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Tyrol Lodge turns 40

Affordable ski club still brings families to Whistler



There was a time, not so very long ago, when a family of five could spend the night in Whistler for around 11 bucks.

And while they may have slept five to a room in basic bunk beds, this was how families like the Voglers could afford to ski in Whistler in the early ’70s… in the functional and friendly Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club.

“(Whistler) was expensive for us too (then),” recalled Betty Vogler this week.

“The Tyrol Lodge made it affordable.”

And soon they were hooked. They came because they loved skiing; they stayed because of the Tyrol Lodge.

By September 1976, the Vogler family moved to Whistler as caretakers of the lodge, where they would live for the next five years. They never went back to Vancouver after that, eventually buying a lot and building a home in Alpine Meadows.

But without the Tyrol Lodge it may never have unfolded that way. This week the lodge is celebrating its 40 th anniversary in Whistler and club members will be taking a trip down memory lane Saturday with celebrations.

Betty’s son Stephen, the youngest of her three kids, was 12 when they moved to the Tyrol Lodge. The lodge to him represents the friends who came from the city on the weekends. Living side-by-side allowed the kids to forge strong bonds.

Stephen Vogler also remembers the parties, particularly one party when he was 17 years old when his parents just happened to be in Europe on holiday.

He doesn’t reveal much, only to say with a knowing laugh: “It’s a good place for parties!”

Tucked in the trees off Alta Lake Road, with commanding views of the valley overlooking Nita Lake, the Tyrol Lodge hasn’t changed much in its sturdy 40-year history.

It was built on the dreams of a handful of Swiss, German and Austrian immigrants who formed the Tyrol Ski and Mountain Club in Vancouver in 1952. They came together through a common love of the outdoors.

Soon they set their sites on Whistler as a place to live out that passion. In 1966, the first year the lifts were placed on Whistler Mountain, the Tyrol Lodge was built.

“It was basically a club and then the lodge brought us all together and it still continues to this day,” said club president Jim Brown.

The very layout of the lodge helps facilitate this camaraderie among members with its idea of communal living. They share bedrooms and washrooms and everyone pitches in to help out.

Brown said a typical winter day begins bright and early, being first in line at the lifts. After a day’s skiing the members, some of whom have skied together that day, return to the lodge where they settle in front of the fireplace, drinks in hand, ready to relive the exploits of the day.

Later groups will get together to make dinner in the kitchen, which has several ovens and fridges for that purpose.

Sometimes, said Brown, a dozen people will sit down for a two-hour leisurely dinner, and after washing up together they’ll prepare themselves for fresh tracks first thing the following day.

Brown, who has now retired from a stressful job in the computer business, said work was the furthest thing from your mind on those Whistler weekends at the Tyrol Lodge.

“By the time you go up to Whistler and you spent the weekend skiing, meeting up with your friends, you forgot what was so important on Friday when you got back to work on Monday,” he said fondly.

Membership has stayed stable over the years, with only the last names changing.

Where once the European influence was obvious in the names of the members, it has since become more diverse.

Membership director Stacey Gutierrez said there are more than 300 members, including kids and families. They range in age and in backgrounds he said.

The club is now accepting new members but they must be recommended by two current members and approved by the board of directors. That’s to ensure that anyone new will fit in with the club.

“We like for people to be like-spirited,” said Gutierrez, adding that they should share a love of the outdoors — hiking, skiing, biking — and they must be willing to pull their weight too in the work weekends to maintain the lodge.

“It’s sort of like an extended family in a way.”

While different people may have come and gone from the club over the years, the lodge itself has remained a constant. It’s barely changed over the years, save a few tweaks here and there.

“It provides a continuity,” said Brown. “It’s something that hasn’t changed in 40 years.”

Take a stroll down memory lane at the Tyrol Lodge open house on Saturday, Aug. 12 from 1 to 4 p.m. All are welcome to attend. There will also be a DVD for sale documenting the history of the club.