting than will fit in one article, but nowadays we are much more familiar with the sound of avalanche bombs. Hopefully they are ringing throughout the valley again soon!