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Whistler History

When the Winter Olympics finally came to Whistler in February 2010, it was just what Whistler zealots had planned all along. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the valley was sporadically used for logging, hunting and summer cabins. The hardy adventurers who came in the winter had to brave the deep snows on Nordic skis and snowshoes (prior to that the region was the home of indigenous people who relied on cedar and salmon as their mainstays of their lifestyle). A popular resort community grew up around Alta Lake, served by trains for summer vacationers. In 1960 a group of visionary Vancouver business owners hatched the idea to create an Olympics-worthy ski resort in BC, and settled on the mountain above Alta Lake, called Whistler for the sound made by its resident marmots. The resort opened in 1966 with a gondola (Creekside), a chair and two T-bars, and a counterculture ethos personified by the “Crazy Canucks” who found fame on the Canadian ski team. Despite failed attempts to win Olympic bids in the 1970s and ’80s, development proceeded rapidly. The resort municipality was incorporated in 1975, and construction began on the then-innovative pedestrian-oriented main village soon after. Blackcomb mountain was opened to skiers in 1980, and by 2000, annual visitors to the area surpassed two million. When the long-sought Olympic bid was finally won, in collaboration with Vancouver, in 2003—the early Whistler advocates weren’t the least bit surprised.