First Years

The Coast Salish First Nations people first populated the land around Whistler for many years. The Indigenous names of the two nations that populate the area are Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh and L̓il̓wat7úl.

The valley was an isolated wilderness used to trade by the two nations. The award-winning Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh L̓il̓wat7úl Cultural Centre in Whistler is a beautiful space to learn about the history of First Nations people and how they lived and continue to live on the land.

The European history of Whistler started when William Downie, a Scottish veteran of the California gold rush, and Josheph Makay, a former Hudson’s Bay Company employee, along with four assistants and three Lil’wat guides had been commissioned to explore the territory between Lillooet Lake and Howe Sound in September 1958. They were on a quest to find a better coastal access route to the booming gold mines in the BC Interior. The name “Whistler” was used by these early settlers because of the shrill whistling sound made by the western hoary marmots who lived among the rocks. In the summer you can see these small furry animals sunbathing on the rocks at the top of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain.