Origins Extended : The History of Freestyle Snowboarding at Whistler
Covering all the riders, photographers, and filmmakers who made Whistler a global snowboarding hotspot over the years would take its own feature-length documentary. It would take hours to truly do justice to those personalities and their tales. Instead, this is a glimpse at a few key people and early events that paved the way for what the region has become. Since Blackcomb first opened its slopes to snowboarding in 1987, the area has consistently produced some of the most progressive riding, iconic images, and film moments. And since then, not a season has passed without those photos filling the pages of magazines and video clips filling riders’ parts.
Twenty-eight years later, that hasn’t changed, but it’s easy to forget that at one time someone had to fight to build a pipe and park. They had to beg for the basic tools to sculpt features on the face of runs and bring their vision to life. While shots of snowmobile accessed terrain have become so commonplace in media that they make up the majority of backcountry images run today, it’s also easy to forget that the trails the current generation of pros follow all had to be broken by a few riders with little idea what they were doing on machines that were woefully underpowered.
These stories are part of what we set out to find with Origins. For the first half of the project, we focused on the riding and influences of three riders that Whistler irrevocably shaped—Rusty Ockenden, Chris Rasman, and Matt Belzile. You can see that in their Origins movie part.
The second half of the project, here, looks more closely at the forces that shaped freestyle snowboarding in Whistler.
Sean Kearns in Brandywine Bowl looking out toward the S-Chute. “It was the gateway to everything,” says Dano Pendygrasse. “But at that point it was impassable by us.” 1997. Photo: Dano Pendygrasse