words :: Allyn Pringle
In 1977, a group of Whistler freestyle skiers frustrated at the lack of summer aerial opportunities began plans for their own ski jump in the valley. Like many structures built in Whistler at the time, the ski jump had no development permit, nor any official permission from authorities of any kind. This necessitated an inconspicuous, out-of-the-way site; and the shores of Lost Lake fit the bill perfectly.
While rich in renegade spirit, the ski jump had no real funding. The timber was scrounged from a number of sources and the plastic grass ski-out from the Olive Chair (located next to the original gondola in Creekside) was taken from the dump and given a second life as the ski jump’s new in-run surface. Once the materials had been gathered, construction took only two weeks.
The finished ramp projected 20 feet out over the lake and willing skiers could launch themselves up to 40 feet above the water. According to David Lalik, one of the original workers on the ramp, “injuries were commonplace but [an] acceptable risk in the sport and environment of the day.”
At the time, Lost Lake was still somewhat lost. Whistler’s summer tourism wasn’t exactly booming and few visitors were searching for a swimming hole surrounded by logging roads. These qualities were not lost upon Whistler’s local population, however and in 1979, The Whistler Answer newspaper dubbed Lost Lake “the ultimate swimmin’ hole.”
Lost Lake is one of Whistler’s first bodies of water to warm up once the snow melts in spring. It was also known to be clothing optional (The Answer reported that the RCMP, in response to complaints, once arrived at Lost Lake “only to find that no one had ID or pockets to put them in.” And like any good swimming hole, Lost Lake provided a variety of entertainment apart from simply swimming – everything from docks and rafts for sunbathers, a 60-foot tree to jump from for thrill seekers, and “hot-doggers” flying off the ski jump to regale spectators.
In 1981, the ski jump began hosting competitions and the following summer saw the first Summer Air Camp at Lost Lake. Freestyle skiers came to Whistler to train with Peter Judge, the national team coach. Far from being inconspicuous, film crews arrived to record events for television broadcasts.
Today, Lost Lake is most definitely “found.” The ski jump and jumping tree are gone, a concession and washrooms have been added, and nudity is limited to one dock. And for those who struggled to find their way in the 1970s and ‘80s due to some dubious directions, know that, according to the writers at The Answer, “it wasn’t malicious, it was just an attempt to preserve the meaning in a name. Call it historic preservation.”
And Whistler ski jumpers can still catch big air into water now that there’s a modern pool and jumping facility on the lower flanks of Blackcomb Mountain. Keep your clothes on though… -ML
For more on lake ski jumps or other pieces of Whistler history head into the Whistler Museum & Archives next door to the library or hit up whistlermuseum.org.