May 09, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

“That Seventies Show 

Whistler residents and visitors share their memories of a wilder and crazier time in the valley – and their perspectives on Whistler’s rapid change

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Whistler in the ‘60s and ‘70s was geared more to the “young and the restless” than to families in station wagons. Some long-time Whistler residents and visitors share their memories of this wilder part of Whistler’s history — in honour of the Whistler Pioneers Reunion that took place on April 12.

Paul Burrows, the founder of the Whistler Question newspaper, moved to Whistler in 1966 and remembers the “hot-dogger” years fondly. “Just getting to Whistler was a challenge,” Burrows said of that early ski era, adding that the drive from Vancouver took “five or six hours.”

“You left after work on Friday and were lucky to get to Whistler by 10 p.m.” People would go to the Cheakamus Bar (located in the Beardmore family-owned Cheakamus Inn in Creekside) for a drink after they got to Whistler because the drive could be harrowing (the road to Whistler wasn’t paved until 1967).

“Everyone either had a Land Rover, or a VW with a ski rack on the back with two pairs of skis and a shovel. The shovel was for the Cheakamus Canyon — sometimes you had to shovel your way through there if there was an avalanche. If you didn’t have a shovel, you waited for the next person to drive along and help you.”

Burrows remembers watching the traffic roll into Whistler from the Cheakamus Bar on a Friday night (“which had a good view of the road”) and knowing “about half of the cars coming into town. We’d say ‘Oh look, so-and-so made it,’ or ‘what happened to so-and-so? He should be here by now.’ Looking back, we were living history but we didn’t know it at the time.”

When did Whistler become politically correct or as Burrows calls it, “mainstream”?

“I think it was when the village and Blackcomb opened. With Blackcomb opening, there was competition between the two resorts over who could deliver the best guest experience. That eventually led to an improvement in the product.”

Before Blackcomb opened, in the wild atmosphere of the ‘70s, Whistler was host to many “hot dog” skiers. “Hot doggers” skied down the lift tower lines and were definitely “guided by ego,” Burrows remembers.

“We used to get cheers and calls from people up in the gondolas above us. It was a captive audience. We would ski off cliffs and bumps and do things that we thought were daring — but nothing like what the kids do today.”

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