my Mountain News

Silver Star's Painted Ladies

Sat, 25/12/2004 - 12:00 am

Written by Steve Threndyle

Architectural controls for second-home developments are virtually a standard practice at golf courses and ski resorts now. It’s interesting to note that one of the most unique examples of having vacation homes adhere to specific guidelines is right here at Silver Star Mountain Resort.

Over the past two decades, Silver Star has become renowned as much for its unique Victorian architectural design as it has for its ski runs, snow conditions, or family programs. The Knoll area consists of 200 family homes, all of them built along a Victorian theme.

Back when both the Village and the Knoll were being planned, the idea was to come up with something that was different than Whistler or Sun Peaks, according to Eric Young, the design coordinator for the Knoll. Since Silver Star had in fact been a working mine at the turn of the century, it was easy to tie in the ‘mining town’ theme with the history of the area. Interestingly, the Village architecture (which was originally ‘Wild West’) morphed into the ‘mining theme’ once local businesses saw how popular the Victorian houses on the Knoll were with buyers and guests.

Young says, “On November 21, 1990, the Knoll’s Declaration of the Building Scheme was agreed to and was set into place. The Declaration of Building Scheme is only related to the exterior of the building. The document is in essence a perpetual contract – the lift company (original owners of Silver Star) told developers that they and whomever they sold to had to agree to these conditions. The design coordinator is the front person that builders and developers went to.”

Young says, “We didn’t want each house to look the same – we wanted builders to have some creative leeway with it.” Design flourishes such as turrets, gables, and scrolling contribute to what many people call ‘gingerbread house’ architecture. Shingling under the windows and in gables was very common in Victorian times, and many of the Knoll houses feature this as well. Each building had to be painted in three or more colours, and as you can see, bright pastels dominate. Many of the houses have flat roofs, so the building code had to ensure that these houses could be built to structurally withstand significant snow loads.

In both the Village and on the Knoll, the brightly-painted storefronts and exteriors are uplifting to both locals and guests alike during the snowy, overcast days of winter. Indeed, this is consistent with mining communities across North America which flourished in the late 1800s – their buildings were colourful to lift the spirits of the miners and townsfolk.

Guests are welcome to get onto the free bus that circles the Knoll and services houses in this unique area – you won’t find a more colourful mountain neighborhood anywhere in North America!