Images: Joern Rohde
LOCAL LINGO – WHISTLER NAMESAKES
Whistler’s network of pathways and green spaces is justly famous, and like a lot of places, the Resort Municipality of Whistler strives to honour some of its pioneers and community builders by naming parks and other landmarks after them. But who are these people?
Nebbeling Bridge spans Village Gate Boulevard on the Village Stroll and is named for Ted Nebbeling, who served as mayor of Whistler from 1990 to ’96 and as the region’s representative in the B.C. Legislative Assembly from ’96 to 2005. Having married longtime partner Jan Holmberg in 2003, for a brief time he was the world’s highest-ranking government official who was a partner in a same-sex marriage. He passed away in 2009.
Florence Petersen Park, located next to the Whistler Library and Whistler Museum, is named for a historian, author and marriage commissioner who founded the Whistler Museum and Archives Society. Before her passing in 2012, Petersen was the longest-tenured living resident of the Whistler Valley, having arrived in the 1950s.
Rebagliati Park, within Fitzsimmons Creek Park, along the pathway between Whistler Village and the Upper Village, is named for Ross Rebagliati, winner of the first Olympic men’s snowboarding gold medal ever awarded (Nagano 1998). He is also the founder of Ross’ Gold™, a company that sells apparel and medicinal marijuana.
Eva Lake Park in Nordic Estates is named for the daughter of Walter Zebrowski, a Polish immigrant and World War II veteran who developed much of the Nordic Estates neighbourhood and donated the land for the park. A bridge over the Cheakamus River, accessing the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood, bears Zebrowski’s name.
Millar’s Pond Park in the Bayshores neighbourhood is named for “Mahogany” John Millar, the pioneering trapper who ran his stopping house along the Pemberton Trail at nearby Millar’s Creek in the early 20th century.
LOCAL ANIMAL - HOARY MARMOT
Whistler Mountain and the town are named for the hoary marmot, which inhabits high alpine regions in the Coast Mountains. The marmots make a distinctive whistling sound and hence are sometimes called “whistling” marmots or simply “whistlers.” One of six species of marmots in North America, hoary marmots are quite common in the mountains of southwestern British Columbia. Not much is known about their historic populations in the Whistler area, but anecdotal information suggests that their numbers have waxed and waned since humans first became regular visitors to the alpine terrain they inhabit, said local ecologist Bob Brett, who has studied their habits and habitat since the 1980s.
Brett said human disturbance is just one of many factors that may well affect hoary marmots’ ability to survive from one year, and decade, to the next. “We know they do well in certain environments and they do acclimate to humans, but the question is, ‘How much disturbance can they take?’”
Hoary marmots hibernate up to seven months a year, so one would think that when they’re out of their burrows, they would mostly be busy gathering food to help them survive the long winter’s nap. However, hikers who encounter them often see them out sunning themselves on a rock. Brett theorizes that like reptiles such as lizards, standing almost motionless in the sun helps the marmots gather solar energy that they need, along with food, to survive the winter.
“Marmots bask — and I’m not even sure why they bask,” he said, “but the less you can disturb them, the better. Every time you make them move, that reduces the benefit that they get from basking.” If you see marmots when out hiking, use a zoom lens for photos and try to avoid approaching them too closely, Brett advised.
Climate change is an undeniable cause of the reduced alpine terrain, and over time may lead to a loss of suitable habitat for hoary marmots, causing their numbers to decline, Brett said. “I just love that we have wildlife on the hills and if they’re still there in 30, 40 or 50 years, that would be a really good thing,” he said. “It would be a very poor Whistler if, in the future, we didn’t have the species that our town was named after.”
EXPERIENCE AUTHENTIC FIRST NATIONS CULTURE
The Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations who claim Whistler as part of their shared traditional territory offer visitors the opportunity to learn about their traditional beliefs, practices and culture at the world-renowned Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, a short walk from Whistler Village.
Each guest at the centre — built to represent the traditional Coast Salish (Squamish) longhouse and Interior Salish (Lil’wat) pithouse — takes part in a guided tour that includes a welcome song, a short film and narrative that explains the significance of the carvings, art, songs and ceremonies that have been passed down through the generations. Tours are guided by Cultural Ambassadors, each one passionate about sharing both his or her people’s traditional beliefs and how those beliefs play out in real-life situations. “It’s living culture, so we have amazing exhibits about traditions and culture, and each tour guide is able to relate what you’re seeing to their own family experience within either the Lil’wat or Squamish community,” said Deanna Wampler, SLCC marketing manager.
The centre offers interactive workshops in which guests learn how to make a variety of items including traditional Salish hand drums, buckskin medicine bags and woven cedar bracelets as a souvenir of their visit. To enhance the experience, there is a 30-minute interpretive forest walk that offers glimpses into how Squamish and Lil’wat peoples used native plants for food, as medicine and in cultural ceremonies.
New this year are regular outdoor barbecues featuring salmon and other traditional First Nations fare. slcc.ca