This month we’re looking at one of Whistler’s most storied neighbourhoods (and one of my personal favourites), Westside Road.

The Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations roamed this valley long before there were ski hills, golf courses, a highway or a railway. Once the Europeans did start arriving in the late 1800s the only way to travel the Sea to Sky corridor was the Pemberton Trail, a thin strip of cleared dirt that linked the end of Howe Sound (now Squamish) to the cattle grazing lands of the BC interior.  

(Dual Mountains & Alta Lake - views from Westside Road. Photo courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane)

The highest point on that route would have been the Whistler valley, where the Pemberton Trail wound along the western shores of Alta Lake, making it Whistler’s first public access route. Early prospectors and trappers homesteaded along the route but the area was very rough and wild until visionary pioneers Alex and Myrtle Philip arrived in the valley in 1911 to set up a fishing lodge. The Philips also chose a twin-acre parcel on the shores of Alta Lake with sweeping views of what would eventually become Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, as well as Wedge and the Armchair glacier. A few years later the railroad pushed through and by 1915 Whistler’s first tourists began arriving to stay at the Philips’ Rainbow Lodge to fish and swim in the sparkling waters of Alta Lake.

And the rest is history. The Philip’s original spot is now memorialized as Rainbow Park (Whistler’s biggest and best beach) and while Alta Lake Road (the official name of Westside road) still roughly follows the original Pemberton Trail, it has matured into a neighbourhood of beautiful homes, lakeside lifestyles, and a vibe that’s just a bit more laid back than other parts of town.  Separated from the Village by Alta Lake, Westside Road residents enjoy a sense of solitude and calm despite being only a 15 minute drive (or 10 minute bike ride) from all the action. 

Which isn’t to say Westside doesn’t have anything going on. Rainbow Park, built on Alex and Myrtle’s original lodge spot, is Whistler’s biggest beach with volleyball nets, multiple floating docks, a dog beach and enough lawn to host an epic extreme bocce tournament. The trailhead to hike to Rainbow Lake is just down the road and the forests above Westside road host some of Whistler’s longest and most exciting mountain bike trails (including my favourite, Danimal).

(Party Barges are where it's at!  Left: courtesy of Steve Rogers   Right:  courtesy of Justa Juskova)

For residents though, Westside in the summer is all about the lake. While the train tracks prevent true lakefront ownership, most homes above the water will have some sort of private dock or canoe/kayak/SUP launch so locals can enjoy swimming, fishing and morning sunrises on the same waters that captured Myrtle Philip’s heart over a century ago. (Whistler’s tradition of floating, community “Party Barges” stretches back almost that long as well.)

For me, Westside will always be a special place. I lived there for a number of years and was even married on the dock down at The Point, a heritage homestead transformed into a local artists’ centre. Floating along the tranquil shoreline in a wedding dress on a brilliant summer evening is definitely one way to fall in love with Whistler’s Westside.

I’ve also sold a number of homes on Westside Road, and the excitement of watching my clients soak in their first glimpse of the mountains and sparkling lake always takes me back to the days when I would start each day in the summer with a coffee on the dock, watching ducks silently cruise the sparkling waters. 

(Stunning views and beautiful properties line Westside Road)

Myrtle and Alex Philip had the pick of the valley when they arrived in Whistler. It was empty wilderness and beauty and they could literally have chosen to buy any piece of land they wanted. They chose a spot on Westside Road, and for anyone who’s spent time out there, I think it’s pretty easy to see why.  Call me if you want to view available properties on Westside (aka Alta Lake Road) or are interested in making your Whistler dream happen somewhere else in town.

- Dana