“The mountains here at Whistler Blackcomb are a big place. It’s easy to fall into the habit of skiing the same terrain over and over. I came here in 1994 because it was the best. I knew you could ski a lifetime here without getting bored. And the beautiful thing about the mountain is it’s got a little bit of something for everyone. That’s what makes Whistler Mountain such an amazing teaching mountain. The terrain offers endless challenges.”
Finally, as Hobson told me for a Vancouver Sun story this week:
“If you’re happy with the way you ski, that’s great. Go slide around and have fun. Ultimately, that’s what really matters. But if you’d like to ski with less fatigue, better poise, and more grace, try a lesson. It’s such an easy sport to do badly, but it’s a lot more fun to do with finesse.”
Starting January 7, Whistler Blackcomb offers Discover Whistler Days pricing – 30% off Max 4 lessons with any of Hobson’s crew of pros, stacked with the highest concentration of Level 4s on the mountain. (Think skiing’s black belts.)
As Whistler Blackcomb announced today in a press release:
Whistler Blackcomb’s snow school is one of the largest in the world consisting of over 1,200 professional ski and snowboard instructors. Combined, they speak over 26 languages, originate from all over the world and more than 50 of them are certified Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) Level 4 instructors, the most in a single snow school in North America.
On January 12 and 13, Whistler Blackcomb is also offering Never Ever Days, with beginner lessons (plus rental gear and a lift ticket) for just $25 for the first 500 newbies to take up the challenge. They’re even offering a free beer at the end of the day, so you can get a start in the art of aprés. (Register online at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/learn to nab one of those 500 spots.)
*Full disclosure: Dave’s my husband. Call me a lazy journalist for going for the easy interview. But he’s been “fixing” my skiing for almost 17 years, so I can say for sure, he’s the real deal.
Why my enduring crush on Mike Douglas, Jeff Thomas and Blair Richmond, the crew at Switchback Entertainment?
Because I write this:
And they respond with this:
To which I say: Exactly.
For more on the Wonder Reels campaign, and our membership in the Church of Story, check out this blog post at Origin Design + Communications HQ.
I’ve worked with most of the photographers who entered Whistler Blackcomb’s Deep Winter Photo Challenge and like and respect them all. So I wasn’t going to vote in the People’s Choice for Deep Winter. I hate giving my email to enter random contests. Everyone put on amazing shows. I was happy that Robin O’Neill won, because she blazed such a trail through my heart last year as the first she-photographer ever invited to compete. I had closure. I didn’t need to engage any further.
But when I chatted to Robin O’Neill yesterday, she told me that she’s just trailing behind Mason Mashon in the People’s Choice contest with one week of voting left, and she’s really hoping to win.
So she can take her athletes heliskiing.
I know Mason put his heart on the line too. And I’m sure he and his crew would love a day of heliskiing too.
But the Voleurz crew have, inshallah, next year.
Robin’s athletes are all over 75 years old. And they’re the people who built Whistler. Werner Himmelsbach. Peter Alder. Trudy Alder. Peter Morin. Betty Vogler.
So I voted. And I’m saying, why don’t you vote too? Send Karl Ricker heliskiing. How freaking cool.
Much as I love that any of the teams have a shot at a day heliskiing – they all deserve the playday, after putting on such great shows – I get goosebumps thinking about those grey-haired Lifers, who have devoted their entire lives to this place, all hustling out of a helicopter, standing on top of a perfect peak as the bird flies away… with a pristine field of pow unrolling before them.
So that’s my pitch.
The best argument of all comes from an email Robin received on Monday:
Having just got back from possibly my last downhill trip – thinking of giving it up due to age – I am re-invigorated by the dignified photos of elders. Your work was inspiring and I am thinking of maybe another trip this season – two trips in a season, I haven’t done that in 10 years
At some point in our lives, we are no longer in the realm of ticking firsts… We start inhabiting a place where each trip, each adventure, each farewell, could be our last. A different kind of pioneering mentality is required. And that’s something to honour.
Trailblazing is what these elders of ours have done. I’d like to pay a little something back.
If you feel the same way, vote here.
UPDATE Jan 17, Robin O’Neill’s winning show:
On timing. (In which we argue that Deep Winter 2012 was a display of both exquisitely good and bad timing.)
Deep Winter Photo Challenge returned last night, the cultural highlight of the New Year.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, socially. We’ve recovered from the onslaught of Christmas parties, we’ve shaken off the New Year hangover, we’ve officially ditched the resolutions to be better people, to get drunk less.
It could have come at a better time, snowcially. Like now… with flurries forecast all week, 10-20cm expected on Thursday and 40-90cm expected by the middle of next week. It might have been the most un-deep winter week ever. But Robin O’Neill was too tired to even contemplate the hypothetical offer on the table, to go back in time and reschedule for a different weather window, when compere Feet Banks offered to play Wizard.
Feet: “Would you rather we push back the event to next week so you can get all that snow in the forecast?”
Robin: “No. Too. Tired.”
On microphone management. (In which we argue that Feet Banks is the host-with-the-most, and we hope he went home with an Arc’teryx jacket for keepsies.)
My vote for best performance of the night goes to Feet Banks, emcee extraordinaire, for his sartorial class (vest and bow tie, quite the wardrobe upgrade since he debuted as host of the 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown in his skivvies), his microphone management and commitment to keeping the show moving (“we’re just going to give you a second to all get off the stage and then we’ll roll tape”), his willingness to go woo-woo for a minute so we could send some white light to Sarah Burke and Rory Bushfield, and his quicker-than-a-40-year-old-virgin’s-orgasm wit. (“Did you bring the short guy into the mix so the snow would look deeper?”)
(Give the dude an Arc’teryx jacket. It’s hard to throw love all night to the sponsors, and not get any warm fuzzy affection back. I’ve got an idea, Feet. Ask Robin for a jacket. I think she might have a few extra…)
On being bold. (In which we commend the photographers for having the cajones to enter the Deep Winter challenge and for inspiring and entertaining us.)
The stakes of this contest seem to have gotten so high that more established photographers are demurring the invitation to compete. All the more reason to give a shout-out to the six photographers who took up the challenge: Reuben Krabbe, Steve Lloyd, Mark Gribbon, Mason Mashon, Jussi Grznar and Robin O’Neill.
As Vince Shuley tweeted: “way to make hard snow look good.”
Their shows did not disappoint, although the line-up of fresh faces did come with a less intense, angsty vibe than last year‘s Deep Winter Photo Challenge, when Robin O’Neill stepped up for mountain women everywhere, competing alongside Blake Jorgenson, Ilja Herb, John Scarth, Tim Zimmerman and Andrew Strain.
Child prodigy, Reuben Krabbe, who has his sights set on breaking Jordan Manley’s “youngest photographer ever to win the Pro Photographer Showdown”, made an impressive debut, (ultimately coming in 3rd AND taking Best Photo) with an action-packed show jammed with “banger shots” captured with the help of Dan and Dave Treadway.
Utah native Steve Lloyd brought the fresh eyes of an outsider to the game – reminding us not to overlook the everyday beauty of the Canadian flags lined up at the top of Whistler gondy. Mark Gribbon brought the snowboarders into play. Mason Mashon (who proves his version of “lifestyle” means not taking your ADHD meds: “okay, we rode bikes to the hill, we’ve been skiing all day, who wants to go skate on the frozen pond?”) landed a shot of rime-encrusted bikes in the back of a pick-up truck that might be the Best Most Unlikely Cover for Bike Magazine.
Jussi Grznar put together an emotive show that started in bed and came full-circle for a 2nd place finish… And what says “and they all lived happily ever after” more powerfully than a guy and girl spooning in bed, with the dog booted to its rightful place on the floor.
But Robin O’Neill’s storytelling about Lifers was the most powerful. With stark portraiture, a few recurring motifs (back-to-back shots that pulled from shallow focus to long focus to tell instantaneous stories about movement and perspective, and triptychs that would fall away to reveal one full frame), and a confident delivery, O’Neill ((#robinneedstwitter) follows her Deep Summer win, deserving her title as All-Season Queen of the Lens.
On the Zeitgeist. (In which we try and read the tea-leaves.)
This year, there seemed to be more love in the air. (Is this a Zeitgeist thing?) There was more ice-skating than Deep Winter has ever seen. We also saw a preoccupation with injury, with the physical and emotional toll that a dedication to the mountains can exact. We saw bigger vistas, that only a stormless Deep Winter week can offer. We saw athletes working incredibly hard and bagging some stellar action shots. And we saw that what makes a photographer a cut above is more than technical proficiency and an eye for a well-composed shot, but the ability to create a mood, even without the moodiness of a storm.
On hard work. (In which we note the concentration of talented passionate hard-working people who make this place, as they say over at WIA, awesome.)
So here’s to hard-working mountain-loving people of Deep Winter. To the marketing and PR peeps at Whistler Blackcomb who work their asses off to come up with fresh and creative ways to engage people with the WB community, to bring people here, to represent this place as authentically as possible. To the athletes who, judging from the recurrence of images shot at the physiotherapist, are pushing themselves to the very edge. To the photographers who are brave enough to step up and showcase their work. (In a 72 hour time frame, the deadline bears down on you so hard, you don’t have time to think, to censor yourself, to second guess. Your naked work is up on the big screen.) So kudos to you all. Thanks for a great night.
I recently pulled the dusty old hypewriter from the back of the closet, where it was languishing in semi-retirement, to crank out some verbiage for service as boilerplate and taglines for a somewhat large and kickass mountain bike festival known as the Kokanee Crankworx. (I thought I’d reformed my ways and sworn off hyperbole forever, but one sniff of Superbowl-sized festivals and the fingers start twitching…)
As the Globe and Mail reported last August,
More than 100,000 people visited specifically for Crankworx last year, and the seven-year-old festival issues close to 300 media credentials. A 2005 study concluded that Crankworx had a $10-million impact on the local economy and a new study, due this fall, is expected to show massive growth.
On Friday, one professional snowboarder made the grudging admission that Crankworx is now superior to the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the 15-year-old winter showcase that caters to Whistler’s traditional customers.
Not to mention that the team the Crankworx braintrust, led by Darren Kinnaird as GM, pulls together, rank as the best in their fields, whether that be the founder of original Slopestyle contest, Joyride’s Paddy Kaye, action sports artist Scott Dickson, PR and social media maven Michelle Leroux, creative director Susan Butler, or athletes like Cam Zink, Darren Berrecloth, Thomas Vanderham, Brandon Semenuk and Mike Montgomery, who provided input into the Red Bull Joyride slopestyle course design. Passion is contagious. It’s hard not to spill a little hype when that much stoke is going around. The countdown begins.
Beg for mercy. Beg for more. Gravity beckons.
During Whistler BC’s 10 day Kokanee Crankworx festival, the dirt-adorned put the revel in the free ride mountain biking revolution, bending physics and blowing minds with their tail-whipping back-flipping hard-charging ways. For the eighth year running, the venues of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park serve as a modern day Colosseum, masterpieces of stunt and trail engineering, forum for the ultimate in gladiator contests and public spectacle.
In less than a decade, Kokanee Crankworx has become the authoritative free ride festival, a supercharged magnet for the world’s best riders, the definitive domestication of dirt in the service of epic endurance, supreme flow, monster air and gravity-fuelled mountain biking. The best mountain bike athletes in the world know that when gravity beckons, you simply say, yes mistress. I’m coming. So make sure you do.
When we developed the script for the story of the Peak 2 Peak gondola, director Jim Budge and I knew we wanted to place the new gondola in the context of Whistler’s long history of attracting innovators and bold imagineers.
Douglas was an obvious subject to feature. I chatted to Douglas for a Skier profile last year and discovered he has been brain-trusting innovative ideas (from the FIS Sucks campaign to the Nippon Open, WB’s Deep Winter Photo Showdown to the 1080 ski) for 20 years, reinventing himself and remaining crucially relevant in the freeski scene. In Giants, he talks about his latest incarnation making online films for Salomon TV and shooting with his helmet cam. Douglas nails tight treelines and his footage offers a perspective to armchair skiers – when you can’t rip it, you can imagineer it.
Budgie is pretty imagineery, too. He’s worked as WB’s filmmaker for over 28 years and has an archives of sensational retro footage, much of which we were able to squeeze into the documentary. This summer, in addition to putting together 2 years worth of footage to commemorate the PEAK 2 PEAK project, he also worked with Pemberton screenwriter Cindy Filipenko to direct When Hugh Met Joe, a short film for the Whistler Film Festival’s Whistler Stories program, about Hugh Smythe and Joe Houssain’s unlikely partnership.