In a move which has thrown Intrawest’s Creekside redevelopment plans into limbo, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps this week declared Dusty’s, Whistler Mountain’s original bar, a heritage site.
The surprise declaration means Dusty’s must remain standing. Intrawest had planned to demolish Dusty’s on April 3, following one final closing party on April 2. Work was to begin on the $50 million Creekside redevelopment immediately in order for new facilities to be ready by the start of next ski season.
Intrawest and Whistler-Blackcomb personnel declined comment, saying only that they are reviewing the matter.
The unexpected announcement came after an apparently quiet campaign to save the building was mounted by a coalition of long-time Creekside patrons known as McKeever’s Beavers, named after Whistler’s original liftee, Harry McKeever.
The campaign to preserve the historic building was initiated last year. McKeever’s Beavers members said they learned from an earlier, unsuccessful bid to save the gondola barn that they had to be well organized and that there was no point in seeking heritage status locally; the campaign had to target the federal minister.
An inclination of The Beavs plans came earlier this winter when some members threatened to occupy Dusty’s indefinitely, declaring as long as there was beer on tap the site was sacred. The threat wasn’t taken seriously because many of them made the same vow at the end of every skiing day.
McKeever’s Beavers feared the new Dusty’s, part of the Creekside redevelopment, would attract many of the poseurs and people who dress in ski clothes but who don’t actually ski who are now found at village bars.
Dusty’s opened in 1966, the same year Whistler Mountain opened, and was originally known as L’apres. The bilingual names for the establishment reportedly impressed former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who was frequently seen enjoying the free cheese fondue at L’apres in the early ’70s. The Beavs lobbied Trudeau who, through his Liberal party connections, is believed to have encouraged Copps to declare Dusty’s a heritage site.
L’apres was renamed Dusty’s in the 1980s in honour of a stuffed horse named Dusty which used to appear at parties and unusual places on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. At one party Dusty was used for a Lady Godiva ride.
Some members of The Beavers, elated with the heritage declaration, suggested Copps be invited to Creekside to celebrate with Canadian flags and another Lady Godiva ride. The minister issued a follow up statement saying she’s nobody’s baby.