Whistler’s success is the result of the passion and innovation of its residents and visionary leaders who developed the area into a world-class resort and Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation
These lands and waters lie within the unceded territories of the Lil’wat Nation and Squamish Nation, holding historic and cultural traditions. Over thousands of years, the Nations built vibrant, distinct cultures through an intimate relationship with the natural landscape.
Learn more about the shared territories of the Lil’wat Nation and Squamish Nation.
Rainbow Lodge and Garibaldi Lift Company
The first non-indigenous pioneers to live in the Whistler area arrived in the 1880s. By this point the Pemberton Trail had been completed (which connected Howe Sound through Pemberton to Lillooet and the Interior), drawing prospectors and trappers to the area. One trapper, John Miller, enticed Myrtle and Alex Philip from Vancouver to the north shore of Whistler’s Alta Lake, where they built the successful Rainbow Lodge in 1914 as a fishing and holiday camp. Later that year, the Great Pacific Northwestern Railway pushed through the Whistler valley en route to Prince George.
Other pioneering spirits soon followed and more lodges, tea houses, farms, logging camps and mills were built around Alta Lake. By the late 1940s, Rainbow Lodge was the most popular honeymoon spot west of the Rockies and the tiny community of Alta Lake was lively and sociable throughout the mid-century, despite being accessible only by rail or float plane.
In the 1960s, a group of Vancouver businessmen launched a bid to host the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Whistler. The bid failed, but the dream spurred one member, Franz Wilhelmsen, to open the Garibaldi Lift Company as a ski area with a gondola, chair lifts and two T-bars on the west side of Whistler Mountain in 1966. Avid skiers began the trek up the old hydro road, paved that same year, and built A-frame cabins around the Whistler Creek base.
Building a world-class resort
By the mid-1970s, local visionaries, dreaming of the Olympics, began plans for a world-class summer and winter resort.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) was incorporated on September 6, 1975. At the time of incorporation, 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.
The Whistler Village Conceptual Plan consulting team began work in 1978 to develop Whistler Village. Eldon Beck, the architect who was instrumental in the design of Vail Village in Colorado, created the foundation of the Whistler Village plan as a car-free town centre, where people would meet and meander among an array of magnificent views.
As a result of this foundational work, Whistler Village, Blackcomb Mountain and the north side of Whistler Mountain opened for business in December 1980.
A world-class resort
In 1992, Whistler received the first of its numerous accolades when it was named the Number One Ski resort in North America by Snow Country Magazine. The accolades continued, as locals strategized and planned their growing resort community, adding summer amenities and a mix of recreational pursuits. In 2005, Whistler was declared one of the most liveable communities in the world.
On July 2, 2003, Whistler’s dream to host the Olympics at last came true, as 5,000 cheering residents jammed Village Square to hear the International Olympic Committee select Vancouver/Whistler to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. This was the first time in Olympic history that the International Olympic Committee bestowed the designation Host Mountain Resort upon a community. Whistler successfully co-hosted the 2010 Games, which left many lasting legacies for the community.
Learn more about Whistler’s history by visiting the Whistler Museum.
Looking to the future
Today, Whistler is home to almost 12,000 permanent residents and is visited by more than 3 million guests annually. Whistler is guided by the community’s Official Community Plan, which has been updated through extensive community collaboration.