Whistler is a resort town in the southern Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains in British Columbia, Canada, approximately north of Vancouver. Incorporated as the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), it has a permanent population of approximately 9,965, plus a larger but rotating "transient" population of workers, typically younger people from beyond BC, notably from Australia and Japan.
Over two million people visit Whistler annually, primarily for alpine skiing and mountain biking at Whistler-Blackcomb. Its pedestrian village has won numerous design awards and Whistler has been voted among the top destinations in North America by major ski magazines since the mid-1990s. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler will host most of the alpine, nordic and sliding events.
The Whistler valley was a traditional trading route of the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations long before the arrival of Europeans. The first British survey by the Royal Navy took place in the 1860s. These surveyors named the mountain London Mountain because of the heavy fog and cloud typically gathering around the mountain, but the area informally acquired the name "whistler" due to the call of the indigenous hoary marmot. In the late 19th century, a trail was cut through the valley linking Lillooet via Pemberton with Burrard Inlet via a pass from Squamish to the Seymour River. The trail was completed in 1877, but because of the difficult and unforgiving terrain, it was only used once for its intended purpose, which was to drive cattle. The area began to attract trappers and prospectors (such as John Millar and Henry Horstman) who established small camps in the area in the early 20th century. The area began to gain recognition with the arrival of Myrtle and Alex Philip, who in 1914 purchased 10 acres (4 ha) of land on Alta Lake and established the Rainbow Lodge. The Philips had relocated from Maine to Vancouver in 1910, and had heard rumors of the natural beauty of the area from Pemberton pioneer John Millar. After an exploratory journey, the couple was convinced. Rainbow Lodge and other railway-dependent tourist resorts were collectively known as Alta Lake, until their absorption into the newly-minted Resort Municipality in the 1970s.
The completion of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in the same year greatly reduced the travel time from three days, providing ease of access from Vancouver, and the Rainbow Lodge gained a reputation as the most popular vacation destination west of the Rockies. The lodge was primarily a summer destination, with boating, fishing and hiking among the most popular activities, and soon other lodges began to open not just on Alta Lake, but on other valley lakes as well.
Appreciation of the outdoors was not the only activity in the valley, however; logging was also a boom industry, and during the first half of the 20th century, most of the lower slopes of the surrounding mountains were cleared of old growth. At its peak, four mills were in operation, most located around Green Lake. Prospecting and trapping were pursued as well, though no claims of great value were ever staked.
Until the 1960s, this quiet area was without basic infrastructure; there were no sewage facilities, water, or electricity, and no road from Squamish or Vancouver. In 1962, four Vancouver businessmen began to explore the area with the intent of building a ski resort and bidding for the 1968 Winter Olympics. Garibaldi Lift Company was formed, shares were sold, and in 1966, Whistler Mountain opened to the public.
Later, the city was offered the 1976 Winter Olympics after selected host Denver declined the games due to funding issues. Whistler declined as well, after elections brought in a local government less enthusiastic about the Olympics. The 1976 Winter Olympics were ultimately held in Innsbruck, Austria.
Whistler is the Host Mountain Resort of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, the first time the IOC has bestowed that designation on a community. Whistler will host the alpine technical and speed events, the sliding events, the Nordic events in nearby Callaghan Valley and all the Paralympic events except the opening ceremonies, sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. The Whistler Olympic and Paralympic Village (commonly referred to as the Athlete's village) will house around 2,400 athletes, coaches, trainers and officials. Construction is well underway, plans and blueprints are being finalized for the athlete housing and village. Post-games, the site will be turned into a new residential neighbourhood.
Elite-class rail service is provided between Whistler and North Vancouver by the Whistler Mountaineer, but regular passenger schedules are no longer available. Rail service through to Jasper is provided by the Rocky Mountaineer.