Westlake Lodge - May 1966 (Alex Swanson Collection)
West Van Guide – February 4, 1987
When Norm Deacon bought Westlake Ski Lodge in 1954, skiers were just starting to use the North Shore mountains. The sport was changing from a time when people hiked up the Ridge to do a little bit of rough cross country skiing to more downhill. lilt was the beginning of skiing:' says Deacon, who had been hiking up to Westlake since 1931.
The first rope tows were put in at Westlake about 1948. Lift tickets cost $1.50. But Westlake Lodge had its beginnings almost 20 years earlier. The first lodge was built in 1928 by Ron Brewis on property owned by Edward Mahon, a North Shore pioneer. It was a fairly small building and was used for ten years before the new owners, Fred and Harry Jones decided to build a new lodge.
"The old lodge was dismantled and the logs were hauled by horses down to the new site in 1939:' says Deacon. The logs from the first lodge were used to build a new ski shop. Some of the cabins at the old site were also dismantled and reassembled to be used as rental cabins.
Using twelve inch logs cut right from the site the Jones brothers went to work building a new lodge. They ran Westlake for ten years before selling out in 1949.
When Deacon ran the lodge it featured a coffee bar and dormitory accommodation. The main room had a huge fireplace where skiers could warm themselves between runs, "We had a dance every Saturday night for the whole winter!' There were ski rentals and three rope tows in front of the lodge. The dormitories could sleep about 70 people. "These were little rooms that had four or five bunks in each room!' A bunk rented for $1 a night. The lodge had its own power generator and guests could do their own cooking or buy meals at the coffee shop.
Westlake Lodge was becoming a popular destination for skiers who hiked up the trail from the top of the British Properties from Eyremont Drive. There might be 100 skiers at Westlake on a weekend. Deacon had the first permanent rope tow operating on the mountain. Later, when the chairlift was put in, considerably more people started skiing.
There were three rope tows at Westlake. Paradise, where doubtless future expert skiers got their start and Graveyard and Suicide runs. Graveyard and Suicide were the most challenging hills on the mountain. Graveyard was a nice open hill that met the needs of most intermediate skiers. If you were really good you'd take the second tow up Suicide and try its deep snow and huge moguls.
Some local Westlake skiers were so good they'd ski from the top of Suicide and jump over the roof of the cabin at the bottom of Graveyard. But it was the likes of Olympic long jumper, Tom Moobraaten and members of the Vancouver and Hollyburn Ski Clubs that really set the pace for ski jumping on the mountain.
"There were three good ski jumps:' begins Deacon. "The most popular jump was beside the Popfly run at Hollyburn Lodge. Mobraaten was a bigger jump and a third jump, Jack Pratt was put in near the Grand National ski run!'
Some local Westlake skiers were so good they'd ski from the top of 'Suicide' and jump over the roof of the cabin at the bottom of 'Graveyard. '
At one time there was another jump near the site of the first Westlake Lodge. "This was the big jump:' says Deacon.
Jumping contests were held between the Ski Clubs. "They would see who could break the 90 foot record," says Brian Creer, a kayak instructor who packed 100 pound loads of supplies up the mountain for a cent a pound during the Depression. "On Popfly they could jump 60 or 70 feet," continues Deacon, "but on Mobraaten they'd jump well over 100 feet!' Contenders from all over British Columbia would compete.
Westlake was an established ski area. At its peak there were seven rope tows on the mountain; one at Hi-View Lodge at the top of the chairlift, another at Hollyburn (on the Popfly hill, a double tow at West Lake, (near the former site of West Lake Lodge, which was dismantled in 1938), a big tow at Mobraaten and three at Westlake.
As the number of skiers increased there was a need for a better way to get up the mountain. So in 1948.Hi Colville and Bill Theodore started a bus service from the top of 22nd Street that took skiers four miles up the Ridge to the old mill site, or as far as they could go. They used an old four-wheel drive army bus and had a couple of trucks. "They were pretty dependable:' recalls Deacon. "You might get a couple of grey hairs by the time you got there but you usually made it."
By 1950 Colville and Theodore didn't feel the trucks were adequate for the number of skiers so they formed the Hollyburn Aerial Tram Company and built the Hollyburn chairlift. This chairlift, which got skiers up the mountain in fourteen minutes was one of the longest chairlifts in the country. By 1965 the chairlift had already closed down when Hi-View Lodge burnt to the ground. "The fire started in June one year:' says Deacon. "There was nobody at the lodge." Once the chairlift burned it was like turning a valve off. "The mountain became very quiet!'
Westlake and Hollyburn have continued to attract skiers and hikers over the years, more than ever with the opening of Cypress Bowl. But when Westlake Lodge burned to the ground last fall it felt like the end of an era. Deacon thinks the fire might have started in one of the rooms and got out of hand. He's not sure the odds are very good another lodge 'will be built at Westlake.
However, the McCann family, the present owners of the Lodge are optimistic about the future. "We hope to rebuild using logs:' says a member of the family. "We like it becaused it was like a family-owned place. We hope to offer the lodge to skiers and hikers!'