Article by Russell Kelly
It all started in the early 1860’s when a few British Naval Officers fell upon the area of London Mountain, later changed to Whistler in the early 1900’s. The mountain soon became one of the hottest summer destinations in the Canadian Rockies, thanks to Myrtle and Alex Philip. They built the Rainbow lodge on the shore of Alta Lake, named after the rainbow trout caught in the lake by tourists. In that same year B.C Rail expanded their railways upwards towards Whistler, helping to bring tourists to the region.
Things started to get real in 1960 when a local businessman, Franz Wilhelmsen formed Garibaldi lifts, hoping for Whistler to hold the 1968 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately his dreams were crushed when France earned the number one spot in the bid. Although Franz was crushed, he and his team worked hard and made Whistler what it is today.
In February, 1966 Whistler officially opened its doors to the eager skiers of western Canada. At the time, their slogan read “Boasting the biggest vertical drop in North America and a ski season that stretched from early November until late May, Whistler Mountain opened with a four-person gondola, a double chairlift, two T-bars, and a day lodge, and virtually reinvented the modern ski experience.” This doesn't seem like much to your modern day ski resorts, but for its time it was revolutionary. In the late 1970’s Whistler village started to take shape, with their neighbouring mountain “Blackcomb”, there was always a healthy amount of competition, helping each mountain to grow at an astounding rate. If one resort had a new lift, the other would soon follow.
In 1997, the two owners gave in and merged their mountains to create the world renowned Whistler Blackcomb. Just a year later the two mountains were connected with the infamous PEAK 2 PEAK gondola which smashed 3 world records! In 2004, with the village growing and a total terrain of over 8000 acres, things were looking pretty good for the once tiny ski resort in BC, but they were not done yet.
Then Whistler Mountain's dream came true in July of 2003 when Vancouver was named the holder of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic winter games. Whistler was then made the official skiing venue that same year. The city of Vancouver donated more than 600 million dollars into the finishing and rebuilding of the Sea to Sky highway which connects Vancouver to the village. After the Olympics things exploded in the Whistler Village, this is exactly what Whistler needed to become the skiing destination of the west.
Now in 2020, Whistler is now one of Canada’s go to vacation destinations throughout summer and winter. Including their more recent addition of a world class mountain bike park, dubbed The Whistler Bike Park. The bike park has been such a hit that Whistler’s summer revenue has almost surpassed that of the winter. With over 2 million visitors a year it’s safe to say that business is booming and Franz’s dreams have finally became a reality for this bustling little BC town, all thanks to one man back in 1960.