Mountain memories 

Reflections and recollections from 40 years of skiing in Whistler

Twenty-five years ago this month Blackcomb Mountain began operations, and 40 years ago this winter Whistler Mountain opened to skiers. A lot of memories forged in that time, and many will undoubtedly be shared this weekend when Whistler-Blackcomb hosts a celebration of the two anniversaries on Whistler Mountain.

Pique reporters Alison Taylor and Vivian Moreau talked to a few long-time Whistler residents this week to ask them to share some of their memories from the mountains.

Ken Melamed

It was February 1976. A fresh-faced twenty-something Ken Melamed had landed in Whistler for the first time, pulling into town in his two-toned blue and white VW van called "Vanessa."

He came to see for himself if the rumours he had heard in Jasper where true – that in the Coast Mountain range in B.C. there was a little-known place where the powder abounded.

The mountain, there was only one back then, made life easy for young ski bums. Pretty soon Melamed had a job as a lift operator on the Orange Chair. He was living in "the ghetto" paying a dollar a night for his board, which was docked directly from his pay. Likewise, another dollar a day came off his pay for a meal plan. Life was pretty good.

Making it even better was the snow. In February 1976 it was relentless. It was snowing so hard that Melamed vividly remembers two Whistler employees doing laps of his chair down Goat’s Gully and by the time they rode up the chair, their tracks had filled in again. The young liftie remembers his sheer amazement to see guys getting fresh tracks at every lap.

During that February storm the upper mountain didn’t open. So for three weeks young Melamed thought the top of the Red Chair was simply the top of the mountain. Just imagine his surprise when the storm broke and he realized how much more there was to discover on Whistler.

"I just couldn’t believe where I was," recalled Melamed, who was just elected Whistler’s mayor last month.

The rumours heard in Jasper had turned out to be true. And after seeing the top of the mountain, Melamed never looked east again.

Colin Pitt-Taylor

Even in 1974, when hardly a soul dotted Whistler Mountain by today’s standards, the lure of the backcountry still beckoned any powder hound worth his or her salt.

Chef Manager at the Cheakamus Inn Colin Pitt-Taylor was one such powder hound, and along with four friends he set off on an overnight mountain journey that still stirs his soul some 30 years later.

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