They say history moves in cycles, and according to The Point’s artistic director, Stephen Vogler, nowhere is that more true in our valley than at the heritage lodge on Alta Lake.
The Point Artist-Run Centre, home of Saturday’s (Feb.8) inaugural Cypress Point Winter Carnival, was originally built by early Whistler settler Dick Fairhurst as a rustic lodge catering to fishing tourists, construction workers and skiers in a winter very similar to this one.
“The Cypress Lodge, the old hostel, was built during a really warm winter in the late ‘50s, so Dick Fairhurst was able to build that lodge all winter long because there was hardly any snow,” Vogler said, before going on to talk about yet another notoriously poor snow year. “The winter of ‘ 76 – ‘77 was my first year living here, and it was like this: everyone was meeting out on the lake because the skating was so good. I didn’t know that when we started talking about doing a winter carnival, but it’s funny that that’s come around again.”
With a serious lack of snow this winter, the locals living around the Point have once again taken to converging on the lake for ice skating, impromptu games of shinny or simply to have a conversation with neighbours. It’s that community spirit that inspired the vision for the first Cypress Point Winter Carnival, which will feature free family activities during the day like ice sculpting, igloo and lantern making, snow volleyball, live painting, musical jam sessions and more.
“I thought it would be a good thing to celebrate this weird winter that seems to be a bit more focused on the valley than on the mountain,” Vogler said.
In another notable throwback to a Whistler of winters past, a pair of large tongs was crafted in order to extract massive blocks of ice from Alta Lake for the sculpting contest.
“All the lodges around the lake used to cut out ice blocks for refrigeration. In the spring going into summer, they’d have ice socked away in cellars,” said Vogler. “This guy we’re working with, Ross Smith, he made these ice tongs to pull the ice out and that’s what’s been used across Canada and it’s something that’s happened here on Alta Lake for many years.”
But more than just being a regional history lesson, the winter carnival will also feature two prepared skits during dinner by Whistler’s theatre guru, Michele Bush. Vogler has also signed up Fernie five-piece Shred Kelly, a self-described “stoke folk” band. The term is apt; the band is made up of a group of friends born out of the East Kootenays and best known for their infectious foot-stamping live show that’s marked by dynamic guitar licks, knee-slapping banjo riffs and atmospheric vocal harmonies.
But it was their mountain origins that pushed Vogler to secure Shred Kelly for the fest after seeing one of their Vancouver shows. “I love that they write songs about what it’s like to live in a ski town that also has a mining heritage,” he said. “They really mine the history of the place and they have songs about people moving in and out of town, so it’s very much like Whistler. I thought it’d be cool to feature a different mountain town band.”
The free family fun runs from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. while the evening entertainment featuring Bush and Shred Kelly goes from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for the evening show only, or $22 with dinner, available at www.thepointartists.com, Armchair Books and Hempire.