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Museum Musings: Dusty’s infamous opening and closing parties

ocal rock band Foot in the Door at Dusty’s in 1984. Have any photos of Dusty’s? Whistler Museum would love to add to the archives!

The events at Dusty’s are legendary: staff parties with the band playing from atop the roof; the lively celebration after Rob Boyd’s World Cup win in 1989; end-of-season parties; dressing up for theme nights; and scavenger hunts. Even amongst these raucous events, the opening and closing parties at Dusty’s stand out.

Dusty’s opened in 1983, after Whistler Mountain took over food and beverage on the mountain and redeveloped and rebranded L’Après. The massive opening celebration aimed to show off the new venue to the community, with a guest list stacked with local dignitaries, including Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain management, the RMOW, and local clergy.

Throughout the night, the celebration ended up showing off a lot more than just the facility. As one version of this now-infamous event goes, right as the Reverend was blessing the new venue, Lady Godiva jumped “bareback” onto the stuffed Dusty’s horse, shirt waving in the air like a lasso. With that, a legend was born and the new Whistler pub was open for business.

Dusty’s went on to become a popular spot for live music and a testing ground for up-and-coming entertainers, including the Poppy Family, and Doug and the Slugs. In 2000, it was announced that Creekside was to be redeveloped, including the demolition of Dusty’s. In honour of the incredible music scene, live music played each night in the week leading up to ‘Dusty’s Last Stand’ in April 2000.

The final weekend brought with it a disco party, a retro fashion show, a prize for the person with the most Whistler Mountain passes, and of course, more live music. Local favourites who took the Dusty’s stage “one last time” included Guitar Doug, Steve Wright, Dark Star, Pete and Chad and the Whole Damn County, and the Hounds of Buskerville.

Starting early in the afternoon, the crowds built until servers were required to walk a hundred metres up the base of Whistler Mountain to deliver orders. Once the sun set, the eager crowd either dispersed or relocated inside. With the saloon packed with over 2,000 people, it was a sight to be seen, the mosh pit and stage diving like no other. The crowd was so wild that management nearly stopped the last band from taking the stage. Even with the 20 additional security personnel brought in specifically for the event, it was still difficult to manage the crowd intent on sending Dusty’s out in style.

With so much of Whistler’s history made in L’Après and Dusty’s, everyone was encouraged to record their memories before and during the event. Those with particularly fond memories were stealing tables and chairs as souvenirs, and there were some arrests in the afternoon and evening, including a snowboarder carrying on the local tradition of celebrating sans clothing. Rumours had been swirling that people were planning on burning the building down before it could be demolished, but thankfully the gas cannisters were found outside before anything happened.

Despite these few hiccups, according to David Perry, then-vice-president of sales and marketing for Whistler Blackcomb, “It was probably the best party this valley has ever seen.” For a party town like Whistler, that is a bold claim. Within hours of the party ending, the area was fenced off for demolition.

The story of Dusty’s does not end there. Only eight months later, the modern Dusty’s had it’s grand reopening, and playing on the new stage was none other than Guitar Doug’s band, The Hairfarmers.

Now that Dusty’s has reopened for the winter season, The Hairfarmers will again be gracing the stage on Tuesday and Saturday each week, continuing the live-music tradition.