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Whistler, in movie form

50 Years of Going Beyond tells the story of the mountain and the people who built a world-class resort



Hugh Smythe arrived in Whistler in November 1966, a few months after the mountain opened to skiers. He was 18.

"When I started I was on the volunteer patrol and I worked through the Easter vacation. I was still in school," Smythe recalls.

He went on to become senior vice president of Intrawest, previous owners of Whistler. Now 68, Smythe is one of the key storytellers of the early days of Whistler in 50 Years of Going Beyond The Movie. Whistler Blackcomb, Switchback Entertainment, Origin Design and Communications, and Telus, created the 30-minute documentary to commemorate Whistler's golden anniversary.

Freeskiing legend and filmmaker Mike Douglas of Switchback Entertainment directed.

"Mike Douglas has done a phenomenal job of making history interesting, sometimes it's not so easy. Some of us old farts, you know, we live in the past, but the greater community is a lot of young people. He's done a great job at making the story pop out," Smythe says.

"Being able to splice historic film with interviews, it brings out the raw nature of the pioneering that went on."

50 Years of Going Beyond opens with an iconic photo of the resort's founder Franz Wilhelmsen standing on a rock, pointing at where he wanted a ski run to be located.

Inspired by the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, Vancouver businessmen including Wilhelmsen left Vancouver and drove four hours up a dirt road, now known as the Sea to Sky Highway, to get to the tiny fishing of Alta Lake. The aim was to find a location that could host their own Games.The film moves through the years, including unsuccessful bids as the resort grew — then came the moment Vancouver and Whistler succeeded in winning the bid for the 2010 Winter Games.

The characters of Whistler are all represented, whether hippies, ski bums, developers, and mountain men and women. Oh yes, and Australians.

Mike Crowe of Whistler Blackcomb says they wanted to tell a story about people.

"The vision was for it not to be a corporate retrospective of the history of the mountains," he says.

"We really wanted it to be about the people who made this place happen. When you look at these people, they were the driving forces behind the resort and the various moments that happened in skiing and snowboarding here really put Whistler Blackcomb on the map and made Whistler the resort it is today."

Smythe and his compatriots have many stories to tell after 45 years at Whistler.

"When you think back, there were different steps all the way through. To try and visualize what the future would look like was difficult," Smythe says. "For me, it has been an amazing journey. I've been extremely blessed to have had a career here that spanned that period of time."

50 Years of Going Beyond will be shown twice on Saturday, Oct. 10 at Millennium Place, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The earlier show is now sold out. Tickets are $10 at www.artswhistler.com.

The film will be available for free at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/50 on Tuesday, Oct. 13.