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Walking history of Whistler

Exploring Whistler’s history on foot, en masse



It’s a typical sunny summer afternoon in Whistler — people are wandering out of the Visitor Information Centre, fresh off the tour buses, their arms laden with brightly coloured brochures offering thrill-seeking adventures to be found around town.

But if you want a real taste of Whistler, what you seek is just beyond of the doors of the info centre.

An innocuous sign posted outside signals the starting point of the Whistler Museum’s daily walking tour of Whistler, an hour-long adventure into the heart of the origins of this now-famous little ski resort.

Carol Guinn, one of the guides, is also a village host volunteer. She was one of the first people to ski Whistler back in 1966, and while she wasn’t a permanent resident until about four years ago, she’s been around for long enough to see the town morph from a small, hidden gem filled with hippies and squatters to the refined international ski destination that it is today.

This is the third year that the Whistler Museum has offered the daily walking tour of Whistler, which departs from the Visitor Information Centre at 1 p.m. At a mere $10 per person, it’s a great way for anyone to learn more about where Whistler came from, and hear about some of the bumps and bruises it’s been through along the way.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived here, there always seems to be some odd fact about Whistler that have escaped you. Like the fact that Blackcomb is made of granite, while Whistler is actually volcanic rock, or that the land beneath the village used to be the town dump. With a laugh, Guinn recalls a time when dumping your trash in the evening was something of a social event, an opportunity to see who had made it up to ski on the weekend.

Accompanied by a family of five, Guinn starts the tour in Village Square, and begins her tale of Whistler with a story of the first people — the First Nations people of Squamish and Pemberton, who would gather in the area during the summer.

It wasn’t until a trapper by the name of John Millar told an ambitious and adventurous couple about the area’s plentiful fishing that Whistler — formerly known as Alta Lake — was “discovered”. That couple was Alex and Myrtle Philip. The Philips came to the area in 1914 to build a fishing lodge, purchasing a 10-acre parcel of land on Alta Lake for $700, where the original Rainbow Lodge was built. After a few years, their fishing lodge business grew to include 45 cabins that they rented out for $2 per night. Wow, even with inflation, Tourism Whistler can’t come close to that!

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