Discovering a local treasure 

Locals team up to capture essence of Whistler

Top of the Pass: Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky Country

By Stephen Vogler, photography by Toshi Kawano & Bonny Makarewicz

Harbour Publishing

$34.95, 144 pgs.


By Holly Fraughton

Anyone who has attempted to explain why they’ve abandoned their hometown to settle in a small mountain village will soon have a stunning visual aid to help family and friends understand their logic, or lack thereof.

Harbour Publishing is set to release a new coffee table book that offers an intimate glimpse of Whistler.

Written by longtime resident, Stephen Vogler, Top of the Pass looks past the community’s shiny, picturesque façade, and delves into the region’s soul and roots.

The text is broken down into sections on Whistler, neighbouring communities, recreation in the Sea to Sky corridor, and festivals and cultural events, each of which allow the reader access to integral parts of the Sea to Sky region.

While Vogler is sure to touch on the mainstream outdoor activities like skiing and snowboarding that Whistler is known for, he recognizes that these pastimes don’t define the community, and he doesn’t neglect exploring the area’s complicated past.

“As one wanders for the first time through the twists and turns of the pedestrian streets, past shops, cafés and restaurants, with the Coast Mountains jutting like a faux backdrop from each view corridor, it’s easy to believe that this is Whistler in its entirety: an instant village devoid of history.

“Yet the history is there, thin at times though it is, and meandering like the waterways that lead out of the valley. Whistler is a place that remakes itself on a regular basis.”

Top of the Pass thoroughly examines Whistler’s evolution from a small settlement at Alta Lake, to a squatter’s paradise, and finally, into an internationally renowned ski destination.

“When the dust settled after the bankruptcy scare of 1982, there they suddenly stood, torn jeans and long hair traded in for a power blazer and a Beemer, granola and home-cooked beans for frogurt and sushi. It was the 1980’s. The subculture had miraculously flipped and become the mainstream culture overnight.”

The writing, at times poetic and somewhat whimsical, also reveals little-known local oddities, like the ghost that haunts Whistler Creek Lodge, the nude dock at Lost Lake, and the fact that the village is actually built on an old garbage dump.

“What does this little irony at the heart of Whistler’s village mean in terms of today’s successful four-season resort with its high-speed lifts and four-star hotels? It’s a fun question to ponder… In a province rich with boom-and-bust cycles, perhaps each new incarnation of a town grows from the detritus of the last, like a young western forest growing from the rotting humus of its fallen giants.”

Photographs dug up from residents’ personal collections and striking images captured by local photographers, Bonny Makarewicz and Toshi Kawano, complement Vogler’s apt descriptions of the anything-but-sleepy mountain community.

Top of the Pass is filled with idyllic scenic shots from throughout the corridor: boarders cutting through fresh powder, and sunsets over lush panoramic mountain vistas. Whistler is so picturesque that you could easily fill an entire book with images just like these.

But Kawano and Makarewicz don’t stop there — their lenses capture scenes that are the personification of our unique spirit: the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performing atop Whistler Mountain, a bustling farmer’s market, and a nude swimmer gracefully diving into Lost Lake.

These talented residents have truly created a book that will make even the most cynical local proud of their community’s quirky spirit.

Top of the Pass will be released on Dec. 7, and would make a great addition to any coffee table.

The Whistler release event will be held on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at The Path Gallery, and the Pemberton release will be at the Pony Espresso on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m.

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