It is hard to imagine that 50 years ago Whistler officially opened for its first winter season. What has now been named the #1 Ski Resort in North America a multitude of times (the first being in 1991) was not long ago a humble fishing destination called Summit Lake; the most popular summer fishing destination west of the Rocky’s. From the 1920’s until the 1970’s Rainbow Lodge on Alta Lake attracted people from all over Western Canada for its plentiful fish, modern hospitality and stunning location. The Pacific Great Eastern Railway opened Whistler to the outside world and the popular fishing destination became accessible from Vancouver in under a day.
It wasn’t until the 1960’s Whistler’s fate as a worldly acclaimed ski destination came into manifestation. In 1960 a group of Vancouver Businessmen formed Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. with the goal of creating an alpine ski mountain on what was then called London Mountain; at this time there was no road, no sewage and no electricity servicing Alta Lake at the base of the new mountain site. London Mountain was re-named Whistler Mountain in 1965 and the year after, Whistler Mountain opened for its inaugural season featuring a four person gondola, a double chair-lift, two T bars, a day lodge and several runs. At this time it was still a 5-6 hour journey from Vancouver on a single lane road but the arduous journey did not stop the world from experiencing Whistler and the legendary snow conditions it offered.
In 1978 construction began on Whistler Village, which was once the town dumpsite, and in 1980 Blackcomb Mountain opened for business featuring 5 triple chairs and 4067 ft. of vertical. Owned and operated by separate entities, Whistler was quick to come back by developing a series of new runs. The healthy competition between the two mountains saw a battle for supremacy and ultimately it was the customers who were privy to the latest and greatest runs, lifts and mountain upgrades. It wasn’t until 1997 that Whistler and Blackcomb merged to create one of the biggest and best mountain resort destinations in the world.
Now firmly established on the world stage as a must-visit winter destination, in 1999 the Whistler Mountain Bike Park opened offering a whole other world of mountain exploration in the summer months. In 2000 Creekside Village, the original base area, received a major facelift and it 2008 the Peak 2 Peak Gondola opened, a 4.4 kilometer expanse connecting Whistler and Blackcomb’s alpines together. The Peak to Peak smashed 3 world records: The longest unsupported span in the world, the highest lift of its kind in the world and the world’s longest continuous lift system. Not only did the Peak to Peak offer skiers and riders more accessibility in the winter months but it opened the alpine to hikers and sight seers in the summer months too.
The long-time vision of Whistler’s founders was finally realized in 2010 with the Winter Olympic Games. In the year’s leading up to the Olympics Whistler received upgrades such as the Whistler Olympic Park, Sliding Centre, Athlete’s Village, Olympic Plaza and a new highway connecting Whistler to Vancouver in under 2 hours. Although the Olympics has now come and gone, Whistler remains with these Olympic legacies and the residual benefits that come from hosting the Olympics continue to flow.
Mccoos Whistler has proudly been part of Whistler’s story since 1987 when Jeff Coombs and George McConkey had a hand written business plan and a dream to create a true local’s shop with a focus on service, selection and local relationships. Fast forward 28 years and Mccoos is still locally owned and is true to its core culture, values and products that were established back in the 80’s. Happy 50th anniversary Whistler/Blackcomb- glad we could be part of the story!