Tag Archives: Graham Turner

Licence to Snowboard

Despite skiers and snowboarders charging down the mountain together today, there was a time when single-plankers were strictly not allowed. Skier complaints and safety concerns resulted in both Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain remaining closed to snowboarders until the late 80s. Snowboarders were forced to ride smaller undeveloped hills, head to the backcountry, or hike up the mountain while avoiding the watchful eye of mountain staff.

The acceptance of snowboarding was slow because of the perception that snowboarders were dangerous, uncontrolled and uncivilised. The laid-back alternative lifestyle of snowboarders often clashed with that of skiers, and it was not uncommon for skiers to hurl disdain at snowboarders when they were finally allowed on the mountain.

A Greg Stump snowboarding production on Blackcomb in 1989. Even the bright and baggy clothes commonly worn by snowboarders rubbed skiers the wrong way. Blackcomb Mountain Collection, Greg Stump Productions.

Early snowboarders to Whistler tell stories about being spat on, chased by snowcats, and getting shovels thrown at them. As Ken Achenbach remarked, “We were called menaces to society, it was wicked man”. All a snowboarder had to do to grind the gears of some skiers was wake up in the morning. Even Hugh Smythe, Blackcomb General Manager, was derided when the decision was made to welcome snowboarders to Blackcomb for the 1987/88 season.

Special rules for snowboarders in resort areas were commonplace at this time. In some resorts, before they were allowed on the lifts, snowboarders had to agree not to use foul language. Similar to many East Coast resorts, Blackcomb went a step further. Unlike skiers, snowboarders were initially required to pass a proficiency test to be licenced to ride Blackcomb. The test cost around the price of a day pass and snowboarders had to prove they could turn both ways and stop safely. A certificate was presented upon passing which allowed the recipient to load the lifts with their board.

Aerials were also originally banned on Blackcomb, with lift tickets confiscated from those who dared leave the ground. Blackcomb was a popular freestyle mountain but riders were required to keep an eye out for patrol when practicing for fear of losing their passes.

It may be hard to believe in the age of triple cork 1440s, but all inverted aerials were initially also banned in snowboard competitions due to concerns over spinal cord injuries. It was not unusual for professional snowboarders to deliberately disqualify themselves in competitions by pulling inverted aerials, including the crippler, in protest of this rule. The rules were eventually changed to prevent medals being awarded only to those who followed the rules and showcased the tamest tricks.

When snowboarders were first allowed on Blackcomb they were required to pass a test before riding the lifts and aerials were banned. Blackcomb Mountain Collection, Dano Pendygrasse.

As a new sport, the snowboarding community in Whistler was small and tight-knit. Being so outnumbered, snowboarders would instantly be best buds with anyone else riding a board. This did not last long however; snowboarding was the fastest growing sport in the 1990s and despite the growth slowing, the community today is so big there is no way anyone could know every snowboarder on the mountain.

For more on the history of snowboarding, join us for our first in-person event for 2022. In this Whistler Museum Speaker Series we will be talking about the history of snowboarding in Whistler with local snowboarding legends Ken Achenbach and Graham Turner.

The event begins at 7 pm on Monday the 28th of March. Tickets are $10 ($5 for museum members) and are available at the Whistler Museum. We look forward to seeing you there!

Speaker Series are back and in person!

We’ll be taking a look at the history of snowboarding with Ken Achenbach and Graham Turner in our first in-person event of 2022! Snowboarding is an important part of Whistler and, though it is a younger sport than skiing and was in fact banned in the area until the late 1980s, has a rich history in the area. Despite this, we still have limited information about snowboarding in our collections – but we are working to change this!

Event begins at 7 pm (doors open by 6:30 pm). Tickets are $10 ($5 for museum members) and are available at the Whistler Museum.

*There will be limited tickets available for in-person Speaker Series in accordance with the capacity of the Whistler Museum. There will be no cash bar for this event and guests will need to show proof of vaccination upon entry.

*Speaker Series events will also be streamed live – contact us to register for the livestream at 604-932-2019 or events @ whistlermuseum.org.

Has Snowboarding Sold Out?

WSSF Debate poster

With the return of “The Festival” upon us yet again, winter gets to enjoy one last hurrah in the spotlight before we officially begin looking forward to summer. Here at the museum, we’ve taken this as an opportunity to reflect on the meteoric rise of snowboarding. Way back in the 1980s (before the Whistler-Blackcomb merger) Blackcomb Mountain was the first ski resort in British Columbia to allow snowboarding, and since then our local mountains have provided the venue for countless iconic moments, faces, and features in the history of snowboarding. From the Blackcomb Windlip, to Camp of Champions, the Westbeach Classic, and far too many pro riders, photos and film segments to name, our resort has played an integral role in the development of the sport.

In just a few decades snowboarding has gone from near-banishment from ski resorts to the very core of the mainstream skiing and action sports industries. Athletes have accomplished some remarkable feats, tons of money has been made, and the act of sliding on snow has been changed forever. But at what cost? Snowboarding started out as pure, youthful rebellion. Has the push for growth and progression sucked the soul from the sport? Come find out at this candid and compelling discussion featuring passionate, long-time snowboard industry insiders and influencers.

Snowboarding has progressed incredibly over the years, but has it gotten any better? Long-time Whistler pro rider Oliver Roy, late 1990s. Photo: Greg Griffith/Whistler Museum Archives.

Snowboarding has progressed incredibly over the years, but has it gotten any better? Long-time Whistler pro rider Oliver Roy, late 1990s. Photo: Greg Griffith/Whistler Museum Archives.

We are excited to announce our next Whistler Debates event, this time partnering with the World Ski & Snowboard Festival. Monday, April 15th at 5pm at the Whistler Museum we will be debating “Has the Snowboard Industry Sold Out?”

Our lineup features:

Brian Hockenstein: Snowboard photographer, cinematographer videographer and publisher Brian Hockenstein, whose images have been turning heads inside and outside the industry for years. He recently become even more enmeshed in the industry through the launch of his highly successful online snowboard website 33mag.com.

Dave Rouleau: Rouleau spent his twenties exploring the limits of life though snowboarding, film, the arts, web media and being a sponsored snowboarder. He claims that sustainability for snowboarding as a sport, art form and lifestyle lies not in “destroying it’ but CREATING IT, not in ‘killing it’, but rather LIVING IT! 

Graham Turner: Graham has been snowboarding longer than you, and has worked for W-B as a retail manager/buyer for almost as long. If this doesn’t convince you of his OG snowboarder cred, well, you know all those retro snowboards on display at Merlin’s. Those are his.

Mystery Debater X: Details to come…

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When: Monday April 15th, 5-7pm

Where: Whistler Museum
Tickets: $7, available at the WSSF ticket booth, or the Whistler Museum. Spots are limited.
Other: 19+ (cash bar)
Visit whistlermuseum.org or WSSF.com for more details.

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About Whistler Debates: Whistlerites self-identify as informed, opinionated, and outspoken. We’re going to put this assumption to the test. Inspired by the Doha Debates, our aim is to provide a forum for respectful, informed dialogue on wide-ranging topics of local or general interest. Debates will take place year-round and coincide with ongoing festivals and events. All debates will feature a strong audience participation component, so come armed with an opinion, an open mind, and a desire to engage with some of the most pressing topics of our times.