Four years after the opening of the Sea to Sky Gondola, a new book of photographs chronicles the daunting construction process that led to the opening of the tourist destination.
Stéphane Perron was the first aid attendant on the worksite and kept a point-and-click camera in his pocket. In the book, titled The Making of the Sea to Sky Gondola and Summit Lodge, he follows the project from site clearing to completion. Like the gondola ride itself, and the walk over the suspension bridge, some of the photos will induce stomach-dropping anxiety in those susceptible.
A book launch will be held at the Squamish Public Library on June 14 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
“I’m a hobby photographer,” said Perron. “I just had a little aim-and-shoot camera in my pocket and I ended up shooting maybe 900 photos altogether. I had all these photos and, once the project came through, I realized, wow, this is quite a project, a very unique project I was just involved with. We have some photos on display on the wall [at Summit Lodge] from another photographer that show some of the stages of construction and I always see a lot of people stopping to look at those photos, so I knew there was an interest.”
The general public seems curious, he said, about how they got the equipment to the top of the mountain, how the suspension bridge was built and how other engineering feats were accomplished.
In the book, Perron notes that there were few accidents during the construction, but an enormous flatbed truck mired at a 45-degree angle in West Coast sludge gives a hint at some of the challenges faced by the team.
Perron saw the construction site first aid gig as a “toe in the door” because he was determined to work at the site once completed. He’s been there since Day One, as a guide and patrol staffer, engaging the public, patrolling the trails looking for safety issues and he is the on-site first-aid attendant. Originally from northern Quebec, Perron lived in Whistler for 19 years before moving to Brackendale 12 years ago.
“We just celebrated our fourth year anniversary in a very low-key way on May 16,” he said. The gondola has become a major destination for locals and visitors, he noted, with the opportunity to get a visual fix of Super Natural B.C. just an hour or so north of Vancouver.
“You get a slice of B.C. in one trip here,” said Perron.
At present, the book is only available at the gift shop in the lodge — yet the first print run is about half sold out.
“Of course, there is the initial wave of … I call them sympathy buys – aunts, uncles and friends,” he said, laughing.
He is open about what the book is and is not.
“It really is about the workers, the trades, that were involved in putting this together,” he said. “There’s no pictures of the owners, of the investors or much talk about that. It’s really about the people who built it hands-on. All the respect to the money people, but they are not part of this book.”
A teacher alerted him to another benefit of the book. For young people – especially boys – who have trouble reading, the picture-heavy book with limited text can be an entryway.
“It’s very simple writing and they can relate words to the images,” said Perron.