A&E » Book Reviews

Wonder and history in these mountains

Book review: Whistler Blackcomb: 50 years of Going Beyond filled with facts and good storytelling



"On payday we'd line up at Guest Relations and somebody would give you your paycheque; you'd walk out one door and go around to the ticket window where they'd cash it; you'd take the money, go out another door, and walk into the bar and start spending it."

- Cate Webster, Whistler Blackcomb Event Projects Supervisor

Many of you are going to get to know this book very well.

Whistler Blackcomb: 50 years of Going Beyond is 116 pages of nostalgia, facts and good storytelling in feel-good coffee table book form.

Skiing on Whistler Mountain began 50 years ago in the 1965-66 season, and Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has so far celebrated with a big party, a documentary and now this. Filled with hundreds of amazing photos and with words and interviews set down on paper by local scribe Leslie Anthony, this is a book about those behind the resort's success.

That's a top-down consideration, with DJs, artists and characters mixing with community builders and politicians.

There are the early years, from Myrtle Philip and her husband Alex establishing a lodge on what is now Alta Lake in 1911, surrounded mainly by trappers and miners, to Norwegian-born Franz Wilhelmsen scouting out the right territory to create a ski mountain that could front a bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics.

It would take 45 years, until 2010, before that dream was realized. But in between, a community grew and millions came here to sample the sport, the outdoors and the joy of life.

The book is broken into thematic chapters that roughly follow the historical chronology of the resort. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, with the first chapter being about the discovery of London Mountain and the visionary approach to turning it into Whistler Mountain, it is called "Beyond Belief." It is an epic story in itself.

There are also short sidebar introductions to the characters of Whistler, including liftie-turned-company-vice-president Hugh Smythe, and current WB mountain planner Arthur De Jong, whose efforts in support of the best practices of environmental protection have gained worldwide attention for the resort.

The sportsmen and women are not left out, from Steve Podborski and Rob Boyd to Ashleigh McIvor and Maëlle Ricker, our local Olympians and world champions share their memories of childhoods spent on the slopes, leading into winning races and championships on home turf.When the Olympics finally came to Whistler (and Vancouver), they did not disappoint, but the quest was long. Among the many historical gems in the book is a poster inviting people to become a "Garibaldi Olympic sponsor" in 1968 for just $3.

As well, the many volunteers who made the Games happen and the fans that screamed and partied their way through four weeks of Olympics and Paralympics are saluted. You may see people you know in the book, immortalized.

With a cover illustrated with a painting of Whistler and Blackcomb by Vanessa Stark, Whistler Blackcomb: 50 years of Going Beyond retails for $79.99 and is available at select Whistler Blackcomb retail stores.