WHISTLER WEEKEND

With a dire early season forecast back east, booking a flight to ride Whistler the first weekend of December made perfect sense; especially factoring in the free accommodation thanks to my wife’s work trip to the Whistler Film Festival. And with social media practically vomiting the powder onto my Toronto desk, I felt no reluctance clicking the “purchase” button.  I might’ve missed the 60 cm days and accompanying face shots everyone was bragging about on Facebook, but my mantra was simple: Who cares? I sure as shit wouldn’t be snowboarding had I stayed at home, and groomers and park laps on Whistler and Blackcomb under sunny skies never disappoints.

Thanks to a timely flight, luggage that arrived on time, and an easy evening commute up highway 99, everything came together just right. It also struck me quickly, thanks to a combination of texting to meet friends and random-yet-fateful encounters, how uniquely small the snowboard community is. If you spend enough time in the Red Chair line-up on Whistler Mountain on any given day, you’re bound to run into familiar faces. This is a cross-section of those I high-fived on this particular go-round.

Mikey Scott, Brian Caissie and Fraser Avey: I was supposed to ride with this crew on Saturday, so we met up in the Village, but they went up ahead of me while I waited for my wife and her co-workers. Mikey is, of course, the founder of Bneeth and the social media chief for Push.ca… and is sporting a rather magnificent beard as of late. Brian is one of Canada’s top-gun skate photographers and photo editors, a traveler bar-none, and man who sleeps just two to three hours a night – hence his enviable level of productivity. And Fraser is years past his days as a sponsored snowboarder: he now designs shoes and clothing for the Ransom-Adidas line and Stussy.

Peak 2 Peak, crossing from Whistler to Blackcomb

Natalie Langman: Natalie is one of my favourite snowboard writers, blessed with a desire to dig deep into personalities and issues alike, explaining and assessing them with a compelling voice. She’s also a ridiculously good freerider and one of the best people to chase around the mountain; if there’s a pocket of snow to be found, she’ll lead you there… which she did on Saturday, off near the memorial for Erin “Manimal” Solloway (which I felt Erin would’ve approved of). I’m also told she’s an ace sledder, but I’ve never been ballsy enough to find out first-hand.

Kevin Sansalone: Here’s a weird story: While riding through the Whistler park, Kevin somehow singled me out of a mob of riders, even though he had no idea what gear I was wearing this season and shouldn’t have been able to recognize me that easily. He said he knew it was me… from my style on a rail. (I am going to hope/assume this is a good thing, although I could be delusional on that point.) Regardless, it’s always a pleasure running into and catching up with Kevin; the man is a Living Legend, after all, and someone I am always pleased to ride with.

Kevin Sansalone: a legend with a keen eye

Matt Meadows: I work with Matt (he’s our go-to news writer and a daily blogger for Push.ca), but our relationship is primarily based on daily emails and a weekly conference call. This made me excited to ride with him and his lovely lady Lara on my second day in town. Matt’s a seriously funny character (one would have to be to have earned the nickname “Baby Shark Eyes”), and our park skills seemed evenly matched; although he did one-up me by properly squaring up his frontside boardslide. Jerk.

My wife Katie Bailey with Matt “Baby Shark Eyes” Meadows

Chris “Nix” Nichols: I once confessed to Nix, after three or four pints of beer, that he was one of my favourite pro snowboarders when I was a kid, thanks to an interview inConcrete Powder magazine that showcased his progressive skate-style at a time when most people where still learning Cross-Rockets. The fact that Nix still shreds so often – even when it’s with his friend “iPod” since no one else got off the couch – makes him one of my favourite snowboarders to this day. We ran into each other in Dusty’s, fittingly, over a pint of Kokanee while my legs recovered from our last Peak-to-Creek run.

Robjn Taylor: If you’ve ever seen Robjn in the K2uesdays video series or one of his award-winning short films, you’re probably wondering what he’s like off-screen. The answer, surprisingly, is… Exactly. The. Same. Yes, there’s no “act” to Robjn: he really is that funny and clever and quirky on a daily basis. We ran into Robjn in the lift line, of course, while he was out coaching with Rob Picard and the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club. We didn’t get to do any laps, but that’s cool… I already know Robjn’s as good as most pros.

By 3:30 on Sunday, I was loading up my rental car again, getting ready to drive down the highway (and stupidly cross the wrong bridge in the city to stay with friends in the Commercial Drive neighbourhood). Back in Toronto, opening day has already been delayed until mid-December, making me feel even better about my quick tour west. And my memory is happily stockpiled with turns, laughs and conversations that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

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Matt Houghton

About Matt Houghton

Matt Houghton’s 20+ years deep as a skater and snowboarder. He was the editor of Snowboard Canada Magazine and the editorial director at SBC Media for a decade before founding Canada’s leading skate/snow digital property, Push.ca, just over three years ago at Bell Media.