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How condo-mania began in Whistler

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Today the term "condo" can be heard pretty much every day throughout most of Canada. When Whistler Mountain first opened in the 1960s, however, condominiums were almost unheard of. The first official condominium in Canada was Brentwood Village in Edmonton, Alta. in 1967.

After Whistler opened for skiing, the valley experienced a boom in construction. While many ski cabins were built, the condominium took hold as a vacation home, both to own and to rent. In the fall of 1969 Garibaldi's Whistler News even published an article by Ian Douglas entitled "What is a Condominium?" for those unsure of what exactly was for sale. In it he mentions "some new condominiums" located "across from the base of the Gondola at Whistler," which all have their own separate entrances, real estate taxes and mortgages, unlike the Whistler Alpine Village co-operative, which does not technically operate as a condo. Douglas lists the benefits of owning a condo, such as the security of owning rather than renting and being able to do renovations (within limits).

From the coverage of the Garibaldi's Whistler News, it would seem housing and real estate were as much a topic of conversation in the 1970s as they are today. Almost every issue contains news of a planned or completed development, as well as real-estate listings and updates on the progress of Alpine Meadows, Emerald Estates and Whistler Cay neighbourhoods.

One condominium development that gets quite a few mentions is Tamarisk. Still a part of Whistler today, construction began on Tamarisk in 1973. The plans for the $15-million development, located about 1.5 kilometres away from the base of Whistler Mountain, included over 400 units, a "condo-lodge" containing a cocktail lounge and dining facilities, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, pools, and squash and handball courts, all to be built over two phases.

The first phase included 140 units, an outdoor tennis court and the heated outdoor swimming pool. By the spring of 1974, all first-phase units were sold and a tennis pro, Australian Lex Vinson, had been hired. A 1974 advertisement (meant to attract buyers for phase two) announced, "All apartments feature massive cut-stone fireplaces, wall-to-wall shag, private sauna (every apartment has one) and a furniture selection that's an interior decorator's dream. There's more but you'll have to see it to believe it." It being the 1970s, wall-to-wall shag carpeting was a selling point, rather than a deterrent.

The units were designed by Vancouver architect Asbjorn Gathe, the same architect who had designed the twelve units of Edelweiss Village near the Creekside gondola in 1968.

The first phase was completed by 1975 and continues to house residents and visitors today, as was the first outdoor tennis court and the heated outdoor swimming pool. The plans for Tamarisk, however, were never fully realized (similar to the case of Adventures West).

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