[Editor's Note: Cover, and all photos by Sam. Find a full recap of the WSSF big air here]
The 2018 World Ski and Snowboard Festival provided, yet again, an outstanding display of mountain culture’s many aspects. It was well run, it was fun, welcoming. It was a showcase of world class talent, a tribute to creative genius in action sports. Beyond the production and prestige, the festival is a celebration of the folks who live out their lives in the mountains around Whistler.
And sometimes it’s uncanny, the way certain spots in that town make it feel like you’re walking into a live take of Peak Season on MTV. As if that was reality. Except here Jeff Schmuck is telling a story about a career day in the Kootenays with a group of up and comers. There's an iPhone clip of a skier skipping perfectly through a three-stage cliff. That is real.
I talked to Dylan Siggers on the phone the night before Intersection, whilst standing outside of El Furniture Warehouse, which is hosting the JP Memorial freeski trivia contest. Siggers is in Fernie for closing weekend which is why he, and the rest of the Burrrlapz crew, weren’t in Whistler for the premiere of their short film.
Those who follow the Burrrlapz on Instagram might not be surprised to learn they weren’t in attendance that Friday, for reasons that surpass simple hometown stoke. After filming wrapped for Intersection - that is, 7 days spent stacking shots within a 100 kilometre radius of Whistler - Brody McSkimming, proud brother of Josie “Josh” McSkimming and Burrrlapz loc dog extraordinaire, broke the bejesus out of his jaw. Nearly everyone else in the crew suffered catastrophic skidoo failure, resulting in a lot of stranded skiers.
In town, however, were the Cariboo Blondes. Or simply, “the Blondes”. They are Tonye Kvivik, Emily Childs, Alexandra Armstrong and Janelle Yipper, and they were wavering a bit as to what their crew was actually called. But equivocating over a name is something all groups-of-skiing-friends go through; what was more important, on this weekend, was the way they stomped their landing into the festival, taking home the People’s Choice award for their video Blonde Highlights, which delivered a raucous ending to a lively night at the Whistler Convention Centre.
https://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/901213/Blonde-Highlights---WSSF-Intersection-peoples-choiceOf course, Burrrlapz won, riding on the denim coattails of Neil Diamond. No one, let us state for the record, can resist singing along to Sweet Caroline.
My interest in the evening hinged solely on the skiing features, as well as, it turned out, the Intersection emcee who flailed, in this reporter’s opinion, like an ill-prepared uncle at a wedding reception. Regardless, both the Blondes and Burrrlapz succeeded in drawing hollers and loud applause from the crowd. As did Gapers Gone Wild, the once Ottawa-based crew that now rides primarily out of Whistler. Essex Prescott, of GGW, even shaved his head at a pre-premiere party, which was a strong move though it failed to influence the popular vote.
The GGW movie did take the time to consider the state of things around Whistler Blackcomb these days, though. It featured a hot tub time travelling Stan Rey pondering the implications of Whistler’s new Vail Resorts ownership, and backflips. And it touched on something quite real in this industry: there’s not enough money for all the good things to last; and, there’s too much money for all good things to outlast it.
Here’s an example. After the JPM quarter pipe session, Rory Bushfield and Kye Peterson, among others, organized a race: first one to touch a car in parking lot 8 wins. Only you gotta watch for the “chundra” section below Solar Coaster, explained Rory. “The Chundra!” A field of artificial avy debris, where excavation has started on the new gondola that will replace Solar, and the beloved Catskinner chair which has lifted riders past the Blackcomb terrain park since time immemorial, at least. $66 Million in capital-I improvements, and eons of memories cleared out of the way.
That might be the reason the JP trivia contest didn’t feature a single question post-2010. So many people who grew up around JP have moved on to other careers if for nothing else because they had to pay the bills. Though it should be noted that former Freeze Magazine editor, Micah Abrams (now Group Content Director at TEN), still knows how to actually host an event, thank goodness. But as the trivia night, and something in the whole JP session, demonstrated: unless your passion for this silly sport can allow you to subvert its capitalist exigencies, you will find you someday lose touch.
Freedle Coty was the only one who could accurately match the soundtrack to JP’s old movie segments. But, to quote TJ Schiller, “second place is just the first loser.” All came up short of Jeff Schmuck’s team, the “Washed Up/Never Been’s.”
Should say: "Never Been Washed Up.
Anyway. Peter Wojnar, of GGW had a good line, he said “it doesn’t matter who owns this town.” While it’s true that some things cannot last in skiing, it doesn’t hurt to let your hair down (or shave it off) and enjoy them when you can. Which is maybe why something at the core of Whistler keeps lumbering on, post-Peak Season, post-Olympics, into a price-gouging Vail Resorts future, and beyond. Heroes fade, legends never die.