February 19, 2010 Features & Images » Feature Story

Walking the talk 

Whistler athletes represent in Whistler style


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And no one is exempt. It's the first time you get hypothermic on a big powder day. It's getting caught in your first slide and realizing what it really means to "eat snow." It's the tree that doesn't move when you ride into it. The trail that disappears just when you thought you knew where you were. It's the storm that catches you at the end of a long slog home. The rain that leeches your warmth away like a bloodsucker on a bender.

You don't fight the environment around here. You learn to work around its strictures.

Which makes for very effective learning sessions. Either you quickly figure it out and adapt, or you move on. It's another type of Darwinism, I guess. For slowly but surely, over a year or two or three, the successful newcomers blend their old cultural trappings with those of their new mountain home. The outcome? Whistler is all the richer for their presence.

But it's not like all these mountain stars are your typical nose-to-the-grindstone jocks. Au contraire. Whistler athletes have always inspired others with their unconventional sense of fun. They all work hard at what they do. Ski. Snowboard. Bike. Whatever. But they also know how to have a good time with life.

It's a Coast Mountain thing. Something to do with the weather and living on the edge of the world (okay, maybe not so much the edge these days), and being aligned with the great Pacific flow. Think about it. Storms roll down from Alaska one week dumping a metre of snow and epic powder conditions. Then the next they shoot up from Hawaii, dropping a pineapple express-worth of rain. It's kind of schizophrenic that way. One day heaven; the next day hell. Which encourages a more patient, more zen-like approach to life. And a propensity for grabbing opportunities when they're at hand.

"You should have been here yesterday," is a common utterance around these parts...

Be that as it may, the singular nature of the local weather (not to mention the local terrain) has created an entirely distinctive sporting culture here. Easy-going for the most part, and with an understated quality that easily distinguishes them from their American or European counterparts, Whistlerites are renowned for their ability to enjoy themselves when others are beginning to flag. On-mountain or off, in bad weather or fair, local style is all about grabbing the moment and shaking it alive. I mean, really. You'll never see a Whistlerite running for shelter just because a little rain is falling on the party...

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