With snow on the mountains and everyone beginning to think and talk about skiing, I felt like this was an appropriate time to tell Rob Carrico’s story. Just as we are now on the cusp of winter, Rob was on the cusp of skiing, living in Alta Lake just as Whistler began to be investigated as a potential area for a ski resort.
Rob was a child when he lived in the valley from 1959-1961; his father Mel worked as the only teacher in the school. He remembers the men who arrived in town looking to develop the area and put in an Olympic bid. They rented out sleeper cars and brought skiers up from Vancouver to help bring attention to the region. The skiers stayed on the train and were ferried up to the slopes in a helicopter. Rob and an enterprising friend of his secured the position of refuelling the aircraft. In return, they were given a ten-minute helicopter ride around Alta Lake at the end of the day.
Rob’s father got the better end of the deal – he didn’t pump any gas, but somehow he managed to get on the helicopter for the sightseeing portion.
“He can only recall two downsides to living here at that time: a lack of television and his inability to join scouts or cubs since he was the only boy his age living at Alta Lake year-round.”
Along with a temporary influx in skiers came a serious interest in the weather patterns in the valley. Weatherman Bob Fortune set Rob’s dad up with a camera and a weather station, which could monitor the minimum and maximum temperatures each day. The camera recorded images of the clouds throughout the day and then condensed them into a short film.
This was an exciting period at Alta Lake, with the development largely being welcomed. Rob remembers being invited down to Vancouver for a torch-light parade to support the development of Whistler as an Olympic venue. According to Rob, “...we marched proudly down Georgia street holding torches. It was a major event...we enjoyed it and everybody thought it was a great opportunity and an exciting time.”
Rob’s family moved to Squamish in 1961 as his oldest sister had reached high school age and there was no school for her to go to in the valley. Rob thinks that if the move hadn’t been necessary, the Carrico family would likely have stayed on at Alta Lake.
Despite the shortage of other children he fondly states, “I don’t remember ever being bored. I enjoyed it.”
Rob has one regret from his time here however – that he didn’t invest the $100 he made collecting bottles in some waterfront real estate!
Sarah Drewery is the executive director of the Whistler Museum.