Travel Blog

31 Dec

Whistler’s First Snowmobile Superstar

Whether used to access fresh ski lines, or simply for “rooping” in the snow, snowmobiles are a way of life for many Whistlerites. While 4x4s hauling sleds are ubiquitous come winter, few realize just how deep Whistler’s snow machine roots go.

While browsing through old issues of Ski Tracks, a Lower Mainland ski newspaper from the 1960s, we came across a pretty cool bit of trivia.  Their January 1966 issue announced that the newly-formed B.C. Snow Vehicle Association would be holding their inaugural meet and race on January 30th on Alta Lake. The group seems to have been run out of Vancouver.

The report in Ski Trails’ next issue revealed that 23 entries ran in the races, and “Ski-doo” brand machines took all events. Notably, the champion of the large-machine slalom race, running the 20-gate course in 39.9 seconds, was none other than Dick Fairhurst on his Ski-doo “Super Olympique.”

Dick with his little sled-groms on a neighbour’s sled, Ron Dent’s “Dentmobile,” 1965

Dick is better known among Whistler history buffs as the owner of Cypress Lodge, a small lakeside resort he ran from the early 1940s until 1972, when he sold the property to the Canadian Hostels Association. Today, the former lodge is known simply as The Point, a grass-roots arts centre next to Rainbow Park. The snowmobile races were held on what was essentially Dick’s front yard.

From R-L, Dick Fairhurst, Gray Mitchell, Stephan Ples, and Don Gow take a break on Callaghan Lake, March 1970. The entire upper Callaghan Velley, including Callaghan Lake, is now a non-motorized zone to avoid conflicts with backcountry and nordic skiers.

Other winners at the inaugural race: Dee Wickes claimed the small-class slalom on a regular Olympique in 42.0 seconds. A “twisty course” around the lake was set up for the open race, and 30, 15, and 10 lap races were won by Ralph Monhay, Hugh Charbonneau, and Mandy Harrison, respectively.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any background info of this archival photo of snowmobilers taking a break in front of Black Tusk. Judging by the sleds, this is probably from the early 1970s.

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