Features & Images » Feature Story

Naked history

Exposing Whistler’s unclothed past and present



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For some, uncovered skin is the pinnacle of a free society; naked people are liberated people that have at last thrown aside their conservative pasts and embraced the true curves of the new millennia. For others, exposed flesh promotes unhealthy attitudes towards women or ups the lewd factor just a little too high.

But whatever your thoughts on nudity you have to admit there is also something silly about getting naked in public. It lightens moods. In fact, easily 90 per cent of the people interviewed for this feature laughed when they were asked to comment on nudity in Whistler - including an officer with Canada's Integrated Security Unit about whether they will be taking any measures against streaking during the Olympics (hint: they won't). 


Long before Blackcomb Mountain merged with Whistler Mountain, before Whistler village even became Whistler Village, and long, long before Olympic officials declared Whistler ground zero for the Winter Games throwdown, a group of ski bums took a photo that kicked off Whistler's nudity tradition with a bang: the Toad Hall photo. 

It was 1973, and a group of hippies and ski bums were living in a cluster of bare-bone cabins at the north end of Green Lake, at an old lumber mill complex called Soo Valley. They had no running water and they ran their tape decks using car batteries, but the rent was cheap and they were having a fabulous time. 

Unfortunately, like most things in life, it was too good to last for long. That summer their ski-bum paradise came to an end when they got word from the Alta Lake Housing Society that they were going to tear down the Soo Valley mill.

As the residents gathered their things and prepared for the move a fellow named Chris Speedy decided they should take a photo to serve as a memento of their legendary stay in the Soo Valley. Speedy and his friend Terry "Toulouse" Spence, one of the last remaining members of the Soo Valley gang still living in Whistler, set immediately to work gathering people up for the photo-op.

Eventually they got together a solid group of 14 people who stripped down to their birthday suits and lined up against the Toad Hall cabin, skis in hand. Speedy stood on the left, Toulouse in the centre, and a man known as Anthony, or Tony, or more commonly as Kiwi, manned the camera.