Whistler History

Whistler History

The Whistler area is not only a place of scenic wonder, but also a region that is rich with a fascinating history and cultural background. Before becoming a ski area and winning accolades as a world-class resort, and before welcoming the world for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, this was still a place that drew visitors from far and wide.

First Nations History of Whistler

The Coast Salish First Nations people inhabited the land around Whistler for many thousands of years, hunting and gathering and living a nomadic lifestyle long before European settlers arrived. Whistler itself was often a waypoint for First Nation trading routes between the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations, as it was rich with wildlife and resources. At one time, tens of thousands of Coast Salish First Nations people lived, traded and thrived in the areas between Vancouver, Howe Sound and Lillooet. In fact, some of the hiking routes between Howe Sound and Deep Cove (east of Vancouver) are the traditional routes travelled by the Coast Salish First Nations peoples.

The Modern History of Whistler

From its humble beginnings as a fishing lodge in 1914, to being centre stage for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games — Whistler was always considered a special place and outstanding destination for adventurous spirits.


The Pemberton Trail is completed linking the Pemberton valley to the Pacific coast, north of Vancouver.


Trappers and prospectors settle in the area. Alta Lake was the original name of Whistler but the settlers start calling the area "Whistler" because of the shrill whistle sound made by the western hoary marmots who live among the rocks.


Myrtle and Alex Philip arrive in Vancouver from Maine. They hear about Whistler's spectacular beauty.


Myrtle and Alex take the three-day journey to Whistler: a steamer ship from Vancouver to Squamish, overnight in Brackendale, and a two-day horse trek to Whistler.


Myrtle and Alex buy ten acres of land and build the Rainbow Lodge on the shores of Alta Lake. The Pacific Great Eastern Railway (now BC Rail) is built to Alta Lake and links the valley to the outside world. Whistler becomes a base for logging and mining. Myrtle and Alex's Rainbow Lodge is the most popular resort destination west of Banff and Jasper.


Other lodges open throughout the valley. The abundant fish stocks make Whistler a summer resort destination long before it is considered a winter destination. Winter travel becomes possible when a gravel road to Squamish is carved from the cliffs of Howe Sound.

Early 1960s

During the early 1960s a group of Vancouver Businessmen formed the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA) to develop a site to host the 1968 Winter Olympic Games and selected London Mountain (Whistler Mountain’s original name) as the preferred venue.


The single-lane road is extended to Whistler because of the ski area development, and to Pemberton later that same year. The trip from Vancouver to Whistler took 5-6 hours.


Whistler Mountain finally gets the name "Garibaldi Whistler Mountain". Development of the ski area on the south side of Whistler Mountain began. What is now called Creekside was once the original Village and featured a four-person gondola to the mountain’s mid-station, a double chairlift to the alpine tree line, and two T-bars.


Whistler officially opens for skiing.


A two-lane gravel road built in 1965 is paved to Whistler and then to Pemberton.


The new municipality is given 53 acres of Crown land to develop a town centre.


Construction begins on the new town centre that will eventually become Whistler Village.


Blackcomb Mountain (right next to Whistler Mountain) opens creating one of the largest ski complexes in North America.


Blackcomb Mountain expands its terrain and becomes North America’s only "Mile High Mountain".


Snow Country Magazine votes Whistler the "Number One Ski Resort in North America" and the trend continues through to today with the resort earning the top spot for destination resort and its incredible skiing in numerous industry magazines and readers’ polls.


Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains merge under Intrawest Corporation.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) shortlists Vancouver/Whistler as a Candidate City for hosting the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.


Vancouver/Whistler win the bid to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.


The peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains were linked with the opening of the brand new PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. This multi record-breaking lift allows skiers, snowboarders and, in the summer, hikers, faster access to the award-winning terrain on both mountains.


Whistler took part in the Winter Olympics as an Official Olympic venue. Although the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have come and gone, Whistler's spot on the world stage was firmly established. Fanstastic Olympic legacies like the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and Whistler Medals Plaza as well as the Mountain Bike Park and the record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola make Whistler a world-class, four season destination.

Call 1.800.WHISTLER (944.7853) to speak with a local travel consultant