Whistler’s first ski lift (Petersen home video)


If you were asked to name Whistler’s first ski lift, you would be likely to answer the original Creekside Gondola, one of the t-bars, or the original two-person Red Chair.

You would also be wrong.

No, that distinction goes to a modest little rope tow, installed by the enterprising Alta Lake pioneer Dick Fairhurst in 1960, almost 6 years before Whistler Mountain opened for business. The rope tow ran under the power lines behind Fairhurst’s Cypress Lodge on the west shore of Alta Lake (later used as a hostel and today home to The Point Artist-Run Centre). The rope tow ran for more than 800 feet. Powered by an old Ford V8 motor, it could pull four skiers up at a time.

Aside from the wonderful footage of the ski lift and skiers (though snow conditions appear to be sub-par), you also see a little Snow-cat machine that belonged to Dick. Dick was enamoured by snow machines of all sorts and would later become a dealer for Bombardier snowmobiles. He was also a founding member of the Black Tusk Snowmobile Club which still exists today, operating a club cabin on Brohm Ridge near Mount Garibaldi.

Skiers enjoying a day on Dick Fairhurst’s slopes, early 1960s.

It may not be the Peak-to-Peak Gondola, but this humble little ski lift lays claim to a very special and under-appreciated honour as the first lift in the Whistler Valley.  We’re extremely fortunate to have this short clip, another gem from the Petersen Family home video archive. Enjoy!


2 thoughts on “Whistler’s first ski lift (Petersen home video)”

  1. I learned to ski on this slope. My instructor was neighbor Stephan Ples, who had been a guide in the Tirol region of Austria and who was responsible for laying out many of the original ski runs on Whistler. The Ples’s lived in a house on Denman St. in Vancouver (long since demolished) before moving to Whistler permanently. The lift only ran for a few years. At one point, the rope was destroyed in a fire in one of the outbuildings at Cypress Lodge; the Alta Lake Community Club rallied together to raise enough money to replace it, and the rope tow operated for a year or two longer.

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