History Of The Whistler Resort Town

by : Dan Wallace

The first pioneers to live on the land that the Resort Municipality of Whistler now inhabits arrived in the 1880s. The Squamish and Lil'wat people have been the stewards of these lands and to this day these two First nations people follow in the footsteps of their ancestors.

Alta Lake, BC was the original name of Whistler. The lake itself was originally called Summit Lake as its creeks flow out of both north and south creating a chain of four connected lakes (Alpha, Nita, Alta, and Green). The valley was part of the traveling route known as the Pemberton Trail. The area was first surveyed and documented in 1858 by Hudson's Bay men looking for an alternate route into the Caribou area. In the 1860's British Naval Officers and Surveyors named what is now Whistler Mountain as 'London Mountain.'

London Mountain soon became locally known as 'Whistler' because of the shrill whistle made by the Western Hoary Marmots who lived among the rocks. One of the first settlers was John Millar, a trapper who ran a stopping house on the Pemberton Trail near today's Function Junction. In 1911, John Millar met Alex Philip on a trip to Vancouver to sell furs. He invited Alex and his wife Myrtle to experience the superb fishing on the chain of lakes near his cabin. Myrtle and Alex Philip, both from the state of Maine, had moved to the west coast and dreamed of opening their own fishing lodge and resort.

In 1914 the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (PGE) reached Alta Lake and opened the valley to the outside world. The legendary hospitality combined with a spectacular setting and excellent fishing, allowed the Philip's to expand Rainbow Lodge with cabins until it could accommodate 100 people. It soon became known as the most popular resort west of Banff and Jasper. The Philip's operated the Lodge until 1948 when they sold it to Alec and Audrey Greenwood. The main Lodge burnt down in 1977, but today the area has been preserved as Rainbow Park. Some of the original cabins and a replica of 'the Bridge of Sighs' are still standing at the park.

Alex Philip, an incurable romantic and writer of fiction novels, named the 'Bridge of Sighs' and the 'River of Golden Dreams and Romance'. The Philip's both remained in the valley until their deaths. Alex died in 1968 at the age of 86, and Myrtle died in 1986 at the age of 95. Many other lodges were built around the lakes due to the summer tourist trade.

By 1965 the Provincial Government had completed a narrow gravel road from Vancouver. It followed a rough service road under the large Hydro towers leading to Bridge River. Electricity in the Alta Lake community was not realized until a substation was built to power the ski lifts in 1965. GODA made a total of four separate bids for the Winter Olympics. In 1968 Vancouver/Garibaldi won the Canadian nomination for the 1976 proposed site. However, Montreal was bidding for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, which they were awarded and the International Olympic Committee would not allow both summer and winter games in the same country. On August 27, 1965 London Mountain's name was officially changed to Whistler Mountain.

Today Whistler welcomes millions of visitors a year with fantastic skiing, great restaurants and an array of excellent property rentals in whistler making it one of the most popular destinations in North America. Luxury properties for rent are located around Whistler village as well as nearby towns and villages catering for every need of the guest. Whistler chalets provide every amenity the discerning guest could desire.