Category: Whistler: A Town

As well as being a resort, Whistler is town (kind of) like any other.

A-frames About TownA-frames About Town


When Whistler Mountain was first being developed as a ski resort in the 1960s, A-frames were a popular design choice, whether building a ski cabin or a Skiers’ Chapel. A-frames could soon be found throughout the valley, partly because of their relatively simple construction and the availability of kits that could quickly be assembled.

In 1996, an inventory of A-frames in the Alta Vista neighbourhood was compiled by Rosemary Malaher, a volunteer for the Whistler Museum. Each A-frame structure that was still standing in Alta Vista at the time was photographed and, where possible, additional information about the building was gathered from its owners, such as when it was built or by whom. Malaher also noted unique or unusual features, such as a stained glass window in the front door, a metal roof with skylights, or modifications and additions. While some of these structures stand today, others have been redeveloped or torn down and replaced over the last few decades.

BJ Godson’s miniature A-frame on Nesters Road. Photo courtesy of BJ Godson.

BJ Godson moved to the Whistler area in 1974 and lived for a time in an A-frame on Alta lake Road. Around 1977, she moved into another A-frame, this one located where Nesters Market it today. In a recent interview, she described this A-frame as a “little hobbit house” with a bathroom at the back that was on “a bit of slant” and said that everything inside was miniature, including the woodstove. Despite the woodstove, BJ recalled that the house wasn’t intended to be a winter cabin and the pipes weren’t insulated underneath the building. This meant that she often had to go under the A-frame with a torch to warm up the pipes, though this turned out to be a good way to save money. When she first moved in, BJ paid $157/month; she remembered that one day, her landlord Rudy Hoffmann (of nearby Rudy’s Steak House) came by and told her, “Ok, your rent is now lowered to $75 a month and I don’t want to hear about frozen pipes. You’re on your own.”

BJ lived in the little A-frame for about four years. When her partner moved in, however, it proved too small for the two of them, their cat, and the guitar, and they moved down to the Garibaldi townsite.

Another A-frame that we have heard stories about was supposedly the smallest house in Whistler in 1988. After sharing a photo of the A-frame, we received more information about it from Rich Miller, who lived in the building in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This A-frame was once a show home located in Vancouver before moving north to Alpine Meadows. Whistler Museum Collection.

Miller remembered that the A-frame had been used as a display home at the end of Denman St. in Vancouver by Capilano Highlands Ltd. to promote their new Alpine Meadows development in the later 1960s. It was later moved to the corner of Alpine Way and Highway 99 before being moved further into Alpine, where it stood aorund 1978 when Miller was looking for a place to live. He had been renting a basement suite for $125/month, which was a good deal, until his landlord raised his rent to what Miller remembered was the going rate of $450/month. Over a beer with Jack Bright and Peter Soros, Bright suggested that he buy the A-frame and the lot it was on. After figuring out the financing and completing the $6,000 worth of work for Soros for the down payment, Miller was able to call the little A-frame home.

Miller later decided to build a “real” house behind the A-frame and had to come up with a creative solution to keep the A-frame. Bylaws at the time did not allow for two separate dwellings on one lot, but they allow for a workshop. According to Miller, “you were allowed a bathroom in a shop and a sink for cleaning up and storage, but no cooking facilities… so I disconnected the stove and ‘put it in storage’.” The stove would sometimes come out of storage when making a meal and then be returned. Eventually, the A-frame was allowed to stay.

If you’d like to share the story of your favourite A-frame (or other kind of structure), we’d love to hear it!

Blackcomb Helicopters: A Short HistoryBlackcomb Helicopters: A Short History


Recently at the Museum, we acquired a collection of documents related to aviation in the Whistler valley from Brent Wallace. This collection is very extensive and contains many files from many of the aircraft companies in Whistler such as applications for Commercial Air Service Licenses from Corporate Helicopters Ltd. and Airspan Enterprises Ltd., brochures from the charter aviation companies, proposals and documents related to the Whistler Municipal Heliport, some interviews from Myrtle Philip about early aviation in Whistler, and a collection of news clippings from 1977 all the way to 2023 about aviation in Whistler. One company we wanted to focus on that is frequently mentioned is Blackcomb Helicopters, who started a little later than some other companies but still made a big splash amongst all the competing charter aviation companies.

Blackcomb Helicopters was founded in 1989 by experienced helicopter pilot Steve Flynn. Steve managed a number of other bases throughout BC before settling in Whistler, where he worked at Pemberton Helicopters before applying for his own Operating Certificate in 1989 to start Blackcomb Helicopters. Blackcomb Helicopters began performing mostly technical operations such as fighting forest fires and helping with a number of construction projects, as well as search and rescue operations. They also got involved with the growing tourism industry, offering a wide variety of services to customers from all over the world.

BUCKETS FROM ON HIGH: Blackcomb Helicopters assisted in the pouring of concrete for lift-tower foundations at Whistler’s Creekside base. Whistler Question Collection, 1991

Blackcomb Helicopters was up and running by 1991 and construction aid was one of the many services they provided to contractors in Whistler. In 1991, Blackcomb Helicopters aided with the construction of the Whistler Heliport and even flew in the windsock for the opening ceremony of the heliport. In 1992, they airlifted a 16-man hot tub to the Glacier Lodge. However, construction wasn’t all they did. They also helped with conservation efforts such as transporting bears out of Whistler, like they did in 1994 when they airlifted a four year old male black bear out of the landfill to the Upper Squamish Valley. Blackcomb Helicopters also offered a wide range of heli-touring services to people in the Whistler area and still continues to offer services like heli-biking, heli-skiing, and heli-picnics, as well as more specialized services such as search and rescue, medevac, environmental surveys, flights to and from Vancouver, and even film production.

Things have not always been easy for Blackcomb Helicopters. In 1996, an unidentified party placed a muffin into the fuel tank of one of their helicopters, causing an engine failure and leading to an emergency landing at Squamish Elementary School (after this event, some more security was put in place at the heliport). Blackcomb Helicopters also had trouble finding a permanent heliport. They were in a bidding war with Whistler Air for a heliport near Nicklaus North golf course that was ultimately won by Whistler Air, which was acquired by Harbour Air in 2012 and became the floatplane dock on Green Lake. Blackcomb Helicopters ultimately settled in the Whistler Municipal Heliport just north of Green Lake.

CEMENTING THE FOUNDATION: Blackcomb Mountain picks up a load of cement. Whistler Question Collection, 1994

In 2006, Blackcomb Helicopters was brought by MCM Aviation, a joint venture between the McLearn Group and Omega Aviation. Steve Flynn stayed on as general manager but Blackcomb Helicopters was now owned by John Morris, Jason McLean, and Sacha McLean. Nowadays, Blackcomb Helicopters still works with Whistler Blackcomb and helps with construction, environmental management, emergency services, and film services (they have worked on many Hollywood films such as The A-Team, Godzilla, and the Deadpool films, just to name a few). They still operate at the Whistler Heliport just north of Green Lake and will still take people on helicopter adventures to take in the beauty of the Whistler Valley and see it in a way few people are able to.

Liam McCrorie was one of two summer students working at the Whistler Museum this summer through the Young Canada Works Program.

Licensing WhistlerLicensing Whistler


With restaurants, bars, and even a beer festival earlier this month, there are quite a few places in Whistler today serving alcohol. From stories of Alex Philip sharing a few drinks with guests in the 1920s, the Witsend girls getting their gin discreetly delivered in a shoebox by train int he 1950s, and a homebrew contest being established in the 1970s, we know that visitors and residents of the area have been bringing and making their own drinks for decades. While searching through past editions of the Whistler Question, however, we came across a three part series written by Stew Muir and Kevin Griffin in 1984 entitled “Bar Wars,” in which the two looked at the history of licenced establishments in the valley.

Paul Burrows carries a few cases inside Whistler’s liquor store. Whistler Question Collection.

Liquor regulations in British Columbia meant that until the mid-1950s, liquor could only be served in beer parlours, social clubs, and veterans clubs, and these venues had strict regulations around entertainment and food (both forbidden in beer parlours), as well as how liquor was served. According to “Bar Wars,” Rainbow Lodge got is licence after these regulations changed int he mid-1950s (years after Alex and Myrtle Philip had sold the lodge and retired), followed by Hillcrest Lodge in 1961. After Whistler Mountain opened for skiing during the winter of 1965/66, ski lodges like Mount Whistler Lodge (formerly Hillcrest) and the Cheakamus Inn served guests and visitors in lounges and, in some cases, restaurants. The Christiana Inn, opened by Sandy and Puddy Martin in 1967, included a lounge and dining room and was reportedly the first establishment in BC to be licensed to serve liquor outdoors on their poolside patio.

When Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. opened L’Après at the base of Whistler Mountain in 1968, it was not connected to any accommodations and so was regulated differently than the lodges. According to Jack Bright, then the mountain manager for the lift company, L’Après was granted a cabaret licence, which required that any alcohol be served with food and that patrons pay a fee to enter. A lift ticket was accepted as proof of payment and L’Apès became known for fondue, though Bright recalled one RCMP constable who was not convinced that fondue fulfilled the food requirements.

Excitement abounds at the ‘boat races’ at L’Apres Beach Party, an event that the RCMP constable most likely would not have approved of. Whistler Question Collection.

Through the 1970s, more options were opened to thirsty skiers (and non-skiers). The Ski Boot Motel, which had opened in the late 1960s, added a beer parlour and dining room in 1972 and, according to Muir and Griffin, was the first place in Whistler to receive a licence to serve draft beer rather than bottled. (Though they don’t name their sources, they also reported “Locals helped build the bar addition to the existing hotel in the early 1970s. Some wanted the new pub so badly they worked for free.”) Restaurants such as Rudi’s Steakhouse were licensed to serve alcohol with meals and in 1974, the Keg N’ Cleaver restaurant, better known as The Keg, opened on the shores of Alta Lake at Adventures West. The Highland Lodge received its liquor licence in 1978.

According to Allan Gould, at one time the general manager of the Liquor Control and Licencing Branch of BC, the 1970s also saw the government bring in special recreational centre licences for ski resorts and so the lift company was able to get a licence for the Roundhouse. Leo Lucas, who worked as a bartender at the Roundhouse, recalled that they served only beer and wine, all poured into plastic cups to reduce the potential hazards of broken bottles.

The Keg building at its original location in Adventures West. Garibaldi’s Whistler News.

By the time businesses began opening in the Whistler Village in the 1980s, the regulations around liquor in BC had changed a lot from the requirements of the 1920s and food and entertainment of various types could be found alongside liquor in pubs, bars and restaurants. Since Muir and Griffin’s “Bar Wars” series of 1984, regulations have continued to change and many more licenced establishment have opened, closed, and evolved in Whistler.

Connecting the ValleyConnecting the Valley


No matter the time of year, there are sure to be people out on the Valley Trail, whether biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, walking, jogging, or skiing. The popular multi-use trail system runs throughout Whistler and, for decades, has been used by many for both practical and recreational purposes.

The origins of Whistler’s Valley Trail go back to 1976, just one year after the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) was formed. A Rec Report prepared by representatives of the Whistler Developers Association, the Alta Lake Ratepayers Association, the Advisory Planning Commission, and the RMOW looked at existing recreation infrastructure within the municipality and made recommendations for future recreation development. These recommendations included “a main valley trail of a minimum 12 foot wide, dust-proof surface” connecting the existing recreational and community facilities and residential developments for cyclists and pedestrians.

Winter commuting along the Valley Trail. Whistler Question Collection, 1996.

This call for a trail system through the valley was echoed four years later in the 1980 Recreation Committee Report and by the Whistler Outdoor Recreation Master Plan Study prepared for the RMOW by Professional Environmental Recreation Consultants Ltd. in 1980, often referred to as the PERC report.

One reason that the PERC report prioritized the development of a bikeway was in order to make travel safer within Whistler. According to the report, “the [then] current system of bicycling on Highway 99 through Whistler is unsafe due to the heavy traffic and especially due to the number of logging and other heavy vehicles using the highway.”

To address this issue, the PERC report proposed building about 13 km of paved bikeway over five years to create a north/south spine that began at the RV campground at the south end and terminated in Alpine Meadows to the north. Along the way, the bikeway would link subdivisions and other developments, including the Village. The master plan also included plans for a Lost Lake Loop and a Fitzsimmons Creek Loop that could be added to the trail system, as well as an extension of the spine north to Emerald Estates along Green Lake.

A newly paved section of the Valley Trail heading towards Alpine Meadows in 1983. Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

Over the next four years, the Advisory Parks and Recreation Commission (ARPC), guided by its chair Trevor Roote, led public consultation meetings, passed a referendum to fund their master plan, and negotiated rights of way throughout the valley for the Valley Trail. By 1982, the trail was paved from the Village to Alta Vista and from the River of Golden Dreams to Rainbow Drive. According to Roote, the trail “immediately became a popular commuting route, particularly with school children who no longer had to ride their bikes to school along Highway 99 playing dodge’m with logging trucks.” In 1983, the trail was paved from the Village to Whistler Cay and from Rainbow Drive through Meadow Park.

Many elements of the trail system described in the PERC report are part of the Valley Trail today. The ARPC did incorporate the trail right of way into the negotiation of sewer rights of way and the general location of the trail matched much of what the PERC report proposed. The next five year plan of the ARPC (1985 – 1989) included the expansion of the Valley Trail out towards Emerald Estates. The physical design of the trail, however, is not quite as the PERC report envisioned.

Steve Martin? No, this wild and crazy guy is parks worker Ted Pryce-Jones who was out last week painting arrows and yellow lines on Valley Trail curves and bends. The new lines and arrows are designed to give cyclists and pedestrians warning and keep users to one side. Whistler Question Collection, 1984.

While most Valley Trail users are accustomed to a mix of walkers, cyclists, skateboarders and more, all keeping to the right of the yellow line except to pass (and then using their bell or calling out to alert those they’re passing), the PERC report proposed a 6′ two-way paved bikeway with a separate but adjacent 3′ gravel pedestrian trail.

The importance to the community of developing recreation and in particular the Valley Trail was recognized quite early on. For his work as the chair of the ARPC, Trevor Roote was named Citizen of the Year in 1981 and was awarded the Freedom of the Municipality in 1984. Since then, the Valley Trail has continued to expand throughout Whistler and continues to be a popular commuting and recreational route for residents and visitors alike.