A small group of black sheep snowboarders are wreaking havoc on Whistler Mountain, putting the future of snowboarding on the mountains at risk.
“There’s no question about it, we’ve got a problem with snowboarders,” said Patrick O’Donnell, Whistler Mountain president. “It’s no secret.” —Whistler Question, Jan. 27, 1994.
The now-hilarious passage above comes from the first two sentences of our front-page story 20 years ago this week, which came with the headline: “Whistler says ‘no’ to brush cuts, baggy pants and bad attitudes.”
The article detailed how Whistler Mountain was seriously considering banning snowboarders from the slopes altogether, with ski area officials blaming the problems on about five per cent of the snowboarding public. Snowboarders pushing skiers over, threatening the lives of mountain staff and outright refusing to follow what was then known as the Skiers Responsibility Code (now the Alpine Responsibility Code) were cited as regular incidents on the mountain.
For what it’s worth, a Blackcomb patroller interviewed said there weren’t the same kind of issues with snowboarders on the mountain next door, eliciting a somewhat sarcastic response from O’Donnell, who said: “Blackcomb has got to be the most unique ski hill in all of North America if they don’t have any problems.”
The story prompted follow-ups by larger media outlets across the country — a memorable one in The Province reported incidents of bad behaviour by snowboarders off the hill, causing damage around the village and in rental properties — and a flood of angry letters to The Question, including one from a Whistler Mountain executive taking issue with the headline.
The whole situation seems outrageous in retrospect, particularly as this was only two decades ago. Can you imagine the same story being written today?
The article stated that snowboarders made up eight per cent of Whistler Mountain’s customer base at the time, and obviously that figure only continued to grow over the years that followed. The mayhem didn’t.
Perhaps it was the renegade image of snowboarding, even if mostly false, that made it increasingly popular back then. Even though it will never disappear, we’re now reading more and more that it’s a sport on the decline, based upon sales trends at ski and snowboard shops across the continent.
There’s probably no lesson to learn from this historical exercise, but rather just a chance to look back and laugh. But if there is any takeaway, it’s that people will always find new ways to enjoy the mountains. Anything that brings people here for that reason first and foremost is a good thing for our resort and should never be subjected to NIMBY attitudes.
Seriously, they were thinking of banning snowboarding?