Tag Archives: Whistler

Opening this Friday: A Photographic History of Whistler!

Our scanner can finally breathe a sigh of relief (if that were possible), after over a year of hard work digitizing 35,000 photographs from The Whistler Question’s collection of negatives spanning 1978-1985 (made possible by funding from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre).

Over the last year and a half we have scanned many photos of construction sites as the Village was built. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

With most of the images already uploaded to our online gallery, we have now set our sights on an opening night for the exhibit.  We have planned to feature the cream of the crop of all the scanned Whistler Question photos.

Photos were chosen for the exhibit based on how well they encapsulate the people, places and events in the community during Whistler’s transitional years, as well as on their pure aesthetic qualities that showcase the artistic side of The Whistler Question’s early photographers.

Whistler on a snowy night in December, 1979. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

Founded in 1976, The Whistler Question is Whistler’s longest-running newspaper and these early photographs document significant milestones in Whistler’s development, such as the construction of Whistler Village, the opening of Blackcomb Mountain and the Molson World Cup Downhill.

Everyday events experienced by the growing community also feature strongly, including sporting events, school plays, weddings, local government meetings and rowdy parties that express the spirit of the people living in our mountain town.  The Whistler Museum’s temporary exhibit room will showcase many of these week-by-week photos on the walls and will also host a slideshow screen that displays over 100 other photos from the collection.

Many of The Whistler Question’s original captions form the newspaper will accompany the photographs, demonstrating how these photos were framed in print.

Myrtle Philip, aged 93, with the Grade 5 class from Myrtle Philip Elementary School at her home on Alta Lake Road, May 1984. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

We will be celebrating opening night of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985 and the completion of the digitization project on Friday, September 15 from 6 to 9pm.  We hope you’ll join us for a night of admiring these beautiful photos, reminiscing and mingling as we welcome special guests Paul Burrows, the found of The Whistler Question, and Glenda Bartosh, the second publisher and owner of the paper.

Paul and Glenda will share their experiences and stories of the early years of The Whistler Question and Whistler itself, providing context for the visual exhibit that will add even more to the already vivid photos on display.

The Whistler Museum will host refreshments, including snacks and complimentary tea provided by DavidsTea, as well as a cash bar to fuel the good times.

Admission for the evening will be free, so we hope that the community can join us to wander the exhibit and celebrate the archives of our local paper!  If you aren’t able to join us for opening night, please come view the exhibit during our normal opening hours (11am to 5pm daily, open late on Thursdays) until the exhibit ends on November 30, 2017, or browse the digitized Whistler Question photos online here.

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LEGO Competition 2017 Recap

Last Saturday the Whistler Museum was happy to welcome 41 children for our 21st annual LEGO Building Competition. Because of the smoke in the valley, we had to bring the kids inside to build their creations. This didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s sprits or creativity!

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The kids in the 9-11 age group begin to build their LEGO transportation creations.

After a short presentation and introduction, the kids were given 45 minutes to build their best interpretation of the theme. This year’s theme was “Imagination Transportation”, to showcase how much transportation has changed in the past 100 years of Whistler. The children were asked to build anything to represent their ideal form of transportation, real or imaginary. We had some really inventive interpretations of the theme, including spaceships, a hover-board, and an impressive black submarine from a talented 8 year old.

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A colourful flying car built by a 6 year old named Peter.

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Gregory’s jet engine and Marie’s hover-board powered by rockets, both from the 9-11 age category.

 

We would really like to thank our judges Alison Hunter, Marie Holland from the Audain Museum, Julie Burrows from the Whistler Public Library, and Alyssa Bruijns from the Whistler Museum and Archives. We wouldn’t be able to hold the competition without your support! The winners they decided on this year were as follows:

Ages 5 and under:

  1. Michael M.
  2. Asher
  3. Cam H.

Ages 6-8:

  1. Isaac P.
  2. Ethan A.
  3. Joey J.

Ages 9-11:

  1. William O.
  2. Zachary D.
  3. Bronwyn D.

Ages 12 and up:

  1. Samuel L.
  2. Linus K.
  3. Dylan P.
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A little boy from the under five age group with his impressive DUPLO train adorned with a polar bear!

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The kids in the 12 and up table share their LEGO with a boy from a younger group.

 

 

Even if a child didn’t win a prize, they still went home with a loot bag fun of fun goodies.

This event wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the support we receive every year from our generous local businesses. This year we received donations from Armchair Books, Cows Ice Cream, Escape! Whistler, IGA, Meadow Park Sports Centre, PureBread, The Great Glass Elevator, Avalanche Pizza, The Old Spaghetti Factory, and Whoola Toys.

We would also like to give a huge thank you to every child and parent or caretaker that was involved in the LEGO Competition. We love to see everyone come out to have fun, and despite the relocation it was a success. See you next year!

 

Taking Stock of Glacial Loss in Garibaldi Park

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure to run into a pair of glaciologists performing research in Garibaldi Provincial Park. They let us tag along and see what a day of glaciological fieldwork entailed.

Their focus was the Helm Glacier, a slender icefield four kilometres southeast of Black Tusk most commonly accessed from the Cheakamus Lake trailhead.

Jason Vanderschoot and Mark Ednie arrive at the day's jobsite. Jeff Slack photo.

Jason Vanderschoot and Mark Ednie arrive at the day’s jobsite. Jeff Slack photo.

Helm Glacier is important because it has a solid baseline of data; it has been continuously monitored since the late 1960s. Moreover, multiple photographs taken by mountaineers as far back as the 1920s help give an even better indication of the glacier’s change over time.

This change has been consistent: rapid retreat. Between 1928-2009, Helm Glacier lost an estimated 78% of its mass, and it has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, in a database of sixteen North American glaciers with extensive and comparable datasets, Helm has experienced the most rapid melting of them all.

The two glaciologists, working for the Geological Survey of Canada, were measuring vertical surface loss, that is, the extent to which the glacier’s surface has dropped since the previous summer. This is done by drilling six-metre long metal poles vertically into the glacier, then returning the following year to measure how much of the pole has become exposed. The drills are human-powered; all the drilling and the hike to the glacier and back makes for a long day of hard, physical work.

Fascinating caverns and tunnels are emerging along the edges of the fast-retreating glacier. Jeff Slack photo.

Fascinating caverns and tunnels are emerging along the edges of the fast-retreating glacier. Jeff Slack photo.

Last year’s results indicated that the glacier’s surface had lowered an average of 4 vertical metres on the lower glacier, and roughly 3.5 metres higher up. Numbers still need to be crunched, but preliminary data for this year suggests smaller losses, roughly 2.6 metres at the bottom and 2.2 metres at the top.

This is not surprising, as two winters ago our region experienced historically low snowpack levels, followed by a long, hot summer (remember those massive forest fires?). Last winter, Whistler Mountain measured a slightly above average snowpack, and this summer has been closer to average as well. Still, on September 29th (the day we were up there) there was hardly any seasonal snow left on the surface of the glacier. This year was not as hard on the glaciers as last, but we still lost a lot of ice.

Hand-drilling five metres down into the glacier is low-tech hard work, but these gus weren't complaining. Jeff Slack photo.

Hand-drilling five metres down into the glacier is low-tech hard work, but these gus weren’t complaining. Jeff Slack photo.

After the Helm Glacier research was completed, the pair headed up to their research station on the Place Glacier, north of Pemberton, to conduct further studies. When compared to similar data from hundreds of other glaciers around the world, this research is creating a fuller understanding of past, present, and future environmental change. Much thanks to these intrepid scientists for the work they do, and for letting us tag along for the afternoon!

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Where’s Waldo, glacier-style.

Helm Glacier Panorama. Jeff Slack photo.

Helm Glacier Panorama. Jeff Slack photo.

Announcing “Coast Mountain Gothic”

Last fall we published a post about a volunteer work day at the Wendy Thompson Hut, and another about Building the Himmelsbach Hut, and at the end of the latter story included the vague sentence “we will also be producing more content about the rest of the gothic arch huts in the coming months both on this blog and elsewhere…”

Building the Himmelsbach Hut, October 1967.

Building the Himmelsbach Hut, October 1967. WMAS, Dick Chambers Photo.

At the time we were working on an application to the Virtual Museum of Canada‘s (VMC) Community Memories program for funding to help produce a virtual exhibit about gothic arch mountain huts in the Coast Mountains, and we are extremely excited to now formally announce that our application was accepted! Preliminary work on the project has already begun.

During these preliminary stages we have frequently been asked “What’s a virtual exhibit?” No, it does not involve virtual reality, teleportation, or time travel (it’s way cooler than that). Essentially, a virtual exhibit is a website that uses text, photos, audio recordings, video clips, and other digital media to tell a historical story. You know, like a museum exhibit, but online.

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The Himmelsbach Hut, last summer. Jeff Slack Photo.

Our exhibit, tentatively titled “Coast Mountain Gothic: A History of the Gothic Arch Mountain Hut” will tell the story of how this specific style of alpine shelter was designed by members of the British Columbia Mountaineering Club in the mid-1960s and then proliferated throughout the Coast Range and beyond over the next half-century.

We will explore the aesthetic, practical, and environmental characteristics of this deceptively simple design, describe some of the challenges encountered and overcome while hut-building in harsh and remote mountain settings, and recount some of the myriad mountain adventures that these huts have supported over the years.

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The idyllic Wedgemount Hut, with Wedge Mountain looming beyond. Jeff Slack Photo.

It’s a big project, and the research and writing are only a small portion of what goes into the whole production. The virtual exhibit’s anticipated launch is autumn 2017.

Needless to say, we are looking forward to collecting the stories, images, and other artifacts that are going to go into the exhibit. We are also very pleased about the expanded reach and new audience that this exhibit will hopefully attain.

Inevitably, we will compile more content than can make the final cut, so look forward to sneak peeks and other related posts on this blog in the coming months.

In addition to the Virtual Museum of Canada, we would like to acknowledge and thank several other organizations who will be partnering with us and contributing to this exciting project: The British Columbia Mountaineering Club, The Alpine Club of Canada (Whistler Section), The UBC Varsity Outdoors Club, The Federation of BC Mountain Clubs, The North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, and Denali National Park & Preserve.

About the Virtual Museum of Canada:

The Virtual Museum of Canada, managed by the Canadian Museum of History, with the financial support of the Government of Canada, is the largest digital source of stories and experiences shared by Canada’s museums and heritage organizations. The VMC’s Community Memories investment program helps smaller Canadian museums and heritage organizations work with their communities to develop virtual exhibits that engage online audiences in the stories, past and present, of Canada’s communities.

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Pacific Ski Air – Whistler’s First Heli-ski Operation

With our upcoming Speaker Series about the origins of heli-skiing in Whistler, we thought we’d delve a little deeper into the Pacific Ski Air story.

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Among the many ski industry-altering innovations that have occurred here in Whistler, it is often under-appreciated that, as far as we can tell, Whistler was the first ski resort to offer heli-skiing. When Hans Gmoser’s Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), the first commercial heli-ski operator, began their operations in April 1965 they were based out of an abandoned logging camp south of Golden, BC. They opened their first purpose-built backcountry lodge, Bugaboo Lodge, in 1968 in the same vicinity as the logging camp.

Pacific Ski Air, meanwhile, began shuttling skiers up from Whistler’s original Creekside base directly to exhilarating ski descents on the massive north-facing glaciers of the Spearhead Range during the winter of 1967-68.

The fledgling company had the huge advantage of working in partnership with Okanagan Helicopters. Originally formed in Penticton, BC with the intent of using helicopters to spray pesticides for large-scale agriculture, Okanagan Helicopters quickly grew into the largest helicopter operator in the world by supporting a variety of resource industries and industrial construction projects in the mountains of British Columbia. By the end of the 1950s,  OK Helicopters, as they were known, owned more than 60 aircraft and had relocated to Vancouver.

Glenn McPherson, President of Okanagan Helicopters, was also on the original board of directors of Garibaldi Lifts Limited, the company that built Whistler Mountain ski resort, so it’s no coincidence that OK feature prominently in early photos of the resort:

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Not surprisingly, OK was also heavily involved in Pacific Ski Air from the start as well, as a partial owner, in partnership with Joe Csizmazia, Al Raine, Jamie Pike, and Peter Vajda. Brian Rowley and Cliff Jennings were the original ski guides.

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The bread and butter of the operation was a 2 or 3 run package in the Spearhead Range, primarily on the Blackcomb, Decker, Trorey, and Tremor Glaciers, before finishing up with a drop on Whistler Peak where the guides and clients skied down Whistler Bowl and Shale Slope back down to the Red Chair. Special trips were also made to Overlord Mountain, Rainbow Mountain, the Brandywine area, and north of Blackcomb around Wedge and Weart Mountains.

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Pacific Ski Air only lasted a few short seasons, stifled by a number of factors including an inability to secure an operating tenure. Still, the pioneering folks at Pacific Ski Air were among the first to truly appreciate the Coast Mountains’ potential as an unparalleled destination for adventure-skiing.

Join us Wednesday January 20th at 6pm as Pacific Ski Air veterans Cliff Jennings and Jamie Pike share more photos and stories from this groundbreaking era.

When: Wednesday January 20th; Doors at 6pm, show 7pm-9pm
Where: Whistler Museum (4333 Main Street, beside the Library)
Who: Everyone!
Cost: $10 regular price, $5 for museum members

We expect this event to sell out, so make sure to get your tickets early. To purchase tickets stop by the museum or call us at 604.932.2019.

 

Grizzly Details

The recent sighting of a grizzly bear family near Whistler, along with the ongoing scientific, political, and public awareness efforts of the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Initiative has brought the larger variety of our ursine friends back into the public eye.

We’ve written about the history of grizzlies around Whistler before, and even contemplated their return. This remains a poorly understood topic among the general public, so we recently had a chat with Claire Ruddy, Communications & Outreach Coordinator for Coast to Cascades to get the inside scoop.

A family of grizzlies on Chilco Lake, In the South Chilcotin region to the north of Whistler. Photo: Jeremy William C2C Griizzly Initiative

A family of grizzlies on Chilco Lake, In the South Chilcotin region to the north of Whistler. Photo: Jeremy William/C2C Grizzly Initiative

First off, Coast to Cascades is a regional coalition of scientists and conservation experts working towards the successful coexistence of humans and grizzly bears in southwestern BC. What makes their work so crucial is the fact that our region currently rests along the southern line of extinction of grizzly bears in North America, a population which used to extend all the way to central Mexico.

The task of stopping the further retreat of grizzly habitat now firmly rests in our hands. It helps to understand our region’s grizzlies in terms of distinct population units:

A map of the grizzly population of southwestern BC, divided into the distinct population units using 2012 provincial government data.

A map of the grizzly population of southwestern BC, divided into the distinct population units, using 2012 provincial government data.

When you see the numbers on the map and understand how vast the territories occupied by each of these population units, you start to appreciate how imperilled these grizzlies are. Unfortunately for the Garibaldi-Pitt group, an estimated population of 2 means that the sub-population to our immediate south has very little long-term viability, though there is some hope.

Like the neighbouring North Cascades sub-population, one key to long-term sustainability for critically endangered grizzlies is growing the population in neighbouring districts with more robust populations. Once this is accomplished, preserving key habitat corridors that enable migration between sub-populations can bring much-needed genetic diversity to the more isolated groups.

An encouraging example comes from the Squamish-Lillooet sub-population where the population seems to be stabilizing in large part due to decreasing industrial activity in the Toba-Bute region which has proven a boon to local grizzlies.

Grizzlies on the shores of Toba Inlet, part of the growing Toba-Bute sub-population, August 2015. Photo: Jeff Slack

Mother grizzly with cub (a second cub is off-screen) on the shores of Toba Inlet, part of the growing Toba-Bute sub-population, August 2015. Photo: Jeff Slack

Another positive development has been the growing support from Sea-to Sky local governments to encourage higher levels of government into implementing and acting upon a regional grizzly recovery plan. If all goes well, grizzly sightings in our surrounding wilderness could become more frequent in the near future.

The return of these large apex carnivores will not be without controversy, and the success of such efforts will greatly rely on cooperation and support from the general public. Avoiding grizzlies altogether is best, but Claire also emphasized how the single most important step one can take to ensure potential grizzly-human interactions remain mutually beneficial is to carry bear spray. Studies repeatedly indicate that bear spray is a more effective deterrent than firearms, and of course a non-lethal solution is always preferable.

For more info on best practices during bear encounters, check out this page from  the Get Bear Smart Society.

Hunters with two trophy grizzly bears in the Singing Pass/Musical Bumps area, ca. 1916.

Hunters with two trophy grizzly bears in the Singing Pass/Musical Bumps area, near Whistler Mountain ca. 1916.

When Hollywood Came to the Alpine

It’s safe to say that we are very lucky in our valley. We can enjoy lush forest hikes or adrenalin loaded bike runs for our morning workout before heading into the office. However, a now-obsolete technological quirk used to require a unique mountain town profession that came with some special perks.

Home of the three musketeers: the Alpine Service Building with the Little Red Chair. Schoki patrols, and makes sure that everything is in order on top of Whistler Mountain. Photo courtesy: Janet Love Morrison, Gordy Rox Harder

Gordy and Janet’s home above the tree line: the Alpine Service Building with the Little Red Chair. Photo courtesy: Janet Love Morrison, Gordy Rox Harder

While we valley dwellers actually have to get in the truck, and drive a few kilometres to the lifts and stand in a line up, Janet Love Morrison and Gordy Rox Harder enjoyed the privilege of having their serene home nestled among the wildlife of the mountains right next to the top of the Red Chair. From 1978-1992, the lifts on Whistler Mountain actually required full–time caretakers to start them up each day, among other tasks. From January 1987 to November 1988, they were the alpine caretakers living on top of Whistler Mountain – in winter and summer.

“It was magic living up there and watching the seasons change” Janet enthuses. She remembers that the wildlife was very entertaining in summer. They heard the grouse and the hoary marmots, and they saw little pikas (rock rabbits) race here and there. In the summer months, Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation would let them use the building maintenance truck to drive from the valley to the alpine on the service road. “A real treat” as they call it because it was so much easier to get groceries home if you didn’t have to transport them on the lifts.

Living in the mountains can be magical – and sometimes even thrilling: Gordy and Janet met Sidney Poitier while filming a scene of the movie Shoot to Kill in the Little Whistler bowl on Whistler Mountain. Photo courtesy: Janet Love Morrison, Gordy Rox Harder

Living in the mountains can be magical – and sometimes even thrilling: Gordy and Janet met Sidney Poitier while filming a scene of the movie Shoot to Kill in the Little Whistler bowl on Whistler Mountain. Photo courtesy: Janet Love Morrison, Gordy Rox Harder

In the summer of 1988 Hollywood came to the alpine. A scene in the movie Shoot to Kill, starring Sidney Poitier and Tom Berenger, was being filmed just past the top of the T-Bars at the bottom of Little Whistler. Janet and Gordy blasted up on the skidoo to watch them film. They recalled: “Mr. Poitier came over and chatted with us. He was so surprised to learn that someone lived up on the mountain. It was an absolute thrill to meet him. He suggested a film assistant take a photo with a Polaroid camera. It was so kind.”

They watched them film a blizzard scene where Sidney’s character starts to dig a snow cave. Gordy helped out by passing someone on the set huge bags of mashed potato flakes that were dumped in front of a large fan to simulate driving snow.

Janet and Gordy have a lot of golden memories to share, and we will post them to this blog in the coming months.

The position of alpine caretaker first began in 1978 with the completion of the Alpine Service Building close to the top of the Red Chair. From January 1987 to November 1988, Janet Love Morrison and Gordy Rox Harder, both in their early 20s at that time, were the alpine caretakers living on top of Whistler Mountain. There were actually three teams sharing the positions: Gordy and Janet lived in the alpine (1,850m); their neighbours Laird Brown and Colleen Warner lived at mid-station (1,350m); and Sandy and Molly Boyd lived in the valley (650m). In the summer of 1988, the Whistler Village Gondola was installed, and the alpine caretaker position was terminated. The mid-station position remained for another winter, and the valley caretaker position until 1992.