Our History: An Olympic Tale
When Whistler was awarded the honour of becoming Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it was the happy ending to a unique, 40-year adventure. The Resort was, in fact, born out of a desire to host a Winter Games, and that Olympic thread has run through Whistler's story ever since. It is the fairy tale story of the little resort that could, and the place where big dreams really do come true.
The area had already been a popular summer destination since 1915 when Alex and Myrtle Philip first opened the doors of Rainbow Lodge. The area quickly became famous for its fishing, hiking and abundant natural surroundings. It was widely known as a place for explorers, adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts to experience the ultimate summer getaway in Mother Nature's backyard. There was no running water or electricity. There wasn't even a road, just a small trail linking Pemberton to the Pacific Ocean. Over the years, other entrepreneurial explores moved to Alta Lake to build homes, open businesses or work the mills and Whistler slowly grew into a thriving community.
In 1962, Franz Wilhelmsen and a group of Vancouver businessmen began exploring the rugged Coast Mountains just north of Vancouver with the idea of hosting the 1968 Winter Games. That search led them here and to London Mountain, then-named for a mining claim. Although that bid did not ultimately succeed, the businessmen saw great potential, and continued their dream to develop a ski resort. The mountain was soon renamed Whistler Mountain, in honour of the hill's resident alpine marmot species' whistling calls, and in February 1966 the Garibaldi Lift Company officially opened its ski area on the west side of Whistler Mountain. The development of Whistler just 14 years later and its successive growth into an award-winning, international resort is unparalleled in ski history.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler was incorporated on September 6, 1975 and locals quickly began to plan for expansion into the international marketplace. It was then that the decision was made to move the town center from its original location, known today as Creekside, to the site where both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains converge. The Village itself was carefully designed to reap the benefits of the Coast Mountain's excellent geographic location with innovative design principles. Developed by the brightest architects, planners and landscape professionals in North America, the layout of the village emphasizes excellent sun exposure and breathtaking vistas. To complement Whistler Mountain, Blackcomb Mountain opened for business on December 6, 1980. With the opening of the new ski terrain and the Village, the planners and builders experienced speedy success as the World came to visit.
In 1988, Whistler Mountain installed a high-speed, 10-person gondola and in 1994, Blackcomb unveiled its 8-person express gondola, improving the Village's ski-in/ski-out convenience to two vastly different, yet equally spectacular, ski areas. In 1996, Whistler Mountain installed a six-person high-speed gondola at its Whistler Creekside base and, most recently, spanning the distance of 4.4 kilometres between Whistler and Blackcomb, the record breaking Peak-to-Peak opened for business on December 12, 2008.
But, built as it was for the Games, Whistler has always kept that Olympic connection throughout the decades of success. Olympians like Nancy Green and Rob Boyd have all called Whistler home and many of its neighbourhood streets are even named for previous Host Cities. In a testament to the resort's world-class slopes, it was local rider Ross Rebagliati who brought home the very first gold medal in snowboarding at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. You might say that Whistler and the Winter Games seemed destined for each other.
In fact, Whistler made several other bids over the years to host the Games, but it took more than 40 years for the fairy tale to get its happy ending. On July 2, 2003 Whistler became the world's first community to be named a Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. That distinction has only served to further the resort's development and success.
Hosting the 2010 Games events isn't just a national honour and international accolade. The Games left a lasting legacy in Whistler that includes new facilities and new sporting venues like the Whistler Olympic Park and Whistler Sliding Centre, as well as new neighbourhoods like Cheakamus Crossing.
So although Whistler did indeed get its own happily-ever-after, the story of the resort is really just beginning.