It's a story that most residents can relate to: head out of bounds into Khyber with a group of friends on a powder day and somehow get separated on the way down.
On Sunday it was a story with a tragic ending for friends and family of Erin Solowey-Wanamaker, a local chef and snowboarder also known as The Animal.
While his friends were waiting at the bottom of a clearcut and trying to reach Erin on his cell phone another group found him face down in the tree well created by a fallen tree. They performed CPR and contacted the RCMP, which used GPS to locate a signal from a cell phone. They sent in a rescue helicopter, which in turn enabled two Whistler Mountain Ski Patrollers to locate the site and continue to perform CPR. However, it was too late to revive the 30-year-old rider.
Greg Wiens has been one of Erin's closest friends in Whistler since he arrived 10 years ago. He was with him on Sunday just before the accident occurred.
"We were in Khyber with a big group, and I stopped to help a friend who fell in a ditch while Erin kept riding. We saw him go off into the trees and when we got to the bottom we must have tried to call him 20 times," said Wiens. "Eventually one of our friends got through to his phone but someone else answered and told us they had called it in, and we knew it was all wrong."
Wiens has known Solowey-Wanamaker for more than 10 years, since they were both riding for Pain Snowboards.
"The owner of the company actually called me and said one of our riders from Montreal was moving out (to Whistler) and can you help give him a welcome," Wiens recalled. "I helped unpack his bags when he moved out here and we were good friends ever since.
"He was an incredible snowboarder. He died like he lived, going 100 miles an hour. He did everything big."
Solowey-Wanamaker suffered a heart attack a few years ago when he got an infection that got into his bloodstream, but it didn't slow him down in the slightest. Rather than taking his illness as a sign to take things easier it only made Erin realize that it was better to live every day to the fullest.
While snowboarding was his first love, Erin was also passionate about cooking and worked as a chef preparing specials at La Rúa.
"He loved food, but he only liked his own food and hated everyone else's," said Wiens. "His food was incredible."
When he wasn't snowboarding he spent his free time camping and fishing, and doing a little skateboarding while waiting for the snow to fly again.
His nickname, Wiens explains, was The Animal.
"When I first met him he would get drunk every night, meet a different girl every night, and would somehow still get up the next day and ride the mountain like an animal," he said. "Every morning we said, 'this guy's a fucking animal,' so one day we just decided that he's ' The Animal.'"
Wiens and his friends are still in shock over the loss of Erin.
"It's mostly disbelief, none of us can believe he's gone because he was such an integral part of our lives. He had so many friends, so many people who cared about him and are going to miss him."
Solowey-Wanamaker is survived by both parents and a brother, who flew out to Whistler this week to take part in the memorial. A celebration of his life takes place Friday, April 9 at Dusty's in Creekside, starting at 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend.
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