Tag Archives: snowboarding

When Snowboarding Came to Whistler

Looking at Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains today, it is hard to imagine there was ever a time when snowboarders weren’t allowed to ride on the mountains.  For over a decade, skiers were all you would find in the Whistler valley, until Blackcomb Mountain became the first of our local mountains to welcome snowboarders in the winter of 1988/89 (Whistler Mountain followed suit the next season).

Blackcomb soon became the freestyle snowboard mountain.  Before the first terrain park was built in 1993, Stu Osbourne, who started working for the mountain in 1990, recalls snowboarders and skiers taking air off of the wind lip on a glacier.  “That’s where I first saw the first photos of Ross Rebagliati and Doug Lungren.  I think he was one of the guys back then that did one of the biggest air ever off the wind lip,” said Osbourne.

Oliver Roy, late 1990s.  Greg Griffith Collection.

Rebagliati began with skiing and was a ski racer with the Grouse Mountain Tyees.  While in high school, a couple of his friends convinced him to try snowboarding.  “I started to snowboard before we were ‘allowed’ to snowboard,” said Rebagliati.  He defined the culture at the time as “underground.”  When snowboarders were finally officially welcomed on Blackcomb Mountain in 1988, he came up from Vancouver with some friends on opening day and was one of the first snowboarders to ride the chairlift on Blackcomb.

American boarder Kevin Delaney takes part in a half-pipe competition held on Whistler Mountain. Whistler Question Collection, 1992.

In 1987, when Rebagliati was 16, he had attended the first ever snowboarding camp in Canada.  The camp was led by Craig Kelly, who Rebagliati depicted as the Gretsky of snowboarding.  At the camp, Kelly’s recognition of his talent gave Rebagliati the confidence he needed to pursue the sport seriously, including joining the Burton team.

Snowboarding took off through the 1990s and the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan were the first to include snowboarding.  By then a Whistler local, Ross Rebagliati became the winner of the first Olympic gold medal for snowboarding, beating out the silver medal winner by .02 seconds in the men’s Giant Slalom event.  His win, however, became uncertain when a urine sample returned to him.  He insisted that he only inhaled second hand smoke and didn’t actually smoke at all himself before the competition.

Rebagliati pulled out of World Cup racing not too longer after his Olympic win and didn’t compete in the 2002 Olympics.  He spent time working on media projects, launching his own snowboard, and building a home in Whistler that he described as “the house that snowboarding bought.”

A snowboarder heads down the Saudan Couloir during the Couloir Extreme. Originally strictly a ski race, boarders were admitted when the sport was welcomed on Blackcomb Mountain. Whistler Question Collection, 1995.

Over the past three decades, snowboarding has become firmly established as part of the Whistler community and many celebrated snowboarders have trained on both Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains.  The museum, however, is lacking information about the sport and athletes in our collection, perhaps because snowboarding is still thought of as quite a young sport.

If you have any snowboardings stories you’d like to share, please come see us at the museum!  We’re looking for personal accounts, photographs, artefacts, and more to fill the gap in our collection and ensure that the snowboarding history of Whistler is as well documented as the valley’s history of skiing.

Whistler’s Skateboarding Story

Nestled along the Valley Trail near Fitzsimmons Creek, the Whistler Skate Park is a popular summer hangout for skateboarders and board sport enthusiasts.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, surfing’s popularity began to skyrocket in California, and would eventually go on to influence North America’s youth culture with the music, films, philosophies, and attitudes that are now associated with the sport.  Skateboarding, or sidewalk surfing as it was then known, grew out of the surfing culture during this time, and became something to do when surfing conditions were less-than-optimal.

In the early days of the Whistler Skate Park, roller blades could be found as well. Whistler Question Collection, 1993.

Skateboarding’s popularity increased during this period, expanding out of California surf shops to any place around the world that had cement or asphalt.  In 1976, the world’s first purpose-built skatepark opened: Carlsbad Skatepark in Southern California.  This was soon followed by the Albany Snake Run in Albany, Western Australia.  Both areas had strong links to surfing culture.

Surfing and skateboarding had an immense influence on the development of snowboarding; one of the first snowboard products, the Snurfer, invented in the late 1960s in Michigan, allowed riders to essentially surf on snow.  Over the next 20 years, snowboarding evolved and expanded and by the late 1980s started to become a fixture in Whistler, specifically on Blackcomb Mountain.

The Whistler Skate Park, 1995. Whistler Question Collection, 1995.

Olympic gold medal winner Ross Rebagliati was the first snowboarder allowed to ride the Blackcomb lifts.  The new sport found its home early in our valley, he said.  “When we were first allowed to snowboard here, they did not just sell us the tickets and say, ‘that’s it.’  They embraced the whole idea, the culture.  They took the initiative to build snowboard parks and created things specifically designed for snowboarders.”

In 1991, the original Whistler Skate Park was constructed and includes the snake run and bowl that are still present today.  Designed by Monty Little and Terry Snider, it integrated elements that they had developed in other skate parks in West Vancouver and North Vancouver.  These elements included large waves and shapes that would encourage speed and fluid, rounded movements, a nod to the surf-inspired approach to both snowboarding and skateboarding.  Monty Little viewed the Whistler Skate Park as a functional sculpture, taking inspiration from the mountains and streams of the area.

In the late 1990s, the Whistler Skate Park saw its second round of development.  This refurbishment was born out of safety concerns due to the original surface delaminating, as well as the changing style and approach boarders were taking to skateboarding.  With support from then-Mayor Hugh O’Reilly, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the skating community, new elements were added to the skate park that reflected the next generation of skateboarders.  These included more street elements, such as rails and grindable steel edges, used for more technical tricks and manoeuvres.

The Skate Park signs, like the park itself, are well decorated. Whistler Question Collection, 1994.

With the latest expansion in 2016, the Whistler Skate Park has become the second largest in Canada with a total skateable area of more than 4,600 square metres (50,000 square feet).  The Whistler Skate Park’s popularity has made it one of Whistler’s prominent summertime features.

The Whistler Skate Park is centrally located between the Village and Fitzsimmons Creek, and open daily from April to November.

“The Evolution of Skiing in Whistler” Exhibit Launch!

We’re really excited to announce that we are on schedule to re-open the museum next weekend with our brand new exhibit “The Evolution of Skiing”! Almost 50% of our exhibit space has been revamped, renovated and replaced, making this our most significant exhibit upgrade in over 3 years. The project was made possible thanks to generous support from the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation.

Our new display case! Curious as they look, these humans won't be on display once we re-open to the public.

Our new display case! Curious as they look, these humans won’t be on display once we re-open to the public.

Our re-arranging made room for some new non-ski content as well. This panel shares some of the joys of exploring our mountains in summer.

Our re-arranging made room for some new non-ski content as well. This panel shares some of the joys of exploring our mountains in summer.

There are a whole slew of new informative panels, display cases full of artifacts, interactive displays, and some pretty big surprises that we just can’t wait to share. We don’t want to give away all our secrets, so you’ll just have to come and see them for yourselves!

While we think our new exhibit is plenty of an attraction in itself, we’ve decided to sweeten the pot and have a full program of launch events that will compliment our displays and give you even more reason to pay us a visit. Here’s a quick overview. Expect more details in the coming days.

November 23 – Feeding The Spirit. Our annual Welcome Week extravaganza, featuring free food provided by the fine folks at Creekside Market and tons of door prizes from awesome local businesses. Everyone welcome, from new arrivals to long-time residents. 5:30-8pm. Free!!!

November 28 – Official Exhibit Launch.  We’re dying to show off our new exhibit, come check it out! There will be some short speeches by museum staff & board, but the focus for the evening will simply be on exploring the additions and updates to our permanent exhibits, particularly our new section exploring “The Evolution of Skiing in Whistler.” 6pm- 9pm. Admission will be free to all.

November 30 – Backcountry Skiers Alpine Responsibility Code. We all know the Alpine Skiers Responsibility Code, that yellow card that lists the rules to abide by when at a ski resort. Well, what about the backcountry? Increasing crowds and obvious safety concerns mean a backcountry code of conduct is in order. This evening we will craft a draft of this code, featuring a very esteemed panel and a healthy dose of audience participation. 7-9pm. Tickets: $10/$7 museum members.

Filmer Garry Pendygrasse, one of our "Filming Mountains" presenters, hauling gear around the Tantalus Range. Dan Milner photo.

Filmer Garry Pendygrasse, one of our “Filming Mountains” presenters, hauling gear around the Tantalus Range. Dan Milner photo.

December 8 – Filming Mountains. This new event, in partnership with the Whistler Film Festival, celebrates our town’s proud history at the forefront of the ski and snowboard film industry. Heralded filmmakers will share clips and stories from the past that will entertain while giving unique insights into the filmmaking experience. 3-6pm, Tickets: $10/$7 members.

December 11 – The Whistler vs Blackcomb Debate. Without a doubt the most important topic yet to be tackled by our Whistler Debates series. With your help, this evening will decide, once and for all, which is the superior mountain in this valley (and, therefore, on Earth). Heavy stuff, indeed. 6:30-9pm. Tickets: $7/$5 members.

Two huge mountains, but only one can reign supreme. On December 11th help us decide!

Two huge mountains, but only one can reign supreme. On December 11th help us decide!

Filming Mountains: Celebrating Whistler’s Rich Ski & Snowboard Filmmaking Heritage

Home to legendary terrain, prodigious snowpacks, and a uniquely creative and motivated collection of mountain-folk, Whistler has been a global epicentre for ski and snowboard filmmaking for close to three decades. The sheer amount of snow-riding bliss and wizardry that has been captured on film in our mountains and purveyed around the globe has played a huge role in Whistler’s rise as one of North America’s pre-eminent mountain towns.

To showcase this history the Whistler Museum, in partnership with the Whistler Film Festival, is excited to announce the upcoming event Filming Mountains: Celebrating Whistler’s Rich Ski & Snowboard Filmmaking Heritage.

Filmer Garry Pendygrasse, hauling gear around the Tantalus Range. Dan Milner photo.

Filmer Garry Pendygrasse, hauling gear around the Tantalus Range. Dan Milner photo.

Tying into the Whistler Film Festival’s closing-day lineup of mountain culture programming, the event will feature a collection of Whistler’s world-leading ski and snowboard filmmakers as they share the stories behind the most iconic moments they’ve captured on film. Through these behind-the-scenes accounts, the audience will gain unique and entertaining insights into the filmmaking experience.

The panel of presenters represents several lifetimes worth of experience on-location, behind the lens, and in the editing room, and they have no shortage of entertaining and enlightening tales to share.

Jeff Thomas, filmer for Switchback Entertainment, at the office.

Jeff Thomas, filmer for Switchback Entertainment, at the office.

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Event info:

Filming Mountains: Celebrating Whistler’s Ski & Snowboard Filmmaking Heritage

Icons from Whistler’s snow-film industry share behind-the-scenes stories from some of the most memorable moments ever captured on snow.

Where: Whistler Museum (4333 Main St.)

When: Sunday December 8th, Doors 3pm, Show 4pm.

Tickets: $10, available at WFF Box Office

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Speaker Profiles:

Created back in 2007, Salomon Freeski TV practically invented the ski webisode. Seven seasons and more than 100 episodes later, Switchback Entertainment, the team behind the groundbreaking series, continues to set the standard and redefine the genre. Members of the versatile filmmaking team, will share memories from their favourite SFT shoots.

BC born and raised, Garry Pendygrasse grew up skiing Whistler before turning to snowboarding in 1988. Four years later he got his start in the industry making films with Adventurescope, after graduating from Capilano University’s Media Program. He quickly acquired his own gear, and since 1995 has worked as a freelance cinematographer. He has worked with almost every major production company, as either a cameraman or editor. A cancer diagnosis in 2012 temporarily shifted his focus, but a successful fight has him excited to start new video projects in 2014. Garry’s segment will reflect on the relationship between filmmaker and athlete.

Epitomizing the free-spirited mountain lifestyle, Ace Mackay-Smith has done virtually every ski-town job imaginable. So it should come as no surprise that she lists filmmaker on her resume right along with DJ, go-go dancer, and various other titles. Working with such industry legends as Greg Stump, Scott Schmidt, and Craig Kelly, Ace is full of stories from exotic locales.

Christian Begin began his filmmaking career more than 20 years ago as a Sherpa and keen understudy for director Bill Heath, carrying a 16 mm camera package on a Warren Miller ski shoot in the Kootenay mountains of British Columbia. Since then he has gone on to become one of the most accomplished and prolific ski filmmakers on Earth. Christian has produced award-winning cinematic work through his former company Radical Films, on the classic NFB doc Ski Bums (which opened the inaugural Whistler Film Festival in 2001), and for clients such as Whistler-Blackcomb and National Geographic.

Prominent Whistler character and aspiring media mogul Feet Banks launched onto the scene with his cult classic 2001 film Parental Advisory. Feet will pay homage to some of the groundbreaking film crews that inspired him and so many other aspiring filmmakers to showcase the Coast Mountains’ amazing terrain and talent to the world.

Snowboarding’s History Needs Your Help!

People generally think of archives as big collections of dusty old stuff, but that’s only partially true. For starters, they’re generally kept impeccably clean so that their collections can be preserved in perpetuity. But what I was getting at is that we forget about the constant passing of time. Archives (ours included) are constantly on the hunt for artifacts and documents that will be of historical significance for future generations. Such considerations generally are not front of mind with all you non-archivists out there who are too busy living in the present.

Snowboarding is the perfect example. The profound influence that snowboarding has had on skiing (and beyond) over the last few decades is indisputable. But until recently, there were only a handful of individuals that were concerned with preserving the sport’s heritage for future generations. Thankfully, more and more individuals are showing interest in the snowboarding’s roots.

One way we are working to increase our snowboarding  content here at the Whistler Museum  is Monday’s Whistler Debates event “Has the Snowboard Industry Sold Out?” (full details available here). We’re pretty excited to hear what everyone has to say. 

Obviously it’s a pretty contentious question, even the concept of “selling out” is pretty hard to define for most. One thing that’s for sure, the debaters will have to draw on the history of snowboarding, it’s origins and where it came from, to effectively argue whether or not the industry has “sold out” and given up on its core values (however defined). Regardless of what side ends up winning the argument, we’re sure to get an entertaining and informative discussion that sheds light on the past, present and future of snowboarding.

When we were preparing for the event it became strikingly clear just how absent snowboarding is from our archives. We have an old Prior snowboard, some 2010 Olympic memorabilia (gear, uniforms, etc) donated by Sea-to-Sky athletes like Maelle Ricker, Justin Lamoureux & Tyler Mosher, and a few dozen aesthetic but non-descript photos in our archives.

Right now, according to our archives, this is the history of snowboarding. Help us fix this. Photo: Greg Griffith/WMAS

Right now, according to our archives, this is the history of snowboarding. Help us fix this. Photo: Greg Griffith/WMAS

This is clearly unsatisfactory. Even moreso because this fall we will be completely revamping out permanent exhibits here at the museum, with almost half our space being dedicated to new displays portraying the history of skiing (and snowboarding) here in Whistler.

We don’t want snowboarding to get short shrift, so here it is: Snowboarders, we want your stuff! If we want to properly represent the history of snowboarding in Whistler–and there’s no denying that snowboarding has been hugely influential on Whistler’s development, and vice versa–we need historic gear, photos, clothing, race bibs, and any other artifacts and documents that shine light on this story. Check your closets, attics, crawl spaces, or mom’s basement. We know this stuff is out there. And we promise to take better care of it than you do!

If you’ve got stuff to donate, get in touch with our Collections Manager Brad: archives[at]whistlermuseum[dot]org

For those who are interested in brushing up on their snowboarding history, thankfully there’s been a ton of great online video content produced in the last few years. Good starting points include Vice Magazine’s “Powder & Rails” series, Push.ca’s “Living Legends” series, and this video produced by Whistler-Blackcomb a few years ago, featuring local shred legends including Graham Turner, one of Monday’s debaters:

Hope to see you all on Monday, and for those of you in Whistler, have fun at the rest of the WSSF events as well!

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.