Posts Tagged ‘Whistler-Blackcomb’

Kruk, Kennedy Close Out VIMFF, Revelstoke’s On Sale Next Month, Oldies But Goodies from Mount Seymour

February 18, 2012

Starting to sound like a broken record, here, but the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival truly is killing it when it comes to high quality visual and oral presentations. Last night’s Ski Night featured three filmmakers who were all in attendance. In Solitaire, Nick Waggoner of Sweetgrass Productions took us to a vast array of South American time/landscapes. Set to a terrific soundtrack that includes performance by Fleet Foxes and excerpts from Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. (It actually works beautifully – trust me on this one!) Definitely a movie you want to see more than once, to catch all of its nuances. Next up, Mike Douglas’s Freedom Chair (see last item, below) about sit-skier Josh Dueck, and Dendrite Studios Parallels (a winning entry in the 2011 Innervisions video festival) presented strong story-telling and visuals, respectively. The night ended up with a ‘short cut’ version of Sherpas Cinemas All.I.Can., including JP Auclair’s jib-tastic tour of Trail, BC.

The same show repeats tonight at the Denman Theatre at 7:30.

Tomorrow night’s grand finale features the first North American appearance of Jason Kruk and Hayden Kennedy, who ascended Cerro Torre in Patagonia and then – controversially – removed over 125 iron bolts that had been drilled into the rock (via a compressor, hence the name ‘Compressor Route’). Go to Outside Online, SquamishClimbing.com, and even Guardian UK for a variety of viewpoints on this event!

The Whistler Virus:

Whistler Blackcomb keeps periodically releasing these viral videos. Not sure what the tech specs are, here, but Timebender, courtesy of Switchback Entertainment, looks like it was filmed on one of those fancy Phantom still cameras which snaps images at a mind boggling 1,000 frames per second, which allows a ‘super slow-motion’ effect to many of the action shots. Powder seekers with ADD will be rewarded at about the 2:30 mark with deep snow footage that likely wasn’t shot in the past week. More snow’s on the way for this weekend, though. The time-lapse images are cool, indeed.

North Shore History Lesson:

Here’s an internet sensation, which I found out about through Sandbox Helmets founder Kevin Sansalone. Eminent snowboard photographer Scott Serfas has just released a series of photos from early snowboarding days on Vancouver’s North Shore. Serfas, who shares studio space with Endeavor snowboards and Airhole bandanas down by the old BC Sugar refinery, boasts hundreds of cover photos from the early 90s, in magazines well known (Transworld, SBC Snowboard Canada), and obscure. There’s little doubt that he’s milked those big Mount Seymour views for all he can in the past two decades of shooting up there.

Secret Stash:

Did you know that Whistler-Blackcomb offers free avalanche awareness tours? Did you know there’s even an Avalanche Awareness Centre, at the top of Solar Coaster? Well, now you do. These free half-day tours are run by the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Patrol and cover safe travel, terrain evaluation, avalanche phenomena, control measures within the ski area, avalanche safety equipment (participants can use shovels, avalanche transceiver, probes etc.) and even rescue techniques.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort – Deal of the Week

Vancouver hotelier Tom Gagliardi’s purchase of the Sutton Place flag has resulted in Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Nelsen Lodge being re-branded as a Sutton Place Hotel. Offering the ultimate in slopeside comfort and convenience, the Sutton Place is putting on a March White Sale.  Ski and Stay Packages start at just $165.00 per person per night based on double occupancy, two night minimum. Each paying adult will receive a lift ticket to Revelstoke Mountain Resort (1 Day for each night booked), a ticket to the Turtle Creek Tube Park, and a $15.00 gift card to the Rockford wok|bar|grill. An even cheaper deal is being offered at the Sandman Revelstoke Inn, located right in the funkiest, rockin’ little town in BC!

Sit Down and Watch This One:

If you haven’t viewed Josh Dueck’s sit-ski back flip on YouTube, yet (apparently, 645,000 people have), you might have caught him being interviewed on either Canada AM or the Ellen DeGeneres show earlier this week. Salomon Freeski producer and Freedom Chair filmmaker Mike Douglas told me that “agents have been knocking, this could help set Josh up for life.” Dueck, who works as a motivational speaker, has been overwhelmed by the response to an event that only took place a couple of weeks ago. Every week, a new internet hero!

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Dueck Flips on Sit-Ski, NGA Loves Fernie, Grouse Goes Romantic, and Whistler Sabbatical News

February 10, 2012

Hey, I was flipping back and forth between the Republican presidential primary coverage on CNN and a Canucks game on Sportsnet Pacific last week and came across Juicy Fruit’s hilarious spoof with the 3 guys in the life raft singing the infamous “Get your skis shined up/Grab a pack of Juicy Fruit/The taste is gonna move ya” jingle from the 80s. The ski insiders at Unofficial Networks have collected all of the Juicy Fruit ads for your viewing pleasure. The photo (above) is my pal Poacher Bob in his glory days at Grouse Mountain.

Speaking of fruit, sorta seems like a Pineapple Express is hit Vancouver last night; but according to Environment Canada, the mercury will drop over the weekend and we should definitely see snow at higher elevations.

Snowboarders – Are You The Chosen One? Hit Mount Seymour Tonight and Find Out!

This just in from Sandbox Helmets founder Kevin Sansalone—the Nike Chosen Snowboard event goes off TONIGHT at Mount Seymour. The prize money is nothing to sneeze at – $1,500 for the Men’s Winner, and $500 for best trick! Register at 4:00 pm, the first heats get under way at the Young Guns snowboard park at 7:50, and the winner will be crowned by 10:45.

Josh Dueck Inspires Yet Again!

Josh Dueck, the former freestyle ski coach and star who became a paraplegic after a terrible accident several years ago, has lit up the internet again. First, it was the award-winning Freedom Chair, a documentary produced by Mike Douglas’s Switchback Entertainment. (Note to all film buffs: Freedom Chair will be showing on Thursday’s Ski Night at the Vancouver International Film Festival). Then, last week, there was unbelievable footage – it was even picked up by ABC’s Good Morning America – of Dueck performing a back flip on his sit ski.

Fernie Named #2 Top Ski Town in the World by Nat Geo Adventure

It’s obviously a bit of a haul for those of us in the Lower Mainland, but the town of Fernie and Fernie Alpine Resort are well worth the day-long drive to get there (do yourself a favour and stay for a week!). National Geographic recently recognized the totally cool core vibe that this East Kootenay town emanates, and named it Number Two on its list of Top Ski Towns in the World. Here’s a direct quote: Best For: Adventurous skiers with a hunger for the steep and deep. If you think that’s hype, check out this snorkel deep video from last month.

Click On the Daily Deals and Save at Cypress Mountain

Lots happening at Cypress Mountain this weekend with the City and Slope Festival (music, contests) and the Canadian Ski and Snowboard Festival. The best reason to check their website is Cypress’s Daily Deals which offers some sweet discounts on rentals, food, and even lift tickets from time to time.

Grouse Gets Romantic

Here’s a Valentine’s Day promotion for all the lovers out there – send Grouse your picture or Instagram of an “alpine kiss,” and they’ll send out an award-winning chef to cook dinner in your very own home. They’ll even do the dishes. Grouse Mountain has been witness to some very romantic wedding proposals, wonderful anniversary celebrations, and of course spectacular weddings. Email your phone, name and contact number to alpinekiss@grousemountain.com by February 14, 2012 to enter.

Whistler Sabbatical—The Ultimate Whistler Vacation

Speaking of contests, February 20 is the day that Tourism Whistler announces the winner of its rather mind-boggling Whistler Sabbatical Project contest. The Whistler Sabbatical Grand Prize consists of round-trip air transportation, private limo airport transfer, one month accommodation in a fully furnished home, two adult one month Whistler Wave Bus passes, two adult one-month Whistler Blackcomb Unlimited Mountain passes, two pairs of K2 skis, poles, bindings, boots and travel case or K2 snowboard, bindings, boots and travel case, one months’ salary for the Grand Prize winner only and up to fifteen ‘Would You Do It?’ Whistler experiences. The finalists entries are pretty entertaining, whoever wins will have a life and career-altering time, that’s for sure.

It’s a gas, gas, Gastown

December 16, 2011
Last week, I got together with a few ski buddies at the Irish Heatherpub over on Carrall Street in Vancouver’s Gastown.

I don’t get downtown much (something about that $6 per hour parking) – but Gastown is morphing from crappy gift shops to manly restaurants like Salt, Peckinpah’s, and Pourhouse, where we went last year.
Big Ol’ Mike Ball had a ‘tongue sandwich’ while I deferred to meatloaf (delicious) washed down with a pint of Kilkenny. After the five of us solved the Euro debt crisis, global warming, and what to buy our wives for Xmas (I told one of the guys that the Georgie Awards were happening this week, and that they had a category of ‘best kitchen reno OVER $100K, and that Garage Sale Frank might want to enter next year).
Three of the lads are heading up to Whistler Blackcomb for a Dave Murray Racing Camp. (Which the WB website tells me is the longest running ski camp in North America. The mere thought of running gates sends my flabby calves and quads into convulsions.

Afterwards, Garage Sale Frank asked me if I wanted to hit Costco and I demurred, “I want to see these funny clothing stores around here that sell Japanese designed Levis for $250.”

“Hell, you can get Levis for $30 at Costco,” he replied. An aside: I let my Sally Ann/consignment store combing wife buy my jeans, and she seldom pays more than $5).

I’m happy to report that I did find some “stiff denim” Levis for sale at Rodan and Gray, knocked down from $250 to $200 a pair. Pre-washed distressed denims were there, too. But from what the style blogs say, you want the stiff ones that give your legs goosebumps until you have hand washed them in fabric softener and line dried them at least a half dozen times. Don’t forget to roll up the pantleg, that’s crucial to the look.
Accountant Rawn, who also attended – likes flashy shoes. The Stussy store had these outrageous Native shoes made here in Canada that he should DEFINITELY wear on casual Fridays.  I bought Cameron a Stussy gingham check shirt for Christmas with all the dough that I saved on lunch when Frank and Starek Nekkid picked up the tab. My favourite item was what I call the “The Spider Sabich US Ski Team Memorial Toque.” There was a great story about Sabich in last month’s POWDER by Matt Hansen. The US team sported these toques back in the early 70s – the pre-helmet days.
I spent about a half hour in Inventory next door to Stussy. Now, THAT is a dangerous place. They have the Veilance Gore-Tex Field Jacket for Dead Bird for $995. And to think I could have got one for $125 last year. Damn. Then, there were these Red Wing Pecos boots that were to die for. The staff guy was far more enamored with his Macbook than engaging in any product conversation. Maybe my Icebreaker Mayfair wasn’t hip enough for him. Like, it wasn’t like there were any customers in the store. Though later, I did notice some poseur in their with hair like Flock of Seagulls, so there you go.
On a final note, Garage Sale Frank was rocking some facial hair, not unlike that piece of shit Justin Trudeau. (er, no, he CALLED someone a piece of shit…).

My style guy in the T-Dot, Mr Chris Nuttall-Smith weighed in on that in yesterday’s Globe. I went snowboarding with Justin Trudeau up at Big White, once – he was there for the Canadian Avalanche Association fundraiser.
Finally, the day ended with news of the death of Christopher Hitchens, who I’m sure didn’t ski, but who would have been one hell of a conversationalist if you ever rode up ‘single’ with him. (On the other hand, he might have pushed you off the lift if you disagreed with him.
RIP, Mr Hitchens – some famous last words in the current Vanity Fair from a guy who truly lived life on his own terms. Just like a lot of skiers do.

A Whistler IPO, and the best story, yet…

October 14, 2010

Though my former business colleague and good friend Mike McCullough might have wished he’d waited until this week’s news about the Whistler-Blackcomb IPO was out before his feature story in Canadian Business was published, there’s much to praise about Mike’s reporting and I hope that people following the W/B situation will read it. McCullough brings in some new voices to the conversation that raises some serious questions about whether W/B is a good investment or not. Choice quotes include:

While home prices across Canada rose like never before between 2002 and 2007, in Whistler they were already flat to falling. “O-four might have been the real peak of our market,” says Patrick Kelly, an area Realtor for 30 years and president of Whistler Real Estate Co.

Actually, resort/residential real estate has taken a beating at places like Apex Resort, Kimberley, and Big White, too. Hard to believe that real estate has likely gone up more substantially in Fort St John than it has in the mountains of BC.

Buried in the middle of the story is the true kernel of not only the woes of the resort industry, but gets at the heart of the global economic collapse. Alas, as anybody who follows resort real estate knows, many of the buyers of Intrawest condominiums are financial advisors blowing off their annual bonus money, or ‘first in’ flippers putting very little money down and waiting until completion to sell their ‘deposit’ for a hefty profit. Snow eaters, they are not.

Fortress would take itself public the next year and quickly double in value to US$14 billion in a textbook case of unseemly rewards flowing to the hedge fund’s insiders.

Two of the best quotes are attributed to long time Whistler local and international resort planner Brett Harley:

They may have to improve the customer experience in other ways — for example, by limiting the number of tickets sold on any one day… A few top-ranked American mountains have tried that approach with some success, says Harley, noting, “On the crowded days, it’s not fun to be on the mountain right now.”

This is absolutely, 100 percent true. While I have certainly enjoyed most of my weekend ski days since moving back to Vancouver from the Okanagan and Big White, I got WAY more first tracks there than I’d get on a moderately busy weekend day at W/B. I think a lot of people are really going to get turned off by paying for parking this winter and that the local Vancouver skiers will be considering the Sun Peaks, Big Whites, and Silver Stars – though they will still need at LEAST a 3-day weekend to make that option palatable.

Harley adds that the recreational tastes of today’s generation X buyers lean more toward a wilderness experience than those of the big-spending baby boomers. They’re more likely to use a condo as a base camp for the backcountry, often avoiding the ski hill altogether…

Actually, this might work out well for W/B, a ski resort with a truly enormous backcountry. It’s amazing how great Whistler looks from the rear view mirror as you leave the area boundaries, skinning over to Cowboy Ridge or even beyond, to explore fabulous descents on Mount Fissile and in the Spearhead Range. Perhaps the best bargain might be one of those ‘backcountry one-way passes’ that right now is pretty much W/B’s best kept secret.

Turkey Sale trip to Whistler, and another WB feature

October 10, 2010

Just got back from a quick day trip to Whistler, where the `legendary`Turkey Sale of used, rental, and discontinued gear was taking place. Wasn`t quite as lined up as I`ve seen in the past, but there were certainly deals to be had. I picked up a VANOC padded ski bag (a nice, if not belated, souvenir of the 2010 Winter Games – for $10! (List price: $70). Garage Sale Frank bought some Salomon DH boards for $50 – don`t ask me why – while I actually unloaded a couple of pairs of skis and was more than happy to turn over the 20 percent commish to the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.

Dropped in to the Escape Route, where shoppers were busy loading up on half price clothing from Arc`teryx, Icebreaker, and Patagonia. We Canadians love our bargains!

Also squeezed in a great moutain bike ride down the switchbacks on Binty`s High Trail – which was in outstanding condition. At one point, the trail was completely carpeted by yellow leaves. (Sorry, no pix). Eat your heart out, Utah and Colorado.

There was tons happening this weekend with the TGR presentation `Light the Wick`and an apparently really solid new bike movie called Life Cycles by some new film crew (Stance Films) out of the Kootenays. (Is everybody in the Kootenays a filmmaker… just asking!)

Another observation: Resort Muni of Whistler and ITW again owe a huge debt to Australia, whose booming resource-related economy is driving its young people to work at Whistler for their `gap year.`- Cheery smiles and nasally accents all over the place.

A superb story on Intrawest and WB hits the stands this week in Canadian Business magazine. I`ll have some comments on it tomorrow, but reporter Mike McCullough (disclosure: he`s a friend and former business partner) – has done a hell of a job and brought some new voices to the conversation who haven`t been heard from, yet.

I also got some very cool news about ski touring in the Spearhead Range that I`ll be investigating at some point.

Whistler Cypress?

October 8, 2010

Hoo-boy, now HERE’s a PR challenge I bet no one considered. The Globe & Mail reports today (story by Dave Ebner – all round good guy and splitboard backcountry rider) – that ‘confusion’ about snow conditions during the 2010 Winter Games might be hampering early season bookings at Whistler Blackcomb. Quoting: The Olympics brought Whistler tremendous television exposure. But those images of the mountains, which enjoyed their second snowiest winter ever, are getting mixed up in tourists’ minds with pictures of the winter rainstorms and lack of snow at Cypress Mountain, two hours south of Whistler, near downtown Vancouver. Cypress was home to freestyle skiing and snowboarding.

“It’s something we absolutely have to counter,” said Arlene Schieven, vice-president of marketing at Tourism Whistler.

Hmm, that is a bit of a stretch, to me. During the Games, with commentators shifting back and forth between Whistler and Cypress, the non-serious skier or boarder might have confused the two venues.

I’ll say it here and I’ll say it loud – “if you can’t tell the difference between Whistler and Cypress, then you don’t really belong at Whistler…”

In fact, let’s get a few things out of the way, here. a) the Games were awarded to Whistler because the runs for the alpine events at Cypress were too short b) Listen up! Whistler is a wild-ass mountain resort with s**t kicking terrain and fabulously expensive dining and accommodation. I appreciate that TW and WB wants skiers and riders of all budgets to enjoy their mountains (and at many times of the year, it is fairly affordable…) but get over it! Hammer away at the kids attending business schools (everywhere in the world), sponsor all the big air/big mountain contests you possibly can, and go fishing where the sharks are! Single people have only themselves to look after. What Whistler offers, frankly, is lost on most families. Go to Big White (disclaimer: I used to work for ’em) and you’ll see what I mean.

What Dave’s story did NOT mention is this: whether you’re flying from Seoul, Munich, Tokyo, Dallas (especially Dallas) or New York -getting to YVR is a REALLY expensive air ticket and the schedules suck. The sooner that Transport Canada ends the farce that is cabotage and allows foreign carriers to fly domestic routes, the better. We need more direct flights and charters into YVR, but right now the prime gate spots are all taken up by your wonderful Air Canada

Look, the Olympics were a great party, but it’s yesterday’s news from a tourism standpoint. Bring on the big snows and the keen riders will come!

Time for Snoweaters to Put Money Where Mouth Is!

October 6, 2010

Whistler based pundit Michel Beaudry has consistently created a ‘commercial tension’ if you will between the moneyed interests that run Whistler Blackcomb and the “snoweaters” tribe who are the proper guardians of core ski and mountain culture. Well, snoweaters may get their chance to  voice how things at Whistler Blackcomb are run, if enough of ’em pony up to purchase shares in a new IPO (initial public offering). According to a story in today’s Globe & Mail, ITW is considering spinning of its gold medal asset to retail and institutional investors in the form of a publicly traded company.

Buried two thirds of the way down the paragraph is the key nugget of information: “The assets slated for inclusion in the sale process include the leases on the hills, the lifts, parking lots and lodges. The bigger real estate developments around the resort are not part of the package, sources said.”

An IPO for WB could be every snoweaters dream – even if they don’t have a penny to put towards it.  Here are three reasons why – 1) new majority owners with deep pockets and a local connection – and there are plenty of ’em out there in the Vancouver area – won’t be looking to turn a quick buck the way that Fortress Capital was. In fact, they may run the place more like the owner of a sports team – not terribly interested in making a huge profit, but providing a nice, clubby atmosphere for like minded people to ski and re-create (can you say “Sun Valley?”) 2) Due to both the Olympics and, well, the damned good skiing and riding, Whistler’s reputation is sky high amongst the ‘snoweater’ core and – far more importantly – the wealthy young entrepreneurs who want to hang with the bros n pros. 3) Whistler is year round mountain resort. Though often disparaged in the local press, the Peak2Peak is truly an engineering marvel and will prove its worth once tourism bounces back (lower summer prices for riding the lift won’t hurt, either).

Before you phone up your stockbroker or open an online trading account, it’s worth looking at ITW’s history as a publicly traded company. Even when ITW was flush with assets and selling real estate out within minutes of announcing a new project, it was not giving shareholders a decent return on investment which is why Fortress Capital bought it in the first place – during the go-go years of resort real estate in 2003 – 2007, they believed that more blood could be wrung from a stone than ITW was producing. One challenge ITW has always had with investors is determining its valuation – there aren’t many companies around quite like it. By taking real estate deals – not that there are many of THOSE happening these days – out of the equation, WB will have to make a profit on its core operations – lifts, lodging, ski school, and commercial/retail.

Ski and snowboarding numbers are flat – and in the case of visitors from south of the border – downright dismal. So while it may seem like half of Vancouver is there on a crowded Saturday, your fellow Vancouverites aren’t stayin’ and payin’ like those rich Californians did back in 2001 or so, when WB was winning all of those awards.

Alas, I’m in the ‘buy’ camp for one big reason. Vail Resorts – WB’s largest competitor – has seen its stock TRIPLE since March of 2008 during the trough of the crash. It’s trading in the $40 range right now, and though American skiers are more cost conscious, Vail is not a cheap place to ski. Their CEO Rob Katz definitely thinks that the worst is behind them; which can only be good for the resort business generally.

Report from TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival

April 27, 2009

The TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival wound up today, and I attended from Thursday PM until Saturday. Caught the Pro Photographer Showdown, the invite-only “PowWow” by Origin Design (check out my blog post at MediaTent) on that event, the Metric concert on the Kokanee stage and even did some fine skiing’ over on Blackcomb on Saturday. Hard to believe that this is the 13th annual festival – I was invited to the very first one, which I wrote up (and kinda slammed) for Powder magazine in 1996. It truly bloody amazes me that there are so many people that come out for this event at such a late date in the season – truly a testament to the organizers at Watermark and the foresight of the event’s founders like Doug Perry, Skip Taylor, and Don McQuaid. After watching Jordan Manley (check out the guy’s blog) win yet another Pro Photographer Showdown, it’s perfectly obvious to me why the guy wins so consistently – he really ‘gets’ the storytelling concept of a slide show; outstanding images (of course), well-conceived music, and more than that – a flair for storytelling by ensuring that each and every image flows from the one before and leads to the one after. One thing I will say, though – Manley’s vision is pretty dark for such a joyful sport as skiing. I guess he’s spent too much time in the gloom at Whistler and on Vancouver’s North Shore shooting his subjects. I really enjoyed Christian Pondella‘s seggy as well; though I think that the constant  Red Bull logos didn’t work in his favour.