Whistler Cabin History

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Vista-file-manager.png VOC Journal Article
The following text is transcribed from VOC Journal 19. In the spirit of preserving the original author's work, please do not edit it except to correct copy mistakes.


During the past sixty years, the Varsity Outdoor Club has built a number of cabins for the use of its members. These cabins – located successively on Hollyburn Mountain, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, and at Whistler Mountain – have served as focal points for the many and varied activities of the club. As well, they have helped to bind the club together with the strength and companionship which major projects bring to clubs.

As the club expanded over the years, and as circumstances changed, one cabin was replaced by another. All of the cabins were built and/or renovated by the club, with members, both present and past, contributing and acquiring the necessary money, labour and materials. Always, the proceeds from the sale of one cabin were used to help finance construction of the next.

Over the years, these cabins have served as links between successive generations of VOC’ers. We have retained contact with most of our “old” members, many of whom have continued to take an interest in the affairs of the club, even years after they were actively finished with it. They reappear to help with club activities (eg. cabin-building projects) when needed, freely giving their invaluable professional expertise, labour, money and materials. Without their help, likely none of the cabins would have been built.

Construction of Whistler Cabin


^A land-use legal notice of the VOC's Whistler cabin, as listed on the Howe Sound Squamish Times newspaper on July 8, 1965

The Whistler Cabin is the most recent one in this series. In the mid-1960’s, when it had become apparent that having a cabin on Mount Seymour was not the best arrangement (largely because of Parks Board opposition to private cabins on the mountain), the decision was made to locate at the newly developing recreational area of Whistler. It was felt that having a cabin in this area would facilitate access to mountaineering, hiking and skiing, and would serve as a centre of these activities.

From 1965 on, the club’s activities became focused on this new project. After members had selected and prepared the site, the building was constructed during the following two years. Throughout, volunteer labour was utilized, under the direction of club members, including the architect, Byron Olson.

It is impossible to determine the exact cost of the cabin. In monetary terms, about $30,000 was put into it. Initially, construction and other costs were financed by obtaining three short-term loans from A.M.S. These were partly paid back using the proceeds from the sale of the Seymour Cabin. The rest of the money needed was raised and donated by club members. The remaining funds and materials which were necessary to finish the cabin were scrounged by the club.

In contrast, no monetary value can be placed on the literally thousands of hours of work put in by members. If it can be said that anything is done as a “labour of love”, then this is a fine example. Club members believed in the project; they wanted the cabin for themselves, and for their successors, and thus they were willing to do whatever was necessary in order to get it build.

Downfall of the cabin

Unfortunately, the euphoria generated in the club by the construction of the cabin – which is evidenced by the tremendous surge in club membership during this time – was somewhat short-lived. When the idea of build a ski facility in the Whistler area was first conceived of, no one could possibly have foreseen the direction which development would take, and, in particular, that it would quickly turn into a crowded, high-priced, and fashionable ski resort. As the nature of downhill skiing in the Whistler area became more commercialized (and more expensive, VOC’ers turned more and more to ski mountaineering. Thus, the downhill-skiing scene becoming basically incompatible with the philosophies of the club, it is no wonder that the cabin did not remain the focus of club activities.

In addition, it was just too expensive for the club to run properly, and was becoming an increasing drain on the finance of the club. It was costing us in excess of $2,000 per year, just to pay insurance, light, heat and supply bills, and this figure was continually rising. Thus may seem like a rather insignificant sum of money, but it was more that we could afford – especially since it did not take care of anything more than the bare minimum of upkeep. Renovations and further improvements were out of the question. And, more importantly, it left too little money to finance the rest of the club’s activities.

VOC & UBC Ski Club Agreement

A series of meeting during the 1973 and 1974 convinced us that we had a problem, but that there was no easy solution to it. A number of proposals were put forward with some VOC’ers advocating a skiing sub-section of the club running the cabin, while others preferred that a separate downhill ski club be formed at UBC to use the cabin. Throughout, it was assumed that, although the VOC might relinquish day-to-day management of the cabin, some control would be retained and/or that the VOC would receive compensation for the time and money which we had put into building and maintaining the cabin.

In line with this, we decided that the cabin could be put to better use by a group of downhill skiers. At the time, no downhill ski club existed on campus, despite the face that so many students are avid skiers. To remedy this, in the spring of 1974, a group formed the UBC Ski Club. At this time, no formal agreement was drawn up between the two clubs, and the VOC retained its ownership of the cabin. It was simply decided that if the Ski Club took on the responsibility of maintaining the cabin, it could have the use of it. In addition, VOC’ers were given special privileges with respect to cabin use. The cabin was to be run by a committee composed of members of both clubs. This agreement was subject to annual review.

A number of meetings took place between the two clubs during that fall and winter. These culminated, in the spring, with VOC being approached by the Ski Club with an offer to buy the cabin from us. Both sides were amenable to this suggestion; however, it was blocked by the A.M.S., who informed us that they owned the cabin, and thus they would not let us sell it to the Ski Club, or to anyone else. Another agreement was then drawn up, which would give the Ski Club one-half control of the cabin, provided that the VOC could use the cabin for club functions whenever it wanted to, and that VOC’ers could stay in the cabin for a nightly fee of 1/10 of the Ski Club’s annual membership. However, this was also rejected by the A.M.S., on the grounds that it gave the VOC too much.

By the late spring of 1975, it had become apparent that a more permanent agreement had to be drawn up as soon as possible. Renovations to the cabin were necessary in order to that it conform to the current building code, and to make it more attractive to skiers. A temporary agreement was thus drawn up for the transfer of the cabin to the Ski Club, with the understanding that a final agreement would be worked out in the coming fall. This would simply enable the Ski Club to work on the cabin during the summer.

Faceoff with AMS

During the summer, negotiations fell apart. At a meeting of the A.M.S. Finance Committee in July, we were told that we had no right to ask for any compensation since we did not own the cabin. We feel that we do, in terms of the money and time we have put into it.

No further agreement was drawn up in the fall of 1975. By then, it had become apparent that the A.M.S. regarded the Whistler Cabin as their property, under the administration of the Ski Club. All efforts by the VOC to come to an agreement with the Ski Club and/or the A.M.S. have been thwarted ever since then.

The Varsity Outdoor Club feels that it has a two-fold interest in the Whistler Cabin. First of all, we have an equity in terms of money, which, not including our labour of the appreciation in value of the cabin (to $250,000 when the Ski Club took over it), is about $30,000. Secondly, we have an interest in terms of the time and effort which the club members have put into the cabin.

The VOC realizes that, in order to make economical use of the cabin, it should be used by downhill skiers (ie. the Ski Club) as well as by others, including the VOC. Use by the Ski Club must probably predominate, but most not preclude use by the VOC.

At this point in time, we would like to come to an agreement with respect to this, our, interest, in order that we may suitably compensated for the money and work which we have put into the building the Whistler Cabin.

- By Julie Ourom (with help from others), VOCJ19 1976-1977, p.5-9

External Links

UBC Whistler Lodge formally known as the Whistler Cabin.
AMS History A short trek through the history of AMS (as view by them).

Ubyssey articles about the VOC lawsuit against AMS over Whistler Cabin (pdf files).