Tag Archives: Whistler Village Land Company

Whistler’s Answers: July 29, 1982

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 1982.  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: In July 1982, various publications, including The Vancouver Sun, published pieces on Whistler and the Whistler Village Land Company (WVLC). Some of the articles published implied that the WVLC had shut down and that Whistler, as a whole, was closed. In January 1983, the provincial government did step in and form a Crown corporation, Whistler Land Co. Developments, to take over the liabilities and assets of the WVLC, but as of July 1982 the WVLC was still operating.

Question: What was your reaction to media coverage outside of Whistler during last week’s events?

Sue Sherin – Assistant Manager at Whistler Tops – Alpine Meadows

Basically I thought the treatment the press gave to Whistler was pretty sad.

Because of the entire economic situation, what’s happened here is no different than anywhere else. But the coverage we’ve had – it makes people not want to come.

It’s beautiful here. And it’s been built in only two years. What does the press expect? They should give us more of a chance.

Mayor Pat Carleton – Westside Road

I think it’s been a disgraceful form of reporting. It just goes to show you that what you say is not necessarily what is printed.

All the media outside of Whistler – and I don’t name anyone specifically – has twisted the whole thing out of context. Nothing has been made clear.

The coverage has blown the negative aspect way out of proportion. I’ve even had a call from Lorne Greenaway in Ottawa (Whistler’s MP). He thinks the whole town has been shut down.

Alex Kleinman – Construction Manager – Alta Vista

I was disappointed in the bias taken by the media. I was hoping to see a little more of both sides of the story.

There are a lot of things which are still happening here – as well as things that aren’t.

Rather than ask municipal and Land Company officials on the history and evolution of the whole project here at Whistler, they have taken comments out of context and made that the story.

Whistler’s Answers: July 1, 1982

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 1982.  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 Whistler Village Land Company, a subsidiary of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, was formed in 1978 to oversee the development of the Town Centre.

Question: How do you view the current role of the Land Company in the development of Whistler?

W. Doug Fox – Vice-President of Finance & Operations – Whistler Village Land Co.

It’s very simple – our role is to develop the remaining private sites in the village in conjunction with the private sector. That always has been the role and still it.

The main role of the Land Company is not promoting and marketing. The specific role is developing sites for sale to the private sector. We don’t have anything if we don’t have the sites.

Mike Vance – Coordinator of Planning and Design – Whistler Village Land Co.

Ideally, if economic conditions were better, the Land Company would remain involved in planning, design and servicing of Whistler Village throughout the completion of the project.

But under present conditions, the Land Company can’t stay as involved as it has been in the past in planning and design coordination.

A lot of operation of the village – planning and design – will now have to be assumed by the municipality.

David O’Keefe – Skier Services and North Side Coordinator – Whistler Mountain Ski Corp.

Originally it was a coordinating body to market and sell the land available in the new Town Centre.

Right now it should positively continue along that line. Unfortunately we’re in a time of buyer restraint, but that doesn’t mean we should stop the whole thing.

The mandate has been set, and since times are more difficult the Land Company should be going even further afield to market land sites.

Greg Griffith – Photographer – Owner of Mountain Moments

It should be a decreasing role in the future. Municipal staff and our elected officials should now be the ones making the types of decisions the Land Company has been handling.

I think it’s great the Land Company got things going, but now they should be winding down gracefully since the Town Centre is rapidly approaching fulfillment of its initial mandate.

Sid Young – Alderman – Land Company Director – Travel Agent

I don’t see it as any different than it ever has been.

Although, because of the level of development which has occurred to date, I do see the possibility of reducing the size of the Land Company and therefore its operational costs.

Al Raine – Executive Director – Whistler Resort Association

The reality is that is number one objective must be its own survival.

Its number two objective should be the completion of Village Stroll and the main village core, as well as the Sports & Convention Centre.

Ideally, it also should be looking at a leadership role in terms of providing tourist services and a tourist product.

Eldon Beck Comes to Whistler

It is a commonly held belief that Whistler would be very different today if it were not for the influence of Eldon Beck.  Beck, a trained landscape architect from California, is often credited as the visionary behind the Whistler Village, which he began working on in 1978.

In 1972, Beck’s firm was hired by Vail, Colorado, to consult on a community master plan.  The plan aimed to resolve some of the community’s traffic issues and create a pedestrian-centred village.  From 1972 to 1978, Beck worked with Vail as their primary consultant, a time he described as forming the bulk of his early mountain planning experience.

Eldon Beck stands in the centre, discussing the Whistler Village with an unidentified group. Eldon Beck Collection.

By 1978, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) had spent three years discussing, consulting, planning, and working hard on a town centre to be built on what had been the dump.  The site and funding, from both the provincial and federal governments, were secured; the RMOW, however, did not yet have a final plan for the site.

Terry Minger, who had been the general manager of Vail and would become the president of the Whistler Village Land Company, introduced Beck and Al Raine, the provincial appointee to the Whistler municipal council.  Though Beck described the existing plans for the town centre as a grid plan “like a little city” which “felt like a mini-Vancouver,” there were parts of the council’s plans that excited him.  They wanted to build a pedestrian village (the early plans included a pedestrian spine that was intersected with vehicle crossings) with lots small enough that they could be bought and developed by local developers.  Beck was asked to come take a look and modify the plans, which he felt imposed a building plan on the natural environment rather than letting the land guide the plan.

The Whistler Village under construction, under Beck’s watchful eye. Eldon Beck Collection.

Beck first arrived in Whistler in September 1978.  According to him, his first impression of the area was not of the mountains but of being overwhelmed by the fragrance of the forest.  It was cloudy, as can often by the case in September, and Beck had to trust Raine when he “swore up and down there were mountains.”

The weather did clear up and Beck was able to gain an idea of the site’s natural surroundings, though the site was somewhat overgrown and some of the sightlines were hard to make out.  To get a good view of Fissile Peak, Beck decided to “elevate” himself, or climb as high up a tree as he could (he later claimed this blew Raine away and ensured he got the job).  As he remembered it, he was then taken to someone’s garage where he was introduced to the council and asked to come up with something for their next meeting.

Eldon Beck and Drew Meredith speak at the event on the development of Whistler Village in 2019.  Whistler Museum Collection.

In the foreward to Beck’s book Edges, Raine claimed that the Village Stroll and some of the buildings of the Whistler Village began to appear on Beck’s sketch book within the next 24 hours.  His plans were presented to council three days later and quickly endorsed.  What was supposed to have been a modification of the existing plans had become a wholly new design.

Beck’s visit to Whistler in 1978 was the first of many (he was most recently here last October, when he participated in a speaker event on the development of the Whistler Village) and the beginning of a longstanding relationship with a town he describes as “a happy place.”

Developing Whistler’s Swing

In August 1983, Arnold Palmer opened the first golf course in Canada designed by him.  Palmer posed with buckets of golf balls and was photographed mid-swing surrounded by a crowd of people.  This was the official opening of the Whistler Golf Course as we know it today.

The Whistler Golf Course got its start in 1973, when Bob Bishop and Bernie Brown, the developers of Whistler Cay, began developing an executive-sized nine-hole course near Beaver Lane.  When completed just a few years later Whistler residents and visitors were able to play a round without driving to Squamish (the Squamish Valley course was the first golf course to open in the corridor in 1967).  A temporary pro shop at the new course carried a full range of rental clubs, balls, tees, gloves and other accessories, including caps emblazoned with the course crest: a beaver.  According to Bishop and Brown, the beavers were “the original course engineers who created this land.”

Work on the golf course expansion underway, as seen from the bluffs above.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

By 1977 the course had started to host small informal tournaments, both in summer and in winter.  For the course’s first official opening Bishop had planned to host a New Year’s Day tournament.  The plan was for golfers to wear either skis or snowshoes and use golf clubs to hit softballs towards garbage can targets.  Though we do not know if this particular tournament went ahead, there are reports of similar tournaments being played in 1975 to raise money for Whistler Search and Rescue.  Golfers were on skis, and hit red tennis balls into buckets sunk in the snow to make holes.

In 1977 Bishop and Brown announced their plans to expand the small nine-hole course to a full-size 18-hole course.  In order to develop Whistler Cay Heights, they were required to provide a community amenity and an 18-hole golf course was part of the newly formed Resort Municipality of Whistler’s community plan. That summer they began the preliminary clearing, draining, surveying and planning for the course, which was to be designed by Gordie McKay, the golf professional and superintendent in Squamish.  Because of a short construction season, they estimated it would be at least years before the full course would be finished.  In the meantime, the smaller course would be improved and kept open.

Chauffeur Chris Speedie and assistant Rod McLeod take the golf course refreshment buggy around the course during a tournament.  Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

The expansion of the golf course became a key part in the plans for the development of a Town Centre and the transformation of Whistler into a year-round destination resort and was taken over by the Whistler Village Land Company (WVLC) by 1979.  Arnold Palmer chose to make the golf course the site of his first Canadian design, with Gordie McKay staying on as the Canadian consultant for the course.  The clubhouse and shop, along with a hockey rink and swimming pool, were to be incorporated into the planned Resort Centre (today the Whistler Conference Centre).  In September 1981 the golf course received its final inspection by Palmer and looked to be on track to open for the summer of 1982.

Arnold Palmer shows his fine follow through after sending a shot nearly 200 yards with a 9 iron. Palmer stresses proper rhythm rather than pure power to achieve those awesome shots. What a way to open a golf course! Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

This opening was delayed when Whistler, along with the rest of North America, was hit by a major recession in late 1981.  Real estate sales fell and interest rates climbed above 20%, leaving the WVLC with debts of almost $8 million, liabilities around $30 million, and land assets that nobody wanted to buy.  Whistler Land Co. Developments, a Crown corporation, was formed in January 1983 to take over the liabilities and assets of the WVLC, including the golf course.

Under the Whistler Land Co., the full Whistler Golf Course was completed.  It was ready for Palmer’s opening round in August 1983.