Museum Musings: Learning about the Rainbow Ski Village

This Friday (Jan. 26) the 2018 season of the Whistler Museum’s Speaker Series will open with an evening dedicated to the Rainbow Ski Village, presented by Tom Jarvis and John Lee.

As we’ve been preparing for this event over the past few months we’ve gotten the chance to talk to some of the people who worked, skied, owned and jumped at the Rainbow Ski Village and have learned quite a bit about the ski hill. Many of these people will be present to share their stories themselves on Friday.

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Recently the museum was fortunate to speak with Andy Clausen, whose family managed the Rainbow Ski Village when it first opened and whose memories include not just Rainbow, but also life in the Whistler valley in the 1960s and ‘70s. Along with an article from the fall 1970 edition of Garibaldi’s Whistler News, Andy’s memories give us a much clearer picture of the early years of the Rainbow Ski Area.

Andy’s stepfather, Vic Christiansen, worked for Jim McConkey at Whistler Mountain and had an impressive reputation as a skier. In the late 1960s Vic was approached by Norm Paterson of Capilano Highlands Ltd. to operate a small ski area at Rainbow.

The Rainbow Ski Area first opened in the winter of 1969/70 with one 400-foot tow lift servicing a beginners’ slope. After that first winter Capilano Highlands added a new 1,200-foot towrope and cleared four beginner/practice slopes leading off the lifts. They also began construction of a day lodge and a parking area. 

In 1970 Rainbow opened five days a week (Wednesday – Sunday) under the management of Vic and his family. Night skiing and reasonable rates (an adult pass for day and evening was $3, a child’s was $1.50) made Rainbow a popular place to learn to ski.

Over the next few years another towrope was added and the Rainbow Mountain Ski Club was formed. Vic and Andy built Whistler’s first ski jump and Rainbow became a stop on the BC ski jump circuit. The café was a popular stop for coffee and before he became Whistler’s first mayor Pat Carleton, a Nabob rep, could be found there frequently.

Being able to draw from both personal recollections and published articles helps to create a more colourful and complete picture of any given time and place. Memories provide detail and a personal experience while publications, such as Garibaldi’s Whistler News, often record specific dates, names and even lift rates that an individual may not recall. We are lucky to be able to refer to Whistler’s many publications, including Whistler News, the Alta Lake Echo, and The Whistler Answer, when looking for information about this area’s past.

For the past 41 years The Whistler Question has provided a record of life in and around Whistler, chronicling a rapidly changing community and growing mountain resort. From covering the opening of Blackcomb Mountain on its front page in 1980 to announcing the marriage of Bob Daniels and Kashi Richardson in “Notes From All” in 1985, The Question has been an important source of local news in our town.

We would like to thank The Question for providing the Whistler Museum with a space to share Whistler’s stories, as well as an archive from which to gather them. 

Tickets for Ski Rainbow: Whistler’s Other Ski Hill are on sale at the Whistler Museum.  Doors open at 6 p.m.; talk begins at 7 p.m.

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