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Museum Musings: Peak Bros.—A Whistler comic strip

A new exhibit at the Whistler Museum looks back at the Peak Bros. comic published in the ski resort in the 1970s
Gord “Rox” Harder in the maintenance building on Whistler Mountain, where he worked as a journeyman carpenter.

The Peak Bros. comics captured the hearts and minds of Whistler when they were published between 1979 and 1992 in The Whistler Answer and The Whistler Review. The comics were based on the real-life adventures of Gord “Rox” Harder and his friends, who became known as the Peak Bros. in reference to their love of skiing Whistler’s peak.

First created on the back of a Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. logbook, the Peak Bros. comics paid homage to underground comic the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Gordy was an avid reader and admirer of the Freak Brothers, created by Gilbert Shelton and first published in Austin, Texas in 1968. The Freak Brothers followed the antics of a trio of cop-dodging, cannabis-loving outlaw hippies. The Peak Bros. were the Whistlerized version, where their outlaw skiing lifestyle gets the Peak Bros. into trouble. The ski police start to chase them, and the fun begins! Celebrating ’80s ski culture and Harder’s own tongue-in-cheek humour, Peak Bros: A Whistler Comic Strip, opens at the Whistler Museum on Feb. 22.

With local people from the Whistler community featured in the comics, it could be a thrill to identify who characters were based on when each new Peak Bros. comic was released. Many of the true stories from the real Peak Bros. are on par with the best fiction—whether it was building an illegal cabin below the Roundhouse, riding down the mountain on a windsurfer, or catching a helicopter up to the peak to join the Whistler Mountain staff party.

Shawn Hughes, better known as SO, remembered one of their many adventures up Whistler’s peak. “We would camp on the peak every full moon. That was the Peak Bros. tradition. Then we woke up one morning as a bomb went over. That’s when that tradition ended.” Until the close call brought an abrupt end to the camping tradition, SO had not missed one winter camp in more than six years.

Harder and the other real Peak Bros. were excellent skiers, and could be found on the mountain every day. Janet Love Morrison recalled watching Gordy ski down the peak during a Whistler Mountain staff party. “There was no Peak Chair. Gordy and his friend, they had hiked up to the peak and they skied Don’t Miss, which is all [permanently] closed now. I didn’t know Gordy was the calibre of skier that he was when I met him, and I remember everybody started hooting and hollering and whistling, and Gordy had jumped into Don’t Miss. Just like over the rocks and the whole face under the Peak Chair, he’s just bouncing like it’s effortless...” With everyone on the mountain watching, they got a rockstar cheer.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was a massive crackdown on fast skiing on Whistler Mountain following a slew of visitor complaints. Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol were encouraged to catch speeders in the slow zones, and the patroller who issued the most warnings or confiscated the most passes received a dinner voucher for L’Après. With the Peak Bros. priority on skiing, and skiing fast, they were regularly the ire of ski patrol, who would ticket them—if they could ever catch them. Patrol even delivered warnings to Peak Manor, the clubhouse the Peak Bros. built in the trees below the Roundhouse. True to form, the comics mimicked real life, with ski patrol forever chasing—and being regularly outmanoeuvred by—the devious and athletic Peak Bros.

Come to the Whistler Museum to celebrate Gord “Rox” Harder and the Peak Bros. The opening of Peak Bros: A Whistler Comic Strip 1979 – 1992 is on Wednesday, Feb. 22, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The exhibition will be open until April 23.