Snowboarders are drawn to Whistler like flies to light, like kids to candy, like-you get the idea. Canadian riders come here from every little mining, timber, and fishing town-lured away from the familiarity of their homes and the cities of Quebec and Ontario, traveling across the country’s vast midsection through Alberta all in pursuit of the dream and the lifestyle. Whistler serves as the Tahoe, Mammoth, Mt. Hood, and Summit County of Canada packaged into a coastal corner of British Columbia. Every year perfection gets improved upon-new urban Vancouver discoveries, improvements in the parks at Whistler/Blackcomb resort, access to the surrounding backcountry, more opportunities for debauchery in the village-all this with a ten-month snowboard season.
Whistler: Best Overall Resort
The resort of Whistler/Blackcomb is still the foundation of the B.C. snowboarding scene. Comprised of the two looming mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb, which are joined by a common base area, there’s something for every type of shred. The resort nurtures riders in the park, and builds their stamina with over 5,000-foot vertical descents through challenging terrain, as well as giving them somewhere to train early season. It’s the spot to ride when the backcountry is a big whiteout, and it’s the place to shred during the summer months. Riders may venture into the backcountry on sunny days, into the city for rails when it snows, and up to the city resorts under the cover of darkness, but they always return to Whistler … even if it is sometimes just to drink at The Brass.
In the four years that TransWorld has conducted the Resort Poll in the Resort Guide, Whistler has always ranked top three in the Best Park and Best Pipe categories, but it’s the resort’s position as the four-time reigning king of the Overall Best Resort that really seals the deal. Nowhere else comes close to matching Whistler’s complete package.
The 1,720-foot-long Highest Level Park on the top of Blackcomb has lines of four or five large tabletops and links up like a champ to the 400-foot-long Superpipe. You can ride the pipe, hit the park, jib on the logs, and grab the chair back up all day long with plenty of good company. The Peak and Harmony Chairs on Whistler are a freerider’s dream. Get in a few laps on the upper mountain and then get lost in the endless pillow lines on the Peak To Creek run. Blackcomb freeriding includes runs off the Glacier Chair, the T-bars, misto pow stashes and aerial opportunities on the Crystal Chair.
When it’s all over, there’s the village. Riders pack onto the sundeck at The Brasserie and commence the tourist heckling. At night, you’d be hard-pressed to find more options in any resort town. There’s no need for driving, coordinating, or even supervising-let the youth run free! Sushi Village fills the bellies of the pros, and for parties, Maxx Fish, Garfinkels, Tommy Africas, Amsterdam, and The Brasserie serve as the meet-up spots for partying.
In recent years, “Whistler” riding has come to encompass everything from the Whistler/Blackcomb resorts themselves and the area’s huge, snowmobile-access out-of-bounds to (during a good year) downtown Vancouver and everything in between. The backcountry accesses of Callaghan and Brandywine, less than half an hour south from the slopes, offer more bulk backcountry acreage than conceivable (extending to the Pemberton ice fields), and some riders stick almost exclusively to this snowmobile access.
Other shreds have been moving out of Whistler Village and snatching up houses in the town of Squamish, 40 miles down the road. Jonaven Moore, Kendra Starr, DCP, Craig Ballantyne, Gaetan Chanut all call this town home. And then there’s Vancouver itself with the snowboard areas of Mt. Seymour, Mt Currie, and Grouse Mountain-low ticket prices, fun parks, more backcountry access, and night riding. Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city, serves as an enormous urban-rail park. According to local rider Jeff Keenan, riders from Whistler swarm the city, hitting every rail during the one or two weeks that Vancouver gets snow. Shredders like Leanne Pelosi, who can’t get enough during the daylight hours at Whistler, make the drive to the slopes here for night riding. While roommates Jesse Fox and Daryl Trinidad make the opposite commute to the slopes of Whistler from Vancouver.
Crews On The Up
Whistler’s a breeding ground for up-and-coming snowboarders, with a surplus of filmers, photographers, and Snowboard Canada magazine there to document it. But with the number of talented riders and established pros, you can’t imagine a more difficult scene to break into.
Aware that a revolution is best orchestrated en masse, young Canadian shreds band together-a migrant population sticking tight to their crews, pulling one another up by their bootlaces. These riders are reaching for something more from snowboarding-seeking and achieving a higher level of skill. Not content to wait for discovery, they’ve turned to the tools of the digital age to make a name for themselves, by themselves-producing their own videos and Web sites. Busy day and night snowboarding, filming, editing, updating, blogging-it’s an exhausting process.
Photographer and born ‘n’ bred Whistlerite Dano Pendygrass has spent his career rallying through snowfields capturing the top pros: Devun, J-F, Lukas, Tadashi, riders at the peak of their careers with the biggest film crews. Last winter Dano pulled back on the reins-he wanted to focus on these up-and-comers. The talent pool in this corner of B.C. is deep, and more are wading in every year. The packs are prolific, from the loosely affiliated Skids, Gnarcore, and Fun Boys, the structured Whistler Valley Snowboard Club team, all the French Canadians-there’s even a strong Japanese showing. Let’s have a casual look around at what’s making a blip on the radar at TWS.
“I grew up riding in North Vancouver at the base of Mt. Seymour-it has amazing cityscape sunsets, rolling backcountry, and the nighttime powder laps. Whistler picks up where Seymour lacks-vertical and more diverse terrain. And an hour and a half back down the road, Vancouver picks up where Whistler drops off in urban rails.”-Jeff Keenan
“The town I came from in Ontario is the kind of place where a lot of kids just didn’t leave. I left a small icy mountain in hopes of something more. Whistler is the best place to snowboard-it’s also the STD capital of Canada. I guess you win some, you lose some.”-Jesse Fox
“I moved here five years ago-the great journey west was natural progression. We grew up riding these little hills in Ontario, so the mountains of the West just seemed like the thing we all wanted to do. There’s only so much one can accomplish in a small pond.”-Jon Roth
“There’s a new breed of rider coming out of Whistler. I think it’s all the amazing riding right here at our doorstep mixed with the abundance of media and industry hype. We’re creating these all-around great riders who are self-promoting, very competitive, and determined to make a name for themselves. And it’s not just the guys, either-the Whistler girls are some of the best in the world.”-Kevin Sansalone