From vision to reality 

At the peak of their profession, Whistler's Ecosign designs the world's snowy playgrounds

click to flip through (2) PHOTO BY TOM BEAR FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, COURTESY OF ECOSIGN - Paul Mathews
  • Photo by Tom Bear for the wall street journal, courtesy of ecosign
  • Paul Mathews
 

As Eric Callender thundered across a mountain plateau, high above Beirut, he made sure his snowmobile stayed right in the tracks of his Lebanese guide.

When you make your living as a ski resort mountain planner, there are many potential threats, including deadly avalanches.

But today, Callender wasn't worrying about being buried alive on the slopes of Mount Sannine.

The 37-year-old Whistler resident was more concerned he might be blown to kingdom come.

"The snowmobile guide explained we had to follow in single file behind him because there were tank mines on the top plateau of this mountain," Callender chuckled, in a recent interview. "He said the mines had been cleared but they hadn't, and there were these little posts with X's on them. They said these were tank mines and they only go off if there's something really big and heavy, with a lot of steel in it — and snowmobiles don't qualify."

Callender has spent 15 years travelling the globe to far-flung mountain ranges to scope out ski resorts for Whistler-based Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd.

Although it's easy to picture his job as part-James Bond, part-heli-skier, he says it's often far more mundane than that.

Like the time, while scouting for ski slopes in Kazakhstan, he had to ride to the mapping area on horseback, through waist-deep snowdrifts.

And rather than seeking the steep and deep powder, his job involves mapping out the blue, intermediate runs that are the bread and butter of ski resorts.

In summer, he'll lace up his hiking boots and scramble down mountain trails, watching for natural obstacles and visualizing ski trails, lift towers and lodges.

In winter, Callender's always aware of the danger of avalanches and always packs several sets of survival gear — shovels, probes and transceivers.

"In three different countries I've had my guides say, 'Oh, we don't need that, there's no avalanches here,'" he said. "I kind of look at them and say, 'What? The laws of gravity and physics don't apply in this country?'

"They'll usually tell me they've been there for many years and nobody's ever been killed in an avalanche, 'so don't worry, we know what we're doing.'"

For instance, on Callender's first trip to Kazakhstan his guide was a 45-year-old Russian ski mountaineer who tied a 10-metre-long, blue, nylon cord to his wrist for his avalanche beacon.

His Lebanese guides showed an equally blasé attitude when it came to avalanches.

In the mountains above Beirut, it can snow heavily, very much like on Mount Washington, he said.

"We were snowed in for three days and it snowed something like two metres," Callender recalled.

"We waited for a day to let the snow consolidate. Then we headed up, and around the corner there was a mountain where a pretty good Class 2 avalanche had happened the day before."

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • The spearhead's new era

    Whistler's backcountry moves into high gear
    • Apr 24, 2017
  • Mindful

    New ways of thinking about the treatment for concussions
    • Apr 30, 2017

Latest in Feature Story

  • On the mend

    Charting the gradual, if uneven, recovery of the region's grizzly-bear population
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • Service interruption

    How workplace culture can help businesses withstand Whistler's staffing shortage
    • Nov 11, 2018
  • The second wave

    New research into psychedelics offers clues to curing addiction, depression, PTSD and...the fear of death
    • Nov 4, 2018
  • More »

More by Damian Inwood

  • Lasting Legacies

    Hosting the 2010 Olympic Games raised Whistler's profile and left legacies for a lifetime.
    • Feb 6, 2014
  • The search for family roots

    Seeking out our ancestors is becoming a global phenomenon
    • Feb 7, 2013
  • Are B.C.'s Parks in peril?

    An environmental watchdog says the "crown jewels" in B.C. and Canada's park system are in danger thanks to budget cuts.
    • Aug 30, 2012
  • More »

Sponsored

B.C. voters will choose a voting system for provincial elections this fall /h3>

This fall, British Columbians will vote on what voting system we should use for provincial elections...more.

© 1994-2018 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation