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Nine-year-old Whistlerite expands his board-game empire with Lifts and Trails

Rio MacDonald adds a mountain bike version to his popular adaptation of Snakes and Ladders 
E-Arts1 Lifts and Trails 29.24 SUBMITTED
Nine-year-old Rio MacDonald has returned with a mountain bike-themed sequel to his hit board game, Lifts and Runs.

A few months back, Pique got sent an image for our weekly community photo page, Partial Recall, showing a young boy blasting wrist shots inside his garage at a hapless woman in misfitted goalie pads. 

Was the picture firsthand proof of some mild elder abuse? Not at all. The goalie equipment and a new hockey stick were the spoils of nine-year-old local Rio MacDonald, the brains behind the hot-selling Whistler-themed board game, Lifts and Runs. And as for the wannabe Patrick Roy? Well, that was Rio’s grandma, who promised her grandson she’d let him fire a few shots at her in the new pads after the surprise success of his game. 

Maybe it’s time for grandma to bust out the catcher’s gear, because Rio is back at it again, this time with a summer-friendly complement to his original game. Where Lifts and Runs was Rio’s local take on the classic Snakes and Ladders game and featured some of his favourite Whistler Blackcomb runs, Lifts and Trails doffs the snow for dirt and the skis for two wheels, honing in on Whistler’s second favourite sport. 

“It’s a natural fit, especially coming from this town, where we’re all skiers and bikers,” says Rio’s dad, Scott. “We came up with something fun that we could get creative with and make up together.” 

The bike version brings back designer and long-time family friend Jessica Leahey, whose clean, bold lines lend the game a fun, accessible aesthetic. It also helps she’s an avid skier and biker herself. 

“She gets the scene. With somebody who doesn’t, it wouldn’t really work,” Scott adds. “I think she’s got a really creative and unique style of simple characters that are universally likable and easy to understand.” 

One difference from the ski version of the game is that it doesn’t include specific Whistler trails, instead packing the layout chock full of fun universal features,
like helicopters, hike-a-bikes, and climbing trails.  

“That was the idea,” Scott says. “Whistler Blackcomb [terrain] is great, but there’s a whole lot beyond here that we wanted to tap into and explore.” 

If the ski version is any indication, Lifts and Trails, released this month, should be flying off the shelves in short order. Since it was released last fall, Lifts and Runs has sold about 2,000 copies, no small feat for a DIY, independently made board game. 

Much of that interest came from within Whistler, with numerous retailers agreeing to not only sell it in their shops, but feature it in a prominent position on the shelves. 

“The tourist shopping market, if there’s something with a little bit of a story behind it, that goes a long way. That’s been so awesome to see their support and the ordering and reordering of games,” Scott says. 

Rio enjoyed a taste of local celebrity after the success of the first game—schoolmates included. 

“Some people just randomly at school I don’t even know, they said, ‘Are you the person who made Lifts and Runs?’” Rio recalls. 

When he first came up with the concept at the tender age of six, Rio’s family saw an opportunity to not only teach him a bit about the ins and outs of retail business, but the importance of pursuing your dreams to fruition.  

“We’re just trying to keep this fun for Rio and for ourselves. Sometimes there’s a little bit of grunt work behind the scenes that we take care of, but the most important part is that you have this idea and following through with it. Talk is cheap,” Scott says. 

“We’re having fun with it, and with the money that comes in, just trying to do fun things as a family and keep it educational and fun without getting too overbearing.”  

With visions of expanding his board-game empire into an ocean-themed version, I ask Rio about the biggest things he learned from the process so far. 

“That I get to make money,” he giggles.
Grandma better watch out. 

Lifts and Trails is available at a number of local shops, including Whoola Toys, Get the Goods, Purebread and Cool As A Moose. The game is also available to buy online at