History

History

Whistler is a place where mountains, rivers and First Nations people have met for millennia. The Coast Salish First Nations people inhabited the land around Whistler for many thousands of years, hunting, gathering and trading long before European settlers arrived.

At one time, tens of thousands of Coast Salish First Nations people lived, traded and thrived between the Vancouver, Howe Sound and the Lillooet areas. In fact, some of the hiking routes between Howe Sound and Deep Cove (on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, near Vancouver) are the same routes traveled on by the Coast Salish First Nations peoples.

The Whistler valley was an isolated wilderness frequented by two First Nations: the Lil'wat Nation from the Mount Currie area (north of Whistler, near Pemberton), and the Squamish Nation who lived in an area stretching from present-day North Vancouver to the Squamish River watershed and the northern part of what is now called Howe Sound.

Whistler was often a waypoint for trading routes between the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations because it was rich with wildlife and resources.

Whistler's European history owes much to the pioneering spirit of Myrtle Philip. As a visionary of the early 1900s she set about to establish Whistler as one of the most popular summer resorts in western Canada.


Here is a chronology of Whistler's European history.

1860s
British naval officers survey the area and give modern-day Whistler Mountain its first European name: London Mountain.

1877
The Pemberton Trail is completed, linking the Pemberton valley to the Pacific coast north of Vancouver.

1900
Trappers and prospectors settle in the area, then known as Alta Lake. They use the informal name 'Whistler' because of the shrill whistle made by the Western Hoary Marmots that live in the alpine rocks.

1910
Myrtle and Alex Philip arrive in Vancouver from Maine.

1911
Myrtle and Alex make the three-day journey to Whistler: a steamer ship from Vancouver to Squamish, overnight in Brackendale, and a two-day horse trek to Whistler.

1914
Myrtle and Alex buy ten acres of land and build the Rainbow Lodge on the shores of Alta Lake.

1914
The Great Pacific Eastern Railway (now BC Rail) is built to Alta Lake and links the valley to the outside world. Whistler becomes a base for logging and mining. Myrtle and Alex's Rainbow Lodge is the most popular resort destination west of Banff and Jasper.

1950's
Other lodges open throughout the valley. The abundant fish stocks make Whistler a summer resort destination long before it is considered a winter one. Winter travel becomes possible when a gravel road to Squamish is carved from the cliffs of Howe Sound.

1960
Returning from the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, a group of Vancouver businessmen search for a site to hold the Games in BC. They select what is now Whistler Mountain, form the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association, and in 1961 they submit a bid to be Canada's candidate for the 1968 Winter Olympics. Banff is chosen, but the bid process spurs development of the new ski area.

1964
The two-lane gravel road is extended to Whistler because of the ski area development and to Pemberton later that year. The trip from Vancouver to Whistler takes five to six hours.

1965
London Mountain's named is officially changed to Whistler Mountain. A four-person gondola, a double chairlift, two T-bars, and a day lodge are constructed. At the same time the provincial government had completed a rough road from Vancouver, which followed the old hydro service road - a journey that took five hours!

1966
Whistler officially opens for skiing. The gravel road to Whistler is paved.

1975
The Resort Municipality of Whistler is established - the first resort municipality in Canada.

1978
Construction begins on the new town centre that will eventually become Whistler Village.

1980
Blackcomb Mountain opens, creating one of the largest ski areas in North America.

1985
Blackcomb Mountain expands its terrain and becomes the only "Mile High Mountain" in North America.

1992
Snow Country Magazine votes Whistler the "Number One Ski Resort in North America" - just the beginning of many more accolades over the coming years.

1998
Operations of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains merge under Intrawest Corporation.

2002
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) shortlists Whistler/ Vancouver as a Candidate City for hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter and Paralympic Winter Games.

2003
Whistler and Vancouver wins the bid to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

2005
Whistler introduces groundbreaking vision and sustainability plan, Whistler2020 - Moving Toward a Sustainable Future.

Whistler is declared one of the most liveable communities in the world - and the best in the world in planning for the future - at the UN-endorsed International Awards for Liveable Communities (LivCom) in La Coruna, Spain.

2007
Whistler is one of seven communities selected as recipient of the provincial government's inaugural Green City Awards for demonstrating leadership and action in a range of sustainability initiatives.

Whistler is recognized as the first community in Canada to have achieved the fifth and final milestone within the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) Program developed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).

2008
Whistler Blackcomb opens the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola on 12 December. Spanning the distance between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, this engineering marvel offers a breathtaking, 11-minute 4.4-kilometre journey providing unprecedented access to the resort's renowned alpine terrain - both summer and winter.

2009
Whistler Blackcomb remains the top ski resort in North America for the 13th year in a row, upholding its No. 1 ranking on SKIING Magazine's "Top 25 Resorts in North America" list.

February 12, 2010
17 days of Winter Olympic Games begin.

March 12, 2010
10 days of Winter Paralympic Games begin.

WHISTLER’S OLYMPIC JOURNEY EXHIBIT - WHISTLER MUSEUM
A new exhibit, Whistler's Olympic Journey, is now open at the recently refurbished Whistler Museum. The rich and varied history of Whistler comes alive in this new and dynamic interactive exhibit - specially designed to celebrate Whistler's journey to the 2010 Winter Games. Whistler's Olympic Journey chronicles the story and artifacts of Whistler's passionate visionaries that dreamed big - and worked together as a community to make it all happen. The museum also provides an insight into what makes Whistler the place it is today, chronicling its journey from its grassroots beginnings to one of the world's leading year-round destinations.

2012
Whistler welcomes its first Tough Mudder event - a team-oriented 10-12 mile (18-20 km) obstacle course designed to test physical strength and mental grit.

2013
Whistler hosts the inaugural Subaru IRONMAN® Canada in the scenic Sea to Sky region.

2015
Whistler is the first Canadian destination to achieve the prestigious APEX/ASTM sustainability certification, recognized in four areas. Tourism Whistler led the certification process with Whistler achieving level 1 certification in the following four standards:

  • Meeting Venue – Whistler Conference Centre (operated by Tourism Whistler)
  • Food and Beverage – Centerplate (F&B provider for the Whistler Conference Centre)
  • Destination – Whistler
  • Audio Visual – Freeman Audio Visual Whistler (A/V provider for the Whistler Conference Centre)

2015/2016
Whistler Blackcomb celebrates 50 years of going beyond. The winter of 2015/16 marked Whistler Blackcomb’s 50th anniversary. Originally opening for skiing in the winter of 1965-66 and founded on the dream of one day hosting the Olympic Winter Games, Whistler Blackcomb has been going beyond to leave its mark on the ski and snowboard industry since day one. This will be a celebratory winter season with a number of activations lined up to give Whistler Blackcomb the acknowledgment it deserves for 50 years of striving to be the best. Whistler Blackcomb voted No. 1 Ski Resort in North America in SKI Magazine’s 28th Annual Reader’s Poll (2nd year in a row.)

2016
The Audain Art Museum opens its doors to the public March 16, 2016. Located by the Village, the iconic building houses a permanent collection of artworks from British Columbia as well as rotating exhibitions from leading museums around the world.

In August 2016, Whistler Blackcomb Holdings is purchased by Colorado-based Vail Resorts Inc. for $1.4 billion.

2017
Vail Resorts, Inc. invests $66 million in three new lifts for Whistler Blackcomb for the 2018/19 season. Upgrades include a new 10-passenger Blackcomb gondola, a new six-passenger high-speed lift on Whistler Mountain and a four-passenger, high-speed lift on Blackcomb Mountain. The changes create the first three-gondola connection in the world, allowing guests to upload, connect between the mountains via the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola and download in a gondola for a weatherprotected experience.

2018
In the summer of 2018, Whistler Blackcomb unveils the new Cloudraker Skybridge. It stretches 130 metres (427 feet) from the top of Whistler Peak to the West Ridge, crossing over Whistler Bowl at 2,182 metres (7,160 feet) above sea level. At the far end is the Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk, a 360-degree platform for uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains.

To learn more about Whistler's history, visit Whistler Museum & Archives.

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