History of Whistler
Centuries before the occasional trapper or logger built a cozy cabin in the nineteenth century, the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations used the secluded Whistler valley for hunting and gathering. It wasn't until 1914 that Alex and Myrtle Philip opened Rainbow Lodge, a fishing and holiday camp. Later that year, the Great Pacific Northwestern railway pushed through the valley en route to Prince George.
Other pioneering spirits soon followed and more lodges and teas houses were built around Alta Lake, as did farms, logging camps and mills. By the late 1940s, Rainbow Lodge was the most popular honeymoon spot west of the Rockies and the centre of a lively, sociable community, despite its being accessible only by rail or float plane.
The old hydro road wasn't paved until 1966, when the Garibaldi Lift Company opened the ski area with a gondola, chair lift and two t-bars on the west face of Whistler Mountain. Owned by a group of Vancouver businessmen with Olympic-sized aspirations - they unsuccessfully bid for the, 68 Winter Games - Whistler Mountain soon became a mecca for skiers.
But locals had an even bigger vision: a world-class summer and winter destination, with a pedestrian village at the base of the tallest ski mountain in North America. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) was incorporated on September 6, 1975, the first designated resort municipality in Canada. The village, Blackcomb Mountain and the north face of Whistler Mountain all opened for business in December 1980, and, just nine years later, Whistler was ranked among the top destinations in the world. Realizing the vision, locals then planned on how to retain their success while ensuring they protected the placed they loved so much.
Whistler’s success as an all-season resort destination is the result of visionaries, from Whistler’s first settlers in the early 1900s to the present day residents who look to the future of this community. Whistler was Canada’s first resort municipality, an entirely new form of government.
At the time of incorporation in 1975, fewer than 1,000 people lived in Whistler. The newly elected Mayor and Council, along with municipal staff, local residents and the provincial government, started planning for the development of what would eventually become Whistler Village.
In the opinion of the 1978 Whistler Village Conceptual Plan consulting team, Whistler Village had the potential of becoming a successful town centre. Eldon Beck, the architect who was instrumental in the design of Vail Village in Colorado, created the foundation of the Whistler Village plan. As part of his work, Beck climbed trees to get a visual overview and watched how the sun moved across the Whistler sky. He then designed a car-free town centre, where people would meet and meander – always in sight of one magnificent view or another.
Whistler also owes much of its success to the growth and development guidelines established by the Comprehensive Development Plan. Whistler has long-recognized the need to carefully manage growth to protect the natural, social and built capital of the resort community. Whistler’s first Official Community Plan (OCP), circa 1976, articulated the need to manage resort capacity to ensure that infrastructure met resort community needs. Subsequent OCPs have implemented a progression of growth management policies, placing limits on the municipality’s development capacity in recognition of the potential impacts on Whistler’s natural environment and quality of experience. These policies and growth limits have also allowed Whistler to effectively target desired development as it has evolved to become a world class four season destination resort community.
A world class resort
Located 140 kilometres north of Vancouver, some consider Whistler a "global village"; a small mountain community with an international feel. A place where one can hike and ride rugged trails by day and experience fine cuisine and clubs by night. A place where people from all ages and backgrounds - with a common sense of adventure - brush shoulders on the mountain and in the village.
With views of Blacktusk from the heart of Whistler Village and the friendly faces on the Village stroll, visitor experiences meet and exceed other recreation destinations. Whether it's the helpful Visitor Hosts or the pristinely kept parks, the small things set the resort apart from other places, the Whistler Experience.
Whistler is resilient. The resort's success is based on its ability to offer and promote a variety of meaningful and vibrant experiences and offerings throughout the year; from numerous festivals, events and arts and cultural activities to corporate conferences, spa and wellness retreats, eco-tours to educational opportunities.
Among the many possibilities, diverse recreation opportunities continue to be at the heart of Whistler's healthy tourism economy. Whistler is home to two of the three highest ski mountains in North America with Blackcomb Mountain rising 1,609 metres (5,280 feet) and Whistler Mountain rising 1,530 metres (5,020 feet). Whistler and Blackcomb mountains continue to be a hot spot for skiing and snowboarding, hiking and mountain biking.
There are plenty of other activities year round, including hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting, mountain biking, golf, tennis, in-line skating and sailing in summer to snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, skating, hockey and, of course, skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
For the first time in Olympic history, the International Olympic Committee bestowed the designation Host Mountain Resort upon a community - recognizing Whistler's significant role in staging and hosting the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Whistler had a unique opportunity to establish partnerships that deliver extraordinary Games and accelerate our shared vision: to be the premier mountain resort community as we move toward sustainability.
The sense of community is very strong in Whistler, with a passionate commitment to protecting the natural mountain environment surrounding the resort.
Whistler's ongoing success and resilience is due in part to its ability to adapt and track external trends such as emerging resorts, globalization and growing competition. Citizens, businesses and decision-makers understand and respond to changing resource availability and commodity prices, which affect global travel and tourism patterns.
There are nearly 9,824 residents in Whistler (2011 Canada Census data). On peak holiday weekends, the population can swell to 55,000 including visitors. These permanent residents, together with help from the surrounding communities of Squamish and Pemberton, provide the 13,500 employees needed by the resort during the busy season. The population is largely youthful: nearly half the population is 25 to 34 years old, compared to 30 per cent in the rest of the province.
Whistler’s permanent residents are highly educated: among those 15 years and over, 29 per cent have a university degree and 18 per cent have a college diploma, compared to 19 per cent and 17 per cent provincially. Sixty-three per cent of Whistler’s permanent population aged 15 years of age or older has had post-secondary education, compared with 52 per cent of the provincial population.
Whistler is a young and growing community. Twenty per cent of all households in Whistler have children. In September 2007, Whistler’s three schools had a total enrolment of 848 students.