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“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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“One liftee, Joe Horn, worked at the bottom of the Green Chair (what is now Emerald Chair on Whistler) and he shaved the ridges out of his boots,” Burrows recalls. “On his lunch break, he would ski down to the gondola on his ski boots. No skis. He couldn’t be bothered to get his skis on, and he loved the attention he got from the people above on the lifts. It was pretty daring,” he said with a laugh.

The Roundhouse menu (pre-competition from Pika’s at Blackcomb) consisted of fries, greasy burgers, hotdogs and much coveted hot chocolate. Custom sandwich bars that skiers now enjoy on breaks between runs were nowhere on the horizon. In time, Whistler would change.

Long-time Whistlerite Colin Pitt-Taylor considers the air of sophistication that Whistler now exudes was an inevitable occurrence.

“Whistler became what it was meant to become. Word got out,” he said with a shrug.

Was there a shift in the air at any particular time in Whistler, or was the change from hot-dogger ski town to swish mountain resort a slow and undefinable transition?

Burrows feels there was a palpable change in the valley with the arrival of Blackcomb.

“Before there was an organization like the Whistler Chamber of Commerce in existence, Whistler was famous for very different things than what it is known for now: incredibly long line-ups at the Gondola, bad weather, deep snow and poorly groomed trails,” Burrows said. “You needed six feet of snow to ski in a lot of areas because when the snow melted in April, you’d be skiing over pick-up sticks. You had to be careful.

“Whistler Mountain (in the ‘60s and ‘70s) was full of surprises – you skied it by guess and by God,” Burrows added. “Blackcomb was like the Holiday Inn – no surprises. And that is because there was a huge lag between designing the two mountains. Whistler was designed in the mid-‘60s Blackcomb was designed in the late ‘70s and not operational until the ‘80s. Blackcomb had the advantage of computers to figure out sun angles, avalanche paths and where trails should be cut.”