Nowadays Whistler’s marketing experts can choose from a variety of tools. There’s Facebook, Instgram, Twitter, Google, a plethora of travel blogs, and international trade shows to name just a few. All these “word-of-mouth-sharers” ceased to exist back in the 1960s; but what existed was the big ambition to make Whistler one of the best ski resorts in the world.
In 1967, there was no certainty that this little ski hill north of Vancouver was going to have any real success. Luckily in that year Franz Wilhelmsen employed Jack Bright. Jack turned out to be a marketing wizard and was able to raise the profile of our ski hill and help increase skier numbers.
So, how did he do it? Well, one of his ideas was to create an event for the May 24th long weekend, with the aim to extend the ski season. The first May 24th party was put on in 1968 and was a huge success, bringing in more visitors on that Saturday than on any other day in the season that year. Despite there being no power in the Roundhouse at that time a big dance party was put on and a ski jump competition was held on Saturday and Sunday. The only setback was the slow loading of the gondola. The gondola was only able to take up to 500 people an hour, and the lines for both uploading and downloading were long, as there was not enough snow by then for people to ski out. Needless to say, this was an event that continued for many years.
Bright also dreamed up a Sunday night film event held at the Highland Lodge. The idea of having an event on Sunday night to encourage people to stay longer goes on today in the form of the Fire & Ice Show.
Because of the limited upload capacity of the gondola, Jack got more people up the mountain by offering a dollar off lift tickets if you bought them before 7:30am—a substantial discount if you consider the fact that a lift ticket back then was around the $6 mark. If you had a carload of people the discount would easily pay for your gas from the city. The scheme resulted in comical scenes of skiers arriving in the pitch dark and running to the ticket office to claim their discount, but it also resulted in the ultimate goal—getting more skiers up the mountain.