History of VOC huts

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Hollyburn Cabin

Map 1: Local map of Hollyburn Cabin

Little is known today (in 1977) about the earliest cabin which the VOC used. It was located on Hollyburn Mountain, in the "Cabin Area" marked on Map 1. It was the nucleus around which the club was established in 1917, and provided a base for hiking, skiing and mountaineering trips in the surrounding area.

Grouse Cabins

Grouse Cabin era. 1927

By 1929, club members had decided that they wanted a larger and more permanent center for their activities, and so they built a cabin on Grouse Mountain. Named the "Vee-O-Cee" Cabin, it was located in the treed area to the east of the present "Cut" ski run. A few years later, as club membership continued to increase, another room was added to the existing structure, and, by the mid-1930's, the club acquired another cabin, the Schuss Inn, which was located nearby. However, by the 1940's, both of these cabins had become so dilapidated that further repairs were deemed impractical. Thus, the decision was again made to relocate. After much searching, a location was found on Mount Seymour. Prior to and during construction of the Seymour Cabin, the club rented another cabin on Grouse, as they had sold the Grouse Mountain cabins to partially finance the new one.

Photos: http://www.hollyburnheritage.ca/recreational-skiing/recreational-skiing-on-grouse-mountain-photos/

Seymour Cabin

Map 2: Local map of Seymour Cabin

The cabin on Mount Seymour was a much bigger undertaking than any of the previous ones had been. It was much larger than the Hollyburn and Grouse cabins, as it could accommodate some 150 persons. The cabin was built on a site off Mountain Road, and just below the ski area, as shown in Map 2.

The cabin was designed by Fred Lasserre of the UBC School of Architecture. Planning started in the late 1940's, with the completion of the new Mount Seymour Highway (Mountain Road). A club member, Don Manning, organized the work on the cabin, which, despite numerous construction difficulties, was opened in January 1951[1]. Over the following decade, the VOC added on to and improved the cabin, in order to keep it in line with members' needs and current building regulations. It remained the focus of activities for the club until the mid-1960's

Sale of the Seymour Cabin

In 1965, the VOC decided to sell their Seymour Cabin and moved to the Whistler area. The cabin had been estimated to be worth about $21,000. All of the negotiations for the sale were handled by Keith Moore, the VOC treasurer at the time. His hard work over a period of several years enable the club to sell the cabin.

Moore approached many different parties, and after much negotiation, he finally found a buyer, a local company which wanted it for recreational use of its employees. The arrangements for the sale were nearly completed when the Parks Board stepped in and imposed a set of rather stringent conditions on the sale of the cabin. In doing so, it effectively narrowed down the list of prospective purchasers to only itself.

Another period of prolonged negotiations followed, and in 1969, the cabin was finally sold to them for $12,000. This money was used to pay off the A.M.S. loan on the Whistler Cabin.

Whistler Cabin

Site of Whistler Cabin

The Whistler Cabin was the club's biggest project (by 1977). It replaced the cabin on Mount Seymour, which was located in an area which did not offer scope for the wide variety of activities that a club the size of the VOC needed and engaged in. The Whistler area was perceived as fulfilling these requirements. Since the club had never before been involved in such a grand undertaking, it needed a great deal of help in order to make the dream of a cabin at Whistler the reality. In this, they relied heavily on old members of the club, as well as on other individuals. These people donated their invaluable advice and expertise, as well as money, materials and labour.

Choice of Site

After much searching through the Whistler area, the site for the cabin was finally chosen. This was "Block N of Lot 7179, Group 1, N.W.D." It was located in the area set apart for clubs' cabins, and was near the proposed terminus for the ski development.

Construction

Whistler Cabin under Construction (1965)

In 1965, Byron Olson, a past president of the club, and a recent graduate if the UBC School of Architecture, offered to design the cabin for the club. After some problems arranging the lease, and after UBC President MacDonald had stepped in to cut some red tape with regards to the site acquisition, the initial problems were solved, and the stage was set.

Construction began on Labour Day weekend, 1965. The foundations and framing were soon completed, and by Halloween of that year, the shell of the cabin was completed (enough to hold a party!). All the work, with the exception of the installation of the heating system, was done by volunteer VOC labour.

In the next two years, the interior of the cabin was finished. In 1969, a major drive took place, and two dormitories were built. This resulted in the cabin being completed to the satisfaction of most VOC'ers, who were used to "roughing it". However, the lack of running hot water and indoor plumbing in it resulted in it not being attractive to the majority of downhill skiers, and thus not many used the cabin.

Ownership & 1980 Referendum

After a few good years, the cabin's situation started to deteriorate: the beginning of the development of the Whistler Ski Resort aside, continuously increasing utilities costs and the lack of proper maintenance (mostly due to the cost of utilities) were contributing to its decline. By 1973, it was decided that continued maintenance of the cabin wasn't compatible with the vision of the Club, and that the costs were becoming too much of a burden for the VOC to manage on their own. In 1974, the VOC made an preliminary agreement with the newly-formed UBC Ski Club for co-ownership of the cabin. However, the AMS blocked this and a later agreement for various reasons and, by July 1975, had told the VOC that they didn't have ownership of the cabin and, consequently, weren't in a position to ask for compensation. Shortly after, the AMS transfered the rights of the cabin to the Ski Club.

1980 VOC Referendum Flyer

Note: The following external links are pdf files from Ubyssey Archives (~2 - 4 MB).

Frustrated by this chain of events, in March 1977, the VOC sued the AMS for ownership of the cabin in AMS Student Court. After one month of court proceedings, the Student Court ruled for the VOC and fined the AMS the original cost estimate of the cabin ($30,000) as compensation. The victory was short-lived; by October 1978, the AMS ruled that the Student Court was out-of-order and that the AMS didn't have to pay anything to the VOC. Consequently, in February 1979, the VOC filed an external lawsuit against the AMS. In January 1980, knowing that AMS wouldn't back down and that the club was financially unable to pursue such a legal venture, the VOC proposed an out-of-court settlement with the AMS where the VOC would drop the lawsuit in return for receiving the original compensation. The AMS couldn't come to an agreement and decided to have a student referendum on the subject. From March 11 - 13, 1980, fellow students voted in the referendum. The proposal was as follows:

VOC is requesting compensation only for the materials which it originally provided for the Whistler Cabin. The $30,000 requested in this referendum will be used in four ways:

  1. To upgrade the Burton Hut on Garibaldi Lake.
  2. To make repairs to the Tenquille Lake Cabin.
  3. To make temporary repairs to the existing cabin at McGillvray Pass.
  4. To construct a new cabin at McGillvray Pass.

For the referendum to be valid, at least 10% of the day-time students must vote. The referendum was won unanimously, with 12.33% of the day-time students casting ballots. Of the 2,858 students who voted, 2,579 (~90%) voted in favour of the referendum

Consequently, AMS reluctantly paid the initial compensation after 3 and a half years of tedious and excruciating efforts by VOCers. And so ends the infamous story of the Whistler Cabin.

The VOC Reserve Fund & Cabin Committee

Due to the clauses described on the referendum ballot, this money was to be placed in the Accident Benefit Fund and could only be used to purchase material to construct cabins. However, shortly after, VOC discovered that the final amount given by AMS was only $26,545: AMS had prior knowledge of the balance in the fund; therefore, reducing the amount of money the VOC was to receive when the referendum was won.

Now freed from its legal battle, a newly-formed Cabin Committee was created shortly afterwards to oversee the Fund and to examine the proposals described on the referendum ballot. During its first year of existence, the committee reviewed and approved the Brew Lake site for a new VOC hut. By the second year, the committee had concentrated their efforts on finding two other suitable hut sites.

Still bounded by the clauses in the referendum, the choice of terrain was somewhat limited. A request for site proposals appeared in the October 28, 1981 issue of the VOC'ene, the weekly club newsletter, with the objective of obtaining a variety of ideas and implicating as many members as possible. Unfortunately few people responded, resulting in only four feasible sites to study at that time: Meager Creek, Railroad Pass, Tenquille Lake, and McGillivray Pass.

Quickly realizing that a trail might be possible between Railroad Pass and McGillivray Pass, where the club could have two cabins within one-day travelling distance, the committee began looking at this option first. However, after a few discussion sessions with BC Forest Service recreation director, the committee encountered a few possible conflicts: crossing of administrative boundaries of Vancouver & Kamloops districts, the creation of a new Provincial Forest nearby, the increasing number of snowmobilers in the McGillivray Pass area and the presence of another cabin nearby for commercial recreation (snowmobiles & helicopters).

In light of all these problems, one particular site, Mount Taillefer area, was discussed with more enthusiasm but never came to fruition. Curiously enough, VOC would come back to the area when the Brian Waddington Memorial hut was build 17 years later.

By December of 1981, the cabin committee increased its list of proposed sites and trails to six: Meager Creek, Railroad Pass, McGillivary Pass Area, Mount Taillefer, Trail between McGillivary and Tenquille and Sun God Mountain. They initially preferred the sites of Mount Taillefer & Sun God Mountain and by the Spring of 1982, the application for the Mount Taillerer lease began and that the Sun God site would be investigated by the 1982-83 cabin committee. However, it seems now that both sites didn't work out as originally anticipated, maybe due to length needed to reach Sun God (2-day ski in), a possible refusal for the lease of Mount Taillefer and the presence of hot springs at Meager Creek, they finally opted for Meager Creek sometime during the 1982-1983 school year.

During the planning phase of the new hut, VOC opted to rename it in the memory of Julien Harrison who perished in an avalanche over the summer of '83 (see Construction of Harrison Hut). The reason why a second site wasn't chosen still remains vague (no information found in the VOC archives, yet...) but after the snow creep incident at the newly-built Brew Hut over the winter of '83-'84, it most likely forced the club to divert their resources and saving in rebuilding Brew a year later.

McGillivray Pass Cabin

McGillivray Pass Cabin being used by VOCers

The McGillivray Pass Cabin was built for use during the construction and later the maintenance of the telegraph line from Bralorne to the Pacific Great Eastern (PGE) (essentially Vancouver).

In the early 1970's, Paul Kleinshot donated the McGillvray Pass cabin to Fred Thisen, a VOCer, who quickly gave it to the club. The cabin was originally a prospecting cabin, and maintained by Mr. Kleinshot for a number of years after mining died out. It is believed that the VOC did not have to pay any money to acquire the cabin, but no formal or legal control of the cabin was attributed to the VOC because of the Whistler cabin dispute. Once in the VOC hands, the hut became a popular Christmas trip destination for fellow VOCers in the mid-70's to mid-80's.

The club tried to acquire a 15-year recreational lease, but due to a conflict with a mining claim, the Intention of Application of a lease was rejected. The fate of the cabin was sealed in '81 when the cabin committee opted to divert their efforts on rebuilding on the remains of Star Cabin (which never happened either due to the increase number of snowmobilers and commercial recreation activities nearby), located below Star Mountain, not too far from the McGillivary Pass Cabin since the current cabin was quickly deteriorating and slowly sinking into the quasi-swamp it was constructed on. As recent as 2000, a trip was in the works to perform some much needed renovations but that's the last written account of the cabin in the VOC archives.

As of December 2006, an employee of the McGillivary Pass Lodge told us that the roof of cabin has caved in and the remaining structure was in bad shape. It was still possible to get inside but isn't recommended.

Burton Hut

Originally named Sphinx Hut, the Burton Hut was built in 1969 at Sphinx Bay on Garibaldi Lake.

First recorded in 1942, VOCers used to stay over at Taylor Creek cabin and from 1955 to 1965, at Airways cabin, near Battleship Island while on skiing trips at Garibaldi Lake. However, after 1965, the Parks Branch blocked access to their winter shelters to the club. In January 1969, during a skiing trip at Himmelsbach Hut, a few VOCers decided that the club needed a new hut. At Sphinx. By the end of Spring, during the VOC General meeting, the idea was proposed and passed almost unanimously.

Over the summer of '69, VOCers worked on the new hut and by the end of August, the prefabricated hut was ready for transport. Over the course of a week, the sections of the hut were trucked and air lifted to its final destination on the east end of Garibaldi Lake. Once there, a team of VOCers placed the various pieces together and completed the structure one week later.

Shortly after completion, the Sphinx Hut was renamed the Burton Hut in honour to Roland Burton for the planning and building of Sphinx Hut.

In August 2006 the Burton Hut was renovated. The end walls, windows and door were replaced and a layer of insulation was added inside the hut to keep it warmer. New furniture was constructed including a new cooking counter and a new extra wide sleeping bench, similar to the one that had been installed in the Brew Hut the summer before. BC Parks kindly paid for the transportation of the materials to the site.

Neve Hilton

Neve Hilton collapsing under the snow creep

The next hut endeavour undertaken by the club was back in Garibaldi Park. Backed with $1000 of the province's money, the club set off to put together a new hut at Pringle Ridge during a weekend in September 1970. The hut was originally known as the Pringle Ridge Hut, but subsequently became known as the Neve Hilton. The hut was located on the Garibaldi Neve. By 1972, the outhouse was in need of rebuilding due to the effects of snow creep, and by 1975 the hut had met its demise due to the same devil.

Brew Hut I, II and III

After the Whistler Cabin settlement the club again had money and was out building cabins. In 1982, the club built a cabin on Mount Brew in the Brandywine Creek area. Sadly, the lessons learned from the demise of the Neve Hilton were not applied, and the Brew Hut was located at the base of a steep hill. The first winter saw numerous trips to the hut to prevent snow creep from once again pushing a club cabin over. The efforts could not be maintained, and the following winter, the hut was squashed. Brew Hut I was subsequently disassembled and moved to its second location (renamed Brew Hut II), 300 meters uphill from its original site. For some odd reason, the hut acquired a reputation for being increasingly difficult to find. It is rumoured that no one from the club managed to find it for a 5-year period in the late '80's, and there are numerous accounts of it disappearing. These events can probably be attributed to three factors: heavy snowfall completely burying the hut, frequent whiteout conditions, and confusing terrain in the area with many similar ridge tops. The 1990s brought GPS technology which helped overcome these obstacles and the hut was no longer lost.

Brew Hut II was slightly smaller than the original structure, since two of the arch beams from the original structure could not be salvaged. The hut was moved uphill to a ridgetop, where it was though that snow creep would not be a problem. However, in the winter of 1998-1999, unusually heavy snow completely buried the hut, with the peak of the roof being buried under several meters of snow. One side was party crushed by the weight of the snow, cracking two of the laminated beams. The damage prompted a plan to replace the hut at a nearby, slightly higher location that is scoured by the wind.

It took several years to save up enough money and get the necessary permits. Brew Hut III was completed in the summer of 2005. Brew Hut II was dismantled for firewood later that fall. In September 2006 the non-combustible garbage from Brew Hut II and leftover construction materials from Brew Hut III were flown out by helicopter.

Harrison Hut

Initially called the Meager hut during the planning phase in 1983, the hut was renamed the Harrison Hut shortly after Julian Harrison (VOC President 1973-1974) was tragically killed in an avalanche in California in April of that year.

Brian Waddington Hut

The Brian Waddington Hut was built in the summer of 1998 in Phelix Creek, north of Birkenhead Lake. The hut structure was provided free of charge by the BC Workers compensation board as a project for rehabilitating injured workers, so it is much more luxurious than any of the other VOC huts. The VOC built the foundations, did the on site installation and paid helicopter costs, which amounted to about $20,000 because the hut was hugely overweight.

Map

List of Cabins

(A) Hollyburn Cabin Area
(B) "Vee-O-Cee" Cabin & Schuss Inn Area
(C) Seymour Cabin
(D) Whistler Cabin
(E) McGillivray Pass Cabin
(F) Burton Hut
(G) Neve Hilton (exact location unknown)
(H) Brew Hut I
(I) Brew Hut II
(J) Brew Hut III
(K) Harrison Hut
(L) Brian Waddington Hut

References

  • The History and Finance of the Varsity Outdoor Club Cabins (January 1977).

Authors: Berni Claus, treasurer & Julie Ourom, Vice-President

  • Procedures and implications in building a mountain cabin for the Varsity Outdoor Club (December 15th, 1981).

Authors: Pierre Beaudry & Terry Chow

  • Various VOC Journals

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