Tag Archives: snowboarding

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!

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.