Skiers Chapel readies for move
Gotta go by June 30, says Intrawest
By Chris Woodall
Whistler's Skiers Chapel — a familiar sight in Creekside for 30 years — has to be moved by June 30, says Intrawest Corporation.
Intrawest is getting ready to start developing the Whistler Mountain parking lot and the corner of Lake Placid Road and the highway is the spot where it will start.
(The Chamber of Commerce cabin located right on the corner must move, too. The Chamber is meeting with Intrawest next week to work out details.)
The Latin motto at the bottom of the chapel's stained glass window sets the scene for its future: Natus Renatus.
"Natus Renatus — birth and rebirth. That's what we're about and may God's love go with us from this place to our new place," invoked Doris Harris at the end of the Whistler Skiers Chapel Society's latest meeting, Feb. 22, to discuss their move.
The plan is to move the skiers chapel to another location while plans go ahead to raise funds to build a new facility.
The chapel serves Whistler's United Church, Jewish, and Anglican communities. The Seventh Day Adventist group, once part of the society, have decided to concentrate their efforts elsewhere and the Whistler Community Church (Mennonite Brethren) hold services in Myrtle Philip Community Centre.
The Catholic community is served by a new church and community hall at the foot of Lorimer Road, Our Lady of the Mountains.
"The main thing we want to underscore is that the society is very inclusive," says society president Brent McIvor. "At one time the Catholics were part of the society, but even though they have built their own hall, our door is always open to them."
The Skiers Chapel has a permanent location for a new facility, on Blackcomb Way between the new water park and Municipal Hall.
When built, it's 10,000 square feet of space will have an "A-frame" shape similar to the current chapel and include a basement area for community use.
Downstairs will house a teen drop-in centre, a small kitchen and an office equipment area for use by Whistler community groups.
"A teen centre in the village is better than having it in Spruce Grove (another potential site) because that's where the kids are going to be," Says Steve Milstein, a society board member.
There are plans to put a day care centre in the building, too.
"Whistler needs a spiritual heart, not just as a place for worship, but a place to support and reinforce the healthy values of the community," says Milstein.
Because it is multi-denominational, it will not have a cross outside.
The original "new" location was to be on a triangle of land on the right side of Village Gate Boulevard as you drive into the village from the highway, but it was deemed too impractical, especially for parking.
Most recent estimates put the new chapel project at $3.1 million. Fund raising efforts are just getting started, but Trilogy Management Services has donated office space for 18 months.
"Things are very much on track," McIvor says.
An honorary fund-raising board is just about set, but includes Whistler Mayor Hugh O'Reilly, MLA Ted Nebbeling, and Whistler notables, Steve Podborski, Dave Roberts, Franz Wilhelmsen, and Joanne Houssian.
"They represent people with a history in this community and who've contributed to Whistler," Milstein says. They will be relied on to make the kinds of top-level contacts that might result in major donations.
Land the current chapel occupies has been pegged at being worth a cool million, but it's worth just $1 on the books because it was donated to the society by the provincial government, McIvor says.
God only knows where the old chapel will go. The Skier's Chapel board is talking it up with Intrawest, who are keen to give the weather-beaten grey A-frame building a suitable location.
"The mountains recognize that what little history there is in Whistler, this is a big part of that," McIvor says.
Possible sites include somewhere near Olympic Station on Whistler Mountain, in the "valley" between the Excalibur and Whistler Village gondolas, somewhere near the peak of Whistler Mountain, or at the Whistler Cemetery on Alta Lake Road.
The cemetery location seems to be a distant last choice because of its isolation.
Moving the chapel should take about three days.
A new location for the quaint chapel could result in bigger wedding business away from the cacophony of highway traffic that now intrudes the chapel.
"Weddings are a source of income for the chapel society, so the chapel needs to be accessible for that," says society secretary Eileen Tomalty.
Because the chapel has been a Whistler landmark since the 1960s — it had previously been located at two spots between the old Whistler Mountain gondola barn and the Creekside Gondola — there has been talk of designating it a heritage building.
While a nice idea, some members of the skiers chapel society see such a designation as being more of as hindrance than a help.
As well as a floor-to-ceiling stained glass window at the alter end, the Skiers Chapel features Japanese-style pine light fixtures — five to a side — and an expanse of clear windows at the entrance looking back onto Whistler Mountain.
Pews have kneeling benches. There is an electric organ to the left of the alter and an upright piano on the right.
The stained glass window — a gift of "Mr. and Mrs. T. Southam and their family" — was created in 1966 by an artist named "Babcock." It is three globes of green, red and gold radiating haloes of light — perhaps representing the Holy Trinity — in a field of deep blue.