Events at Whistler
It was fishing that drew the first tourists to Whistler. To Rainbow Lodge on Alta Lake to cast for trout with legendary guides Alex and Myrtle Philip. By the early 1920's, Rainbow Lodge was the most popular summer destination west of the Rocky Mountains.
Then winter hit. In 1960 a group of Vancouver businessmen, led by Franz Wilhelmsen, formed Garibaldi Lifts Limited with the aim of developing an alpine ski area on London Mountain (just across the lake from Rainbow Lodge). Their dream: to host the 1968 Olympic Games. Though their Olympic plans never came to fruition, Wilhelmsen and his cohorts pursued their ski area plans.
London Mountain was soon renamed Whistler Mountain (in honour of a local alpine marmot, who "whistles" when it communicates) and officially opened to the public in February 1966. Boasting the biggest vertical drop in North America and a ski season that stretched from early November until late May, Whistler Mountain virtually re-invented the modern ski experience.
But there was still more to come. When neighbouring Blackcomb Mountain opened for business on December 6, 1980, it featured 5 triple chairs and an additional 1,240 vertical metres (4067ft) of skiing. Whistler responded by developing a whole new network of runs on its north flank. Meanwhile, a modern, new community, Whistler Village, had sprung up on the bench between the two areas.
Independently owned, the two mountains cultivated a healthy rivalry. When Blackcomb installed the 7th Heaven T-Bar, for instance, providing visitors with a vertical mile (1609metres/5280ft) of skiing, Whistler Mountain responded with the Peak Chair, a high alpine lift that increased its vertical to 1,530 metres (5020ft). Suddenly, big-mountain skiing was no longer exclusive to the European Alps.
In 1991, Whistler Resort became the first mountain resort outside of the USA to be named #1 by a major American ski magazine. Five years later, in 1996, it became the only resort in history to be simultaneously named #1 by Snow Country, SKI and Skiing Magazines.
But the biggest news was yet to come. In March 1997 Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation (which owned Whistler) merged with Intrawest Corporation (which owned Blackcomb) to create one of the biggest and most exciting mountain resort complexes in the world.
As if to underscore that claim, local rider Ross Rebagliati become the world's first snowboard gold medallist at the Nagano Olympics in 1998. He joins snowsport heroes such as Steve Podborski, Rob Boyd, Eric Pehota, Brian Savard, Victoria Jealouse and Britt Janyk to call Whistler Blackcomb's slopes home.
Whistler Blackcomb is appreciated as much for its cosmopolitan charm as for its alpine pleasures. But it's certainly not resting on its laurels. A whole new village at Whistler Creekside, the original base area, began in the spring of 2000. Last season saw the launch of a new day lodge there and the long anticipated reopening of Dusty's Bar – now as famous for its BBQ offerings as it is for its sun-splashed après-ski parties.
But Whistler Blackcomb is not only about development any more. In recent years, the company has quietly incorporated the award-winning Natural Step (NSF) framework into its daily operations. An internationally recognized program that helps guide individuals and organizations toward social and environmental sustainability, the Natural Step will be fully adopted. In addition to the Natural Step, our environmental warriors are working on the proposed "Run of the River" project, an environmentally-clean, power-generating hydro plant that would create enough energy to offset the power needs of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. And that's just one of many environmental initiatives at Whistler Blackcomb. By the way- the fishing here is still great!