Whistler | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Whistler, British Columbia, incorporated as a resort municipality in 1975, population 11,854 (2016 census), 9,824 (2011 census). The resort municipality of Whistler is located about 120 km north of Vancouver near Garibaldi Provincial Park. Whistler is named after the hoary marmots (called “whistlers” because of their high-pitched warning call) that are common on Whistler Mountain.


Whistler is on the traditional territory of the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations. (See: Central Coast Salish; Interior Salish.)

Non-Indigenous trappers and prospectors began to pass through the area with the clearing of the Pemberton Trail between Lillooet and the Pacific coast in 1877. In 1914, Rainbow Lodge opened on Alta Lake, adjacent to Whistler Mountain. The fishing lodge began to draw visitors to the area. That same year, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (see British Columbia Railway) reached nearby Pemberton. The railway brought more tourists and industries to the Whistler Valley. The community of Alta Lake slowly grew over the decades that followed.

In the 1960s, a group of Vancouver businessmen made a bid to bring the 1968 Olympic Winter Games to Whistler. The group lost the bid. However, the initiative produced a company named Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. With Vancouver businessman Franz Wilhelmsen as its president, Garibaldi Lifts began developing alpine skiing facilities on Whistler Mountain. The first ski runs opened in 1966. That same year, the paving of the gravel road from Squamish made Whistler easier to reach by car from the south.


In the early 1970s, this area of British Columbia had few residents, and what would become Whistler was little more than a few ski cabins. The provincial government, however, created a unique local government structure that allows Whistler to provide both public and private services. The passing of the Resort Municipality of Whistler Act in 1975 opened the area to resort development. An extensive system of lifts and ski runs was built at Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and Whistler Village was developed at their western bases. Whistler Village is not the only development in the resort municipality; Whistler Creek is the original settlement and there are 17 other subdivisions.

Whistler Village
Whistler Village (courtesy Whistler Resort Association/photo by Leanna Rathkelly).

Many consider Whistler one of North America’s pre-eminent ski resorts, but it is increasingly seen as a year-round resort. Due to its proximity to Vancouver, Whistler hosted the skiing, ski jumping, biathlon and sliding (e.g., luge) events of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.


Whistler has a relatively young population. About 66 per cent of the population is between 20 and 54 years of age (compared to 47 per cent for British Columbia and Canada).

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