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Last call for an institution

Whistler will soon bid adieu to one of its last counterculture icons



From the outside, its weather-torn, cedar shingle siding is not particularly intriguing, and the building itself is no architectural wonder. But the colourful history and frontier spirit of "the locals’ living room" definitely compensate for what the old pub lacks physically. A holdover from the era before Whistler was incorporated as a resort municipality and began to pursue international skier visits, the Boot Pub has long been synonymous with cheap beer, great live music and the working-man’s cultural fix known as the Boot Ballet.

But the Boot is living on borrowed time. The title of Whistler’s longest running pub, which the Boot assumed when the original Dusty’s was demolished in 2000, will be abdicated in the next few years.

The six-acre parcel north of the village, which includes the Boot Pub, the Shoestring Lodge, Gaitors Bar and Grill, and the cold beer and wine store, was sold in August 2003 to Vancouver-based Cressey Developments. Redevelopment plans for the site are currently being reviewed by the municipality.

When the Boot Pub finally closes its doors, it will usher out more than 35 years of Whistler’s ski bum culture and night club history. The local riffraff’s haven will be gone for good and a physical piece of Whistler’s social and cultural framework will be missing.

The Boot’s beginnings can be traced back to 1966, when David Andrews and his wife Irene purchased a 10-acre land parcel covering the area from Highway 99 to Fitzsimmons Creek adjacent to Nancy Greene Way. They paid $10,000 for the property.

At that time most development was concentrated around what is now called Creekside, Whistler Mountain’s original operation base. The Cheakamus Inn and some condos near Creekside offered some of the first public accommodations in Whistler. The site of Whistler Village was, of course, the community’s garbage dump.

A mile or so further up the road from the dump the Andrews built the Ski Boot Lodge Motel. More affordable than the "pricey" accommodation at Creekside, the Ski Boot welcomed ski bums for $5 per night.

In the early ’70s, "Whistler Mountain’s largest (and only) motel" increased its room rates, so that a double bed started at $12 per night. Today the rate is $125 per night. In 1970 a beer parlour was added to the Ski Boot, making the building the social centre of the north end of the valley.

Leslee Goldsmid remembers cooking breakfasts at the Ski Boot Motel in 1972.

"Back in those times, there weren’t many accommodation options, so everyone stayed at the Ski Boot Motel. The only other place to eat was Rudy’s Steakhouse, located across the street (where Nesters Market is now). There were only five construction workers staying here, and the rooms were basic and cheap," said Goldsmid.

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