The Point Artist Run Centre is currently holding a fundraiser steeped in Whistler history. The competition is called the “Alta Lake Ice-Break Raffle” and it dates back to 1962 when the Alta Lake Community Club created it as a way to raise money to buy equipment for their newly formed volunteer fire department. The first ever winner? The Whistler Museum’s own founder — Florence Petersen.
The idea behind the competition is simple. During the winter a 45 gallon drum is placed on the ice at the south end of Alta Lake. As the lake melts the barrel starts to float across the lake. The person that guesses most accurately the date and time that the barrel will float past Cypress Point will be the victorious winner.
It all sounds easy, but it turns out that the organization of it is more complicated than you might think. Stephen Vogler has been running the competition since 2002 — first to raise money for the Alta Lake School, and more recently for the Point. He recalls having some “adventures” the years when he put the barrel out a little late, when the ice had already become slushy. Armed with a sailing mast he precariously ventured over the uncertain ice to place the barrel in position.
Another time he made the mistake of not weighing the barrel down enough — this meant on a windy day Stephen received a phone-call from another Alta Lake resident who informed him that the barrel had been seen whistling down the lake at almost 100 km/h.
After running the competition for 10 years, these teething troubles are now out of the way, but there still remains the challenge of making sure that someone is there to watch exactly when the barrel floats by. Some years the lake can be frozen at breakfast and then the barrel can be floating past by the afternoon. There are also issues with the night time, as even if one did stay up all night to watch out, if it’s a moonless night it would be too dark to see. This problem has been resolved by taking the midpoint between sunrise and sunset as the time of floatation in case of this occurrence.
That still means Stephen and his neighbours have to keep their eyes wide open when it comes close to the time, so do not dismiss the efforts involved in this little fundraiser. To reward them for their hard work I heartily recommend you take part in this little flutter and buy a ticket. The tickets are $3 for one guess and $5 for two guesses. The prizes include a night at the Fairmont, two Scandinave Spa passes and stand up paddle boarding for two courtesy of Whistler Backroads. Not to mention that the winner gets their name inscribed on a fabulous trophy. You can buy tickets online at www.thepointartists.com or from the Whistler Museum.
But hurry! With the warm weather we’ve been having lately, the ice might be melting sooner rather than later.
The proceeds of the raffle will go to the Point Artist-Run Centre to fund both their (wonderful) Flagstop Theatre & Arts Festival and their children’s theatre and music workshops in late July and early August.
Sarah Drewery is the executive director of the Whistler Museum.