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Celebrating 100 years of dreaming

Without the pioneering spirit of Alex and Myrtle Philip, who landed on the shores of Alta Lake a century ago, Whistler would not be what it is today



It is said that youth is to be envied, but a conversation with Isobel MacLaurin will make you want to be eighty. The first artist to arrive in Whistler in 1961, Isobel still skips like a girl when she shows off her family's treasures like her husband Don's red, vintage convertible MG.

"I married Don 53 years ago for two reasons - his MG... and he's a fabulous dancer," she says with a cheeky grin. "He's retained both, so that's why I keep him."

A walking, laughing history book of Whistler culture, it could be said that Isobel and Don MacLaurin have set a precedent that'll remain etched in these mountains long after they're gone.

In a way, their 50 years in Whistler contain stories none too different from those experienced by youth today. The MacLaurins and their crew regularly dressed up in costume for parties (both on and off the hill, so those who think they've done something original by skiing in clown suits have just reinvented the wheel); they knew how to score free lift tickets, where to apr├Ęs, and which dance hall was the best on any given night. The only difference was their Whistler wasn't yet the Whistler we now know - it was still a burgeoning, far flung settlement for skiers and adventurers at the end of a long gravel road.

Just imagine then what it was like fifty years before that in the summer of 1911 when Alex and Myrtle Philip arrived and changed the course of Whistler's history. This week the Whistler Museum is celebrating that 100-year-old arrival with a series of community events designed to embrace all that Whistler was and has become.


The first arrivals


MacLaurin's friendship with the pioneering Myrtle Philip - the iconic and unlikely founder of the outdoor tourism industry in Whistler - was immediate and easy. Philip arrived fifty years prior to MacLaurin and established Rainbow Lake Lodge, the region's first and most successful fishing outfit. MacLaurin remembers her well, and fondly, despite the age difference. Among all the moments they shared, she laughs the hardest at the time she almost lost control of an aging Philip's wheelchair on the sloping trail to the lake beside her house.

"She kept saying 'I've got it, I've got it,' but she didn't have it," she says. "She still thought she could do anything, even in her later years.

"The kids loved her, oh she was a marvelous lady. She could spin a yarn. She was a better hunter and a better fisherwoman than the men and they loved it, too."

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