VOGLER, Stephen

Author Tags: History, Outdoors

Accompanied by the work of photographers Toshi Kawano & Bonny Makarewicz, Stephen Vogler's Top of the Pass (Harbour, 2007) is an overview of the physical, cultural and recreational characteristics of Whistler and its neighboring communities.

Stephen Vogler has been a resident of Whistler since he arrived there as a child in 1976. His memoir of the Winter Olympic city, Only in Whistler: Tales of a Mountain Town (Harbour $24.95) begins in an era when the elite resort had only 500 year-round residents and weekend visitors were disdained as "gorbies." [SEE REVIEW BELOW]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Only in Whistler: Tales of a Mountain Town


Whistler Features (Self-published, 2000)

Top of the Pass: Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky Country (Harbour, 2007). $34.95 (hardcover) 978-1-55017-430-4

Only in Whistler: Tales of a Mountain Town (Harbour 2009)

[BCBW 2009] "History" "Outdoors"

Only in Whistler
Review (2010)

Most local histories are seriously and carefully written by people over age fifty—and that’s a fine thing.

Stephen Vogler’s Only in Whistler: Tales of a Mountain Town (Harbour $24.95) is radically different.

For starters, its unusual cover literally shows four ski bums; four women with lovely bottoms, wearing only skis and boots, preparing to ride the ski-lift. Although this “full non-frontal” nude cover has prevented the book from being displayed on some shelves, it does not misrepresent the contents.

The free spirit of Whistler in the Seventies and Eighties was audacious—and Vogler sets out to prove it. Whistler, after all, is the birthplace of freestyle skiing and home to the world’s first snowboarding medalist, Ross Rebagliati. Free-style skiing and snowboarding are sports that arose from free spirits, from the people that Vogler makes legendary.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, before Whistler was not overrun by rich people, it was a place for freedom and frequently outlandish partying. Old-school European alpinists shared the slopes with partying snow-hippies who lived rent-free in rough squatters’ shacks where younger folks listened to a lot of music, took a lot of drugs, and basically didn’t conform to mainstream (ie. Vancouver/Victoria) puritanical and commercial values.

Born in 1964, Vogler has been a resident of Whistler since he arrived there as a child in 1976. He’s young enough to clearly and unflinchingly recall when Whistler had only 500 year-round residents and all weekend visitors were disdained as “gorbies.” At age twelve, his “de fact teen centre was the pinball machine at the 76 gas station.”

Since then Vogler has witnessed the evolution of the Whistler experiment (hatched by the New Democrat government of Dave Barrett) to the present day. Although he is never overtly opposed to the Olympics in his text, he questions, on the final page, how the ever-expanding infrastructure of Whistler will impact the lives of his three children.

Along the way Vogler, a journalist, has seriously and carefully chronicled some hilarious antics and remarkable characters. The story of how a 19-year-old squatter and third cook at The Keg named Nigel Protter started the town’s first cappuccino service in a converted bus parked at the bottom of the Olympic Run in 1979—the Espresso Express—is typical.

“As a teenager,” he writes, “I remember emerging from the fog-enshrouded lower run and seeing this beacon of civilization; a hybrid of hippie bus and fine European café with a spectacular view of the landfill.”

The Expresso Express is accorded seven pages. The history of the Snow Goose fleet of buses merits eleven pages. Hundreds of names are mentioned, so this book cries out for an index.

There are also games of shinny on Alta Lake, wet T-shirt contests, the Party Barge, Blackcomb’s 1987 Sextathlon (possibly the world’s first free-skiing competition) and the town’s vibrant live music scene.

Vogler, a journalist, offers an in-depth record of the Whistler Answer, the newspaper started by Charlie Doyle after he came across a magazine article in Banff entitled, ‘Ski Bumming is Humming at Whistler.’

If someone wrote a history of Whistler twenty years from now, most of the details in Only in Whistler would likely not appear. History would sanitized for mass consumption, and reality would be flattened as surely as they have paved paradise, and put up parking lots.