Tag Archives: Whistler Skiers Chapel

Canada’s First Interdenominational Chapel

Whistler has had some pretty memorable buildings constructed in the valley, but few are as instantly recognizable as the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel.  This iconic structure stood in various locations in Creekside for decades and, based on the responses we get to any photograph of the Chapel, holds poignant memories for many residents and visitors, past and present.

The Whistler Skiers’ Chapel.  Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation Collection.

Franz Wilhelmsen, the first president of Garibaldi Lifts Ltd., fondly remembered small chapels in ski villages of Norway where he had skied as a young boy, and the lift company was able to donate land for the Chapel right at the base of Whistler Mountain.  In 1966, Marion Sutherland and Joan Maclean formed a Board of Trustees and a fundraising committee for the idea.  They approached the Vancouver Council of Churches to supply ministers and the Diocese of Kamloops agreed to include Whistler in the territory of Father Wilfred Scott of Mount Currie.

There were many people who donated their time and money to the construction of the Chapel.  The Chapel’s stained glass windows, designed by Donald Babcock, were gifted by Mr. & Mrs. Gordon Southam; Dewer Maclean donated a hand-lettered Founders book (currently in the Museum archives); and an organ was purchased with the proceeds from a ski movie night held in Vancouver.

The stained glass window of the Chapel. Wallace Collection.

The simple A-frame design of the Chapel was provided free of charge by Vancouver architect Asbjorn Gathe.  Norwegian-born Gathe studied architecture at the Federal Institute of Technology at the University of Zurich before immigrating to Vancouver in 1951.  He joined the firm of Frank Gardiner and Peter Thornton, becoming a partner in Gardiner, Thornton and Gathe in 1954 before leaving to start his own practice in 1966.

Gathe is best known for his three decades of work designing Westminster Abbey for Benedictine monks in Mission, BC, but he has also left a lasting mark on Whistler.  In addition to donating his design for the Chapel, Gathe also designed Edelweiss Village (a twelve-unit complex near the Creekside gondola base) and is responsible for the design of Tamarisk.

When the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel opened in 1966, it became the first non-denominational chapel in Canada.  It was purposely designed with no purely Christian symbols and its dedication ceremony included clergy from the Anglican, Lutheran, Jewish, and United faiths.

Tony and Irene Lyttle getting married in the Skiers’ Chapel, January 1967.

The first service held at the Chapel was for Christmas Eve and was open to any who wished to attend.  The Chapel’s interdenominational Christmas Carol Service on Christmas Eve proved to be increasingly popular, and by 1978 two additional services had been added to accommodate the several hundred people who attended.  By the mid-1980s, the demand had outgrown the small building and the Christmas Carol Service moved to the newly constructed Whistler Conference Centre.  It continued to be an inter-denominational services, led in 1986 by Reverend Valerie Reay from the United Church and Pastor Lamont Schmidt of the Whistler Community Church, with carols led by the Whistler Singers under the direction of Molly Boyd.

Though the original Whistler Skiers’ Chapel was dismantled after a final Easter Service in 2000, the many weddings, christenings, and services held in the A-frame are well remembered by those who attended.

This Week In Photos: November 8

Halloween may be over but there are still a few more costumes this week, mostly courtesy of the National Men’s Downhill Team Benefit held at Dusty’s.

1978

Brian “Sherlock Holmes” checks out Ron’s plastic torso at the Halloween dance.

Hold it! Members of the Volunteer Ski Patrol lower a “patient” from the Olive Chair during an evacuation practice.

Jerry Blan and Hugh Smythe from Fortress Mountain Resorts present the Blackcomb development to the public.

1979

A study in roof structures – the new Public Service Building awaits its roof.

Geopac’s 20-ton weight crashes down to compact the ground for the foundations of the Mountain Inn – the new 6-storey concrete hotel to be built at the Town Centre…

… while this week the top layer of gravel is placed on the new parking lot adjacent to the Public Service Building to be used by day skiers in the winter.

The Whistler Skiers Chapel at its new location beside the Whistler Mountain Ski Club cabin.

A crane sets the new steel in place for the base terminal of the Olive Chair while the excavation for the staging area proceeds.

The interior of the newly-remodelled L’Apres Dining Room showing the raised dining area and the tiffany lamps.

1980

Misguided truck – the accident occurred on Tuesday when Hydro crews were fixing some downed lines.

At the National Team Benefit Dave Murray draws the door prize while a rather hoarse Paul Burrows gets ready to continue the auction.

TIMBER! This is the end of the tree that fell on several cars outside the Keg on Saturday evening.

T.W.U. members picket the Whistler Village site on Tuesday.

1981

A new bridge and culvert is in place by November 10 after last week’s flooding.

Artist Roy Tomlinson demonstrates his technique on a litho stone at the showing at Inge Neilsen’s.

Lexi Ross and Craig Tomlinson look over the selection of skis at the ski swap.

Ross Morben, the new manager of Beau’s, lends a helping hand to the new renovations which include a live entertainment lounge.

1982

It was a mad, mad, mad crowd at the Whistler Mountain Ski Club annual ski swap Sunday, November 7. Bargain hunters were not disappointed with the tremendous selection of ski equipment at real recession prices.

It was a quieter scene at the Burrows garage sale held on Matterhorn Drive.

Butcher John MacLeod carves a few slices for the new meat and seafood market at The Grocery Store.

Charlie Doyle (right) wailed it out with Foot in the Door Saturday, November 6 – a packed Stumps lounge like it’s never been packed before. Accompanying on guitar is Mark Schnaidt.

Davey Blaylock tries his hand at running the show, with a little help from Mayor Pat Carleton. Witnessing the change in who holds the gavel are (L to R) Mark Jennings, Jake Humphrey and Justin Adams. The Kindergarten class visited the Mayor in his chambers, which he has occupied for seven years before deciding to step down on November 20.

1984

Grocery Store staff spent most of Saturday mopping up water that covered the floor. The damage was caused by a burst pipe in the Hearthstone Lodge. Both the Grocery Store and the liquor store were closed for more than half the day. Water damage was also sustained by some suites in the Hearthstone.

Jack Bright and Toulouse dressed in their finest for last Wednesday’s National Men’s Downhill Team Benefit at Dusty’s. The event raised about $7,500 for the team.

The real Whistler came out of the closet, so to speak, Halloween night to help support the National Ski Team Benefit. Mr. & Mrs. Halfenhalf walked away from Dusty’s with the top prize for best costume.

The Whistler Mountain Ski Club held its annual ski swap Saturday and Sunday as hundreds of local and Vancouver residents flocked to Myrtle Philip School gym to take advantage of the many bargains available.

At precisely 11 am on Sunday, November 11 a moment of silence followed by a brief ceremony will take place in front of the Public Safety Building. Among the group gathered there to remember the 114,000 Canadian men and women who died in a battle this century will be Rolly Horsey, a retired Major in the Canadian infantry who fought in World War II. Mr. Horsey, a resident of Whistler for 17 years with his wife Anne, started with Canadian Scottish in Victoria in 1939 shortly after war was declared and headed overseas to Great Britain on a three-ship convoy in 1941. For his commitment toward fighting against the Axis powers he received the DSO in an all-Canadian investiture at Buckingham Palace with Lt. Co. Lord Tweedsmuir. He returned to Europe in 1967 with his wife and visited a Canadian cemetery and was struck by the futility and sadness of all the young men who gave their life for their country during World War II. Mr. Horsey will be on hand Sunday to remember not only all those who died but also his own involvement fighting in Europe to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Axis powers.

This Week In Photos: October 25

We may have just finished our latest municipal election but, as some of these photos show, new councils used to be elected in November.  This week (like most weeks in the 1970s and ’80s) also includes construction, community events and even a puppy!

1979

A section of the new concrete curbing recently installed by the Highways crews just south of Whistler.

The new Public Safety building starts to take shape as the snow creeps down Whistler Mountain behind.

Grant Couture stands beside the horses he plans to have available for riding and sleigh rides at Rainbow Lodge.

Colin Chedore – the new Marketing Manager for the Whistler Village Land Company.

The Whistler Skiers Chapel is moved to its new location adjacent to the Whistler Mountain Ski Club cabin.

1980

Three of the original Witsend owners! (Left to right) Jacquie Pope, Kelly Fairhurst and Florence Petersen.

Blackcomb’s President and General Manager Hugh Smythe shows Whistler Mayor Pat Carleton the new ski runs from the base of Lift 2 during a recent tour by the mayor of the Blackcomb facilities.

“I have a home, but my brothers & sisters are still looking!” If you are interested call Pauline.

“Keep going thataway!” Parent Helper Candy Rustad directs the participants in the recent cross-country run hosted by the Myrtle Philip School.

Owners Ted Nebbeling and Jan Holmberg get ready for another busy day in the Gourmet Bakery and Fine Food store.

Nancy Raine and Raymond Lanctot stand in front of the Rossignol booth at the Vancouver Ski Show.

1982

Puzzled? The Whistler Information sign and map took a tumble Friday, October 22 during high winds, just missing the info centre. Foundation posts had apparently rotted.

Hats of all kinds turn up these days at Myrtle Philip School. The fashion = keeping away from lice.

Volunteers check children for head lice, which have reached epidemic numbers in Whistler.

Mayor Carleton got exposure to more than a brief interlude of sun Thursday when CTV interviewer Cynthia Ott arrived in Whistler to ask some questions.

On your marks; get set – three candidates (Mark Angus, Sid Young and Ruth Lotzkar) enjoy a laugh after handing in nomination papers October 25 for the November 20 municipal election.

The Candidates – Whistler Chamber of Commerce President Jim Gruetzke introduces Sid Young (a mayorality candidate), Craig MacKenzie, Mark Sadler and David O’Keefe (aldermanic candidates) at an afternoon wine and cheese held October 24 at Delta Mountain Inn.

Onlookers ask Craig Tomlinson about the history and construction of a lute he is holding.

Mark Angus calls ’em as Will Moffatt checks numbers during the Whistler Parent Teacher Committee Bingo Nite at Myrtle Philip School October 22.

New members of the Health Planning Society Board, from left: Kathy Hicks (Treasurer), Tim Woods (Director), Rolley Horsey (Vice President), Criag MacKenzie (President) and Fred Barter (Director).

1983

Valdy rolled into town Sunday, a little tardy for his show at Myrtle Philip Elementary Sunday night but the unavoidable delay was soon forgotten by the 175 adults and children gathered to see the versatile entertainer. Valdy played old songs and new ones with his gigantic light bulb shedding light on the subject.

Parks crew workers installed subdivision signs all along Highway 99 Monday and Tuesday. Originally built by Al Bosse last winter, the municipality had to negotiate with the provincial highways department to receive permission to erect the signs within 50 feet of the highway. Signs are constructed out of fir and have electrical cords installed for possible light fixtures in the future.

Pemberton Mayor Shirley Henry displays a plaque indicating the federal government’s involvement in getting the Pemberton Airport on track. The airport, 36 years in the making, was officially opened last Friday. Mayor Henry says the airport will be able to serve the Whistler area.

1984

Members of the Whistler Rotary Club are raising money for their programs this fall by selling firewood. Working Saturday to fill remaining orders are, left to right: Bill Wallace, Don MacLaurin, Bob Brown, Paul Burrows, Richard Heine, Brian Brown, Sid Young and a visiting Rotarian from New Zealand.

The Baxter Group’s condo development in the gondola area is just the beginning, and planners are now deciding how work in the rest of the area will proceed.

Lorne Borgal, president of Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation, introduced a slide presentation celebrating the 20th year of incorporation for the firm at the Granville Island Hotel Thursday. A reception preceded and followed the catchy slide show attended primarily by members of the ski industry in Vancouver.

Burning debris coming out of a chimney at this Drifter Way house started a fire that caused an estimated $50,000 damage according to Whistler’s fire chief Lindsay Wilson. The blaze was reported at 9 pm Monday and was brought under full control within 45 minutes. At the time, no one was in the house, which belongs to Kelly Fairhurst.

The Canadian National Ski Team added $2,500 towards training more World Cup Winners through funds raised at Whistler Mountain’s Mouton Cadet Spring Festival this year. Dave Murray, director of skiing for Whistler Mountain, presents the cheque to (l-r) national team members Felix Belzyck, Chris Kent and Gary Athans. New men’s coach Glenn Wuertele was also on hand at the Vancouver Ski Show where the cheque was presented. National team members such as Todd Brooker, Dee Dee Haight, Rob Boyd, Mike Carney, Wade Christie, as well as Belzyck and Athans will also be at the October 31 ski team benefit at Dusty’s in Whistler.

Whistler’s Very Own Easter Parade

This past weekend, with the Easter holidays, the closing events of WSSF, the Whistler Cup and still more snow on the mountains, there certainly wasn’t a lack of activities to occupy residents and visitors of any age.

Despite the snow, the Easter bunny put in an appearance on Blackcomb Mountain, 1982.

The Easter holidays have a history of being a busy weekend in Whistler.  In the 1970s the list of Easter activities offered by the Chamber of Commerce and Garibaldi Lifts was an impressive one for such a small town, including fireworks, Easter egg hunts and various skiing events such as skiing displays and obstacle and costume races.  Residents and visitors to the area alike could enjoy a torch light parade ending with a bonfire and hot dog roast in the parking lot at the bottom of the mountain.  The weekend also included dancing and live entertainment at local establishments such as the Christiana Inn, L’Apres and the Mt Whistler Lodge.  For those who chose to attend, all Easter services were held at the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel on the mountain, Canada’s first interdenominational church.

Easter services were held on the mountain in the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel, Canada’s first interdenominational church.

Events varied from year to year.  Some years advertised prizes for an Easter Bonnet contest and in 1970 the Vancouver Garibaldi Olympic Committee was actively promoting a bid for the 1976 Olympics and used the popular weekend as an opportunity to get more people on board with a slide presentation on the bid at the Roundhouse.

The 1976 bid for the Winter Olympics was one of the most promising early bids put forward for Whistler.

One of the most popular events over the Easter weekend was Whistler’s own Easter Parade.  When thinking about parades in Whistler the first to come to mind is usually the annual community parade on Canada Day.  During the 1970s, however, the Easter Parade was not to be missed.

Traditionally an Easter parade was an informal and somewhat unorganized event in which people dressed in their new fashionable clothing in order to impress others.  Irving Berlin wrote “Easter Parade”, a popular song inspired by the Easter parade in New York, in 1933 and a film by the same name starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland was later constructed around the song in 1948.

Though the Easter Parade in Whistler may not have been designed to showcase anyone’s new finery, it did include carefully thought out floats and some illustrious leaders.  In 1971 the 52 floats were led by Miss Vancouver Ardele Hollins, Miss PNE Judy Stewart and members of the RCMP.  The following year the parade was led by none other than then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Coral Robinson, Pierre Trudeau and Dennis Therrien at the Easter Parade in 1972 sitting in a security detail car.

Whistler’s parade was open to anyone who wanted to participate.  Interested parties were told to “plan a float, come as a marching group, or just get dressed up in a crazy costume and join the fun.  The more the merrier!”  Community groups and local businesses, as well as individuals, created elaborate floats and costumes such as the Jolly Green Giant and the original gondola.  The 1974 parade was captured on film by the Petersens and can now be watched on our YouTube channel as part of the Petersen Film Collection along with other unique moments in Whistler’s history.

A Prime Minister in love

Throughout the decades, the grandeur and excitement of Whistler has inspired a lot of couples to spend their honeymoons at our beautiful valley hideaway. Roots of Whistler’s honeymoon history date back to the 1920s when Rainbow Lodge was one of the main destination accommodations for newlyweds on the west coast. Alex Philip, proprietor of Whistler’s first lodge, would paddle honeymooners down the River of Golden Dreams in a large canoe, often by moonlight, where they could snuggle up and soak in the valley’s natural beauty.

trudeau.jpg

After an afternoon of skiing, the Prime Minister and his bride attended the Sunday Catholic service in the Whistler Skiers’ Chapel. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection.

The most famous honeymooners in Whistler are undoubtedly former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his bride, Margaret. Pierre Trudeau was a 48-year-old bachelor when he became the Prime Minister of Canada in 1968. In March 1971, the hearts of many Canadian women were broken upon the announcement that Trudeau had married 22-year-old ‘flower child’ Margaret Sinclair. They surprised the media with their secret wedding in Vancouver, and afterwards drove directly to Whistler for a three day stay. Here, the newlyweds took a skiing honeymoon, media in tow, with everyone excited about the refreshing hipness of Canada’s First Couple.

Clearly, such esteemed guests required ‘above-and-beyond’ service. So, Jack Bright, General Manager of Whistler Mountain, and Jim McConkey, Whistler’s prominent ski school director, served as the newlyweds’ personal ski instructors during their stay.

“Ski conditions were excellent during their stay with snow falling all three days.” proudly reported Garibaldi’s Whistler News in their spring issue of 1971. The photo shows Area Manager Jack Bright, flowed by Margaret Trudeau and the Prime Minister ski down the Red Chair run. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

“Ski conditions were excellent during their stay with snow falling all three days.” proudly reported Garibaldi’s Whistler News in their spring issue of 1971. The photo shows Area Manager Jack Bright, flowed by Margaret Trudeau and the Prime Minister ski down the Red Chair run. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

The couple stayed at the Sinclair family condo in the Alpine Village complex near the base of the lifts. “This was the second ski holiday at Whistler for Mr. Trudeau” proudly reported the Garibaldi’s Whistler News later in their 1971 spring issue, including three pages of colorful, side-filling photos of the couple. The news also commented on the couple’s ski skills: “Mrs. Trudeau is a good and stylish skier who is able to keep up with her husband. At one point during their stay at Whistler, Trudeau announced that his wife was a better skier than he is. ‘It’s not true, it’s not true’ she laughed.”

Mrs. Trudeau, the former Margaret Sinclair of West Vancouver, had a season’s pass at Whistler and skied the mountain many times before her marriage. This photo shows her skiing with Jack Bright, General Manager of Whistler Mountain. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

Mrs. Trudeau, the former Margaret Sinclair of West Vancouver, had a season’s pass at Whistler and skied the mountain many times before her marriage. This photo shows her skiing with Jack Bright, General Manager of Whistler Mountain. March 1971, Whistler Mountain collection

Victor Irving, a RCMP officer in charge of the Prime Minister’s security at that time, shares a sweet anecdote of the Whistler honeymoon in the book Pierre: Colleagues and Friends Talk about the Trudeau They Knew. He remembers to drive the Trudeau’s to the Sinclair condo in Whistler after the secret wedding which was by then no secret anymore. “The next morning I received a request from them for ice cream and all the Vancouver papers. I delivered these, leaving the happy couple kneeling on the living-room floor reading the papers. (Pierre still owes me $5.75.) “

Margaret included this photo of her honeymoon in her memoirs Changing My Mind and noted: “Both athletes, we chose to spend our first day of marriage skiing at Whistler.” Source: Changing My Mind by M. Trudeau, Harper Collins Publishers

Margaret included this photo of her honeymoon in her memoirs Changing My Mind and noted: “Both athletes, we chose to spend our first day of marriage skiing at Whistler.” Source: Changing My Mind by M. Trudeau, Harper Collins Publishers

Also, Margaret remembers that first honeymoon morning in Whistler in her memoirs Changing My Mind: “We were woken next morning at 6:30 a.m. by the telephone. The queen was calling to congratulate Pierre; she had got the time difference wrong. Later came a telegram from the president of the United States, Richard Nixon. Scary, but also the stuff of fairy tales.”

Looks like, when it comes to fairy tales, our enchanted Whistler is the right place to be.

Forget the Glass Slippers: Whistler Chicks Wear Ski Boots

The tale of Tony and Irene Lyttle really is a ‘Made in Whistler’ story.  The couple first met in the mid 1960s and while it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, sometimes things are just meant to be.  Tony worked for BC Hydro and was also a ski patroller.  Irene was a skier, subletting an apartment from Paul Burrows in Whistler while he was in Europe.  In a 2003 interview Irene was asked how she first met Tony, and romance isn’t the first thing that comes to mind:

“[…] the long and the short of it was that I hitched a ride in the back of Tony’s car, so I basically met the back of his neck.  I wasn’t too impressed, actually, by the back of his neck.  So that’s how we met.  Tony was on the Patrol and I was ‘just the skier’ and he gave me a drive up to go skiing.”

Whistler Skiers’ Chapel in 1989

Despite this inauspicious beginning, Tony and Irene soon became a couple and later engaged in 1967.  They chose Whistler as the perfect place for a wedding. When the Lyttles were asked why they chose to be married in Whistler, they said it just seemed like the natural place to do it. Irene elaborated:

“I don’t know whether it [getting married in Whistler] had been done at all.  I didn’t do it because it was popular.  I didn’t have any church affiliation and I loved mountains and the outdoors, and it didn’t make sense to get married in a church in Vancouver when none of us spent much time there.”

Tony and Irene Lyttle getting married in the Skiers’ Chapel, January 1967.

In fact, the Lyttles may have been the first couple married in Whistler. It certainly wasn’t easy.   Tony wasn’t even in the country at that point  — he was working for the Aspen Ski Corporation at the time.   Also, everything had to be brought up from Vancouver a treacherous 2.5-hour drive in the best weather.

The challenge was how to get all the guests up to Whistler in January.  Some guests travelled all the way from Nanaimo to attend the wedding.  One of Irene’s friends was only two weeks away from delivering a baby and still managed to make the trip. Tony himself brought the priest up to Whistler in a sports car during a snowstorm!

Irene Lyttle on her way to the wedding alter, January 1967.

While all their friends joked that Irene would wear ski pants to the wedding she was determined to wear a white wedding dress. However, one of the wedding ushers placed her white mid-calf ski boots in the aisle.  As the now married couple prepared to make their exit, Irene stopped, pulled up her skirt, removed her fancy white satin heels and, like the Whistler version of Cinderella, placed her newly married feet into the ski boots. She then proudly left the chapel with her patroller prince.

Wow – a wedding on the mountain and a bride wearing ski boots.   Maybe there’s hope for romance after all.