Whistler Blackcomb: 50 Years In 50 Photos, Part 1

1966: Constructing the first chairlifts on Whistler Mountain

Garibaldi Lifts Limited Whistler 1966

By the end of the summer of 1966 Garibaldi Lifts Limited had constructed the gondola to mid-station, the double chairlift to the treeline, two T-bars in the alpine, a number of cut runs, and a simple day lodge to warm the toes. At the same time the government had completed a rough road from Vancouver, which followed the old hydro service road – a journey that took five hours.

Photo and info source: The 1968 Olympic Bid – A Bid of Discovery

1967: Arial view of the completed Roundhouse Lodge

roundhouse Whistler 1967

When Whistler Mountain opened in January 1966 there was no cafeteria. In the first season, hot drinks, soup and sandwiches were served off a picnic table using a Coleman camp stove in the so-called Red Shack at the top of the Red Chair. The original Roundhouse was built in the summer of 1966 and opened in the following winter of 1966/67. It was a copy of a building in California and was designed as a round warming hut with a huge fireplace in the middle where the skiers warmed their feet. Hence the name the “roundhouse”.

Photo and info source: The Whistler Museum

1968: Whistler’s first bid for the Winter Olympics

whistler olympic bid 1968

In 1961 Whistler secured a nomination to bid to host the 1968 Winter Olympic Games. Despite meeting all the technical requirements demanded by the 1968 Winter Olympics Committee, Banff was the chosen destination due to Whistler’s lack of regional development and highway access.

Photo and info source: The 1968 Olympic Bid – A Bid of Discovery

1969: Skiers loading up the gondola at Creekside, the original base of Whistler Mountain

loading skis at whistler creekside 1969

The failed Olympic bid made Whistler somewhat of a household name. The mountain offered skiing 7 days a week, spectacular views, the longest ski season in Canada, seemingly endless terrain, and huge west coast snowfalls.

Photo and info source: The 1968 Olympic Bid – A Bid of Discovery

1970: Whistler’s iconic ski-bum squatter George Benjamin took up residence in “Tokum Corners”

george benjimin whistler 1970

Fuelled by the ski area’s success many free-spirited ski bums, who wanted to ski everyday and live on the cheap, began occupying empty buildings (such as at Parkhurst and the infamous Toad Hall, an abandoned logging camp) or building their own rustic cabins, often squatting on crown land.

This photo is of George Benjamin outside one of the most renowned dwellings of the era, Tokum Corners.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library blog

1971: Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau honeymooned with his wife in Whistler

trudeau_whistler_1971

Throughout the decades, the grandeur and excitement of Whistler has inspired a lot of couples to spend their honeymoons at our beautiful valley hideaway. The most famous honeymooners in Whistler are undoubtedly former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his bride, Margaret. They surprised the media with their secret wedding in Vancouver, and afterwards drove directly to Whistler for a three day stay.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library blog

1972: Jack Bright skiing with “Diamond” Jim McConkey

bright-mcconkey_1972

Jack Bright was the first General Manager of Whistler Mountain, and was a pivotal figure in the nascent ski resort’s quick ascent as Canada’s premier ski resort. Franz Wilhelmsen hired Jack to run Whistler Mountain at the ripe old age of 28, a decision that turned out to be a resounding success. Jack was a marketing and management savant. Recognizing the power of celebrity and the draw of larger-than-life personalities, he managed to snag skiing superstar “Diamond” Jim McConkey to run the resort’s ski school, rental & retail operations.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library blog

1973: The first hiking map of Whistler was created by Don MacLaurin

don-maclaurin-copy1 1973

Don made substantial contributions to the development of Whistler for over 50 years and was truly part of the fabric of this town. Don was a passionate outdoorsman. He strongly believed in the value of getting out into the mountains and was one of the first people to champion summer enjoyment of the alpine, creating trails on Whistler Mountain and Rainbow Mountain. Don was the instigator behind building the Russet Lake and Wedgemount Huts, and drew what was probably the first ever hiking trail map for Whistler Mountain, in 1973.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library blog

1974: Whistler gets its first World Cup competition

freestyle champs 1974

In 1973, it was announced that the World Cup in skiing would be held on Whistler the following February of 1974. Programs and competitions were created in support of alpine, freestyle, and cross-country skiing. Whistler’s reputation for producing and hosting some of the best athletes in the world started to take flight.

Photo and info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1975: Residents elects the first RMOW council

rmow_council- whistler 1975

On September 6, 1975 the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the first of its kind, was incorporated by the RMOW Act. This Act bestowed the Council with the duties of law-making and service provision, while also endowing it with the responsibility to “promote, facilitate and encourage the development, maintenance and operation of the resort land.” The Council’s position was to be one that involved a careful balancing of interests between residents, visitors, and investors.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library blog

1976: The worst winter season in Whistler’s history

whistler question mountain closed 1976

When talking about a lack of snow in the valley, Whistlerites often recall the winter of 1976/77 which was undoubtedly the worst season since Whistler Mountain opened for business. Snow was so rarely seen that season, that the weather made the front page of the Whistler Question every week until the mountain was forced to close on January 19th 1977.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library Blog

1977: The birth of alternative newspaper the Whistler Answer

whistler answer 1977
Back in 1977 a group of free-thinking, creative souls began publishing the Whistler Answer. In its first iteration the Answer ran until 1982 and it made a short revival in 1992-1993. The Answer provided an alternative voice for a growing community full of ski bums, squatters, hippies, and other counter-cultural types. Even its title was irreverent, a playful response to the Whistler Question, the only serious local paper at the time.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library Blog

1978: Early stages of Whistler Village

whistler village 1979

Early in 1976 Whistler residents and newly appointed RMOW Council agreed upon an official community plan which placed the new town centre on top of the dump at the base of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Eldon Beck, an American landscape architect who had made a name for himself working at Vail, Colorado, was the mastermind behind the original village stroll design. Construction of the village we know now began in 1978.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library Blog

1979: Pro Patrol, a short documentary film about Whistler ski patrol was released to international praise

first aid ski patrol 1979

Amazingly, in the early days of Whistler Mountain there were only a handful of paid ski patrollers. In 1968 there were just five. On the weekends, when the mountain became much busier, a dedicated team of volunteers known as First Aid Ski Patrol (FASP) also worked as patrollers. The existence of two patrols–FASP and the Whistler Mountain employees–led to the term “Pro-Patrol” being used to describe the paid staff.  It was only in May 1979 that FASP was disbanded.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library Blog

1980: Blackcomb Mountain opens to rival Whistler

blackcomb mountain ski map 1980

Neighbouring Blackcomb Mountain opened for business on December 6, 1980, it featured 5 triple chairs and an additional 1,240 vertical metres (4,067 feet) of skiing. Independently owned, the two mountains cultivated a healthy rivalry. When Blackcomb installed the 7th Heaven T-Bar, providing visitors with a vertical mile (1,609 metres/5,280 feet) of skiing, Whistler Mountain responded with the Peak Chair, a high alpine lift that increased its vertical to 1,530 metres (5,020 feet). Between the two mountains skiers and riders had lift access to three glaciers and at least a dozen alpine bowls. Suddenly, big-mountain skiing was no longer exclusive to the European Alps.

Photo: skimap.org. Info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1981: The first Lost Lake Summer Air Camps

lost lake ski jump 1981

During the late ‘70s to early ‘80s the lake was home to Whistler’s “Summer Air Ramp” – a ski jump that launched aerialists high into the air and then deep into the water, allowing them to practice their somersaults and twists in the off-season. Planning for the ramp was initiated in 1977 by local freestyle skiers, commonly referred to at the time as “hot-doggers”, frustrated at the lack of aerial opportunities at Whistler’s glacier summer camps.

Sponsors began to show an interest in the ramp and competitions started in 1981. The events only got bigger as the Summer Air Camps kicked off the next year – Lost Lake had now become a renowned destination for off-season jumping!

Photo and info source: Whistler Library Blog

1982: Whistler hosts the Men’s Downhill World Cup

molson world downhill 1982

Third time’s a charm. Whistler gets the opportunity to host a World Cup ski race and it goes off without a hitch. Steve Podborski’s second place finish gives him the overall Downhill title for the year – the first time a non-European had won. Whistler celebrates!
Above is a podium shot of the 1982 Molson World Downhill at Whistler in 1982. Dave Irwin is in third and Steve Podborski is in second.

Photo: skimuseum.ca. Info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1983: Franz Willhemsen named a Freeman of Whistler

franz names a freeman of whistler 1983

In 1983 Franz was named a Freeman of Whistler.  The highest title a resident can receive, and one not often bestowed. Franz joined a select number of other members such as Whistler pioneer Myrtle Philip.

Photo and info source: Whistler Library Blog

1984: First “Peak to Valley” Race held on Whistler Mountain

peaktovalley_1988

The brainchild of legendary ski-racer Dave Murray, the Peak to Valley race starts at the (almost) top of Whistler Mountain, the Saddle, and finishes at Creekside. The average GS race has 35 gates and a vertical drop of 250 metres. The Peak to Valley race has a vertical drop of 1,443 metres, with 180 gates and a course that’s over 5 km long.

Photo: Whistler Museum blog. Info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1985: 7th Heaven opens on Blackcomb

7th heaven open on Blackcomb in 1985

7th Heaven T-bar opens up a new area offering an immense terrain for alpine skiing, including four powder bowls and wide open glacier skiing. Blackcomb became North America’s only “Mile High Mountain”.

Photo and info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1986: Intrawest acquires Blackcomb Mountain

blackcomb

Hugh Smythe signs the deal with Intrawest to purchase of Blackcomb Mountain, making it the first resort in their portfolio.

Photo and info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1987: First Saudan Couloir Ski Race Extreme held on Blackcomb Mountain

1988: Blackcomb accepts snowboarders, Whistler still doesn’t

snowboarding blackcomb mountain 1988

In 1988, Whistler Mountain would still not allow snowboarding. Ken Achenbach and Doug Lundgren, who highly influenced Canadian snowboarding, remember their first time riding Whistler Mountain in an interview with the Snowboard Canada magazine. They were filming a snowboard movie on Blackcomb, and were allowed to continue filming on Whistler Mountain while Blackcomb was closed down for three days for lift maintenance. While riding up the Whistler gondola with the head of lift safety, the head of ski patrol and the head ski instructor they were told, “you Blackcomb punks better enjoy these three days because you’re never coming here again”.

Photo: by Bud Fawcett via Snowboard Canada. Info source: Whistler Question

1989: Local racer Rob Boyd wins Wold Cup Downhill at Whistler

1990: Whistler allows snowboarders on its slopes

snowboarding 1990

After their hostile welcome from Whistler’s head ski instructor, Ken Achenbach and Doug Lundgren had to wait another two years (from 1988 – 1990) before snowboarders would be welcomed on to Whistler’s slopes. Fortunately, the recognition of snowboarders has changed a lot since then. In the mid-1990s, snowboard classes and camps were integrated into Ski School, and Whistler-Blackcomb announced a “snowboard coordinator” role to better address riders’ needs.

Photo: Whistler Museum blog. Info source: Whistler Question

1991: First Boarder Cross event held on Blackcomb Mountain

Steven Rechtschaffner and partner Greg Stump were producing a TV show called ‘Greg Stump’s World of Extremes’ for FoxTV and they had run out of ideas for a new segment. Rechtschaffner recalled a concept that had been in his head for years; Boarder Cross. Blackcomb Mountain put up the prize money and the labour hours for the use of a snowcat in order to build the first ever course. Snowboard Cross is now an Olympic event.

Info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1992: Whistler pioneered the first ski resort environmental management strategy

red chair 1992

Since 1992 Whistler Blackcomb has been focused on the development and execution of an environmental management strategy with the goal of developing a model of environmental and social stewardship for ski and mountain resort operations. Since that time, the company has been recognized for its efforts with countless awards, and has the honour of being named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers (2009, 2010, 2011).

Photo: Whistler Museum. Info source: Whistler Blackcomb

1993: Whistler Mountain gets it’s first real taste of downhill mountain biking in the alpine

downhill mountain biking on whistler 1993

In a 1993 copy of “The Whistler Handbook”, Charlie Doyle had this to say about the Whistler mountain bike scene

Mountain biking in Whistler today is like skiing was twenty years ago. In those days the skiing was every bit as astounding as it is currently, but it hadn’t been dubbed “World Class” yet… All we had was the best skiing in the world and hardly anyone outside the Lower Mainland knew or cared anything about it.

The first cross-country races happened on Whistler Mountain as early as 1990.

Photo and info source: Whistler Museum blog

1994: Blackcomb Mountain hosts the first World Technical Ski Championships

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The World Ski & Snowboard Festival as we know it today was held in 1996, but it all began with the roots of the World Technical Skiing Championships. Before is became the giant festival we know today, WTSC was a series of 22 events including the World Masters Alpine Open, the Westbeach Snowboard Classic, the Air Canada Whistler Cup, the Couloir Extreme Race, the World Ski Instructors Festival, Industry Week, and the Lifty Olympics.

Photo and info source: Whistler Blackcomb

 

50 Years In 50 Photos Part 2:

http://artofliving.summitlodge.com/live-local/whistler-blackcomb-50-years-in-50-photos-part-2/ and there’s lots still to cover!

 

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