After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival 2014: Epic photos of big air

Snow, sunshine, sweet sounds, and sick air at the 2014 WSSF.

Pos from De La Soul at WSSF 2014
Going huge on Blackcomb
UFO spotted on Blackcomb Mountain; De La Soul levitates the crowd; Going big for the crowd; The fine art of splitboard design –– It's the 2014 Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival. (All photos by Jordan Matthew Yerman)

Celebrating mountain culture in Whistler: WSSF 2014

The Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival is underway, with lots of winter-sports action going on beneath sunny skies.

Whistler Blackcomb has more snow now than it did in January, and the lift lines are impossibly short. I caught some of the big-air action, as well as some awesome music; as well as a thought-provoking lecture series on our relationship with the mountains in which we live, work, and play.

WSSF 2014 kicked off on April 11, with a DJ set by Cut Chemist of Jurassic 5 fame. The opening party featured a sort of virtual grafitti battle between some of Whistler's local artists. Imagine a flight simulator, but for spraypaint and stencils.

De La La, De La!

After a sunny day on the mountain, the throngs descended upon Whistler Village to catch some live music. De La Soul proved that classic never goes out of style, performing a daylight set for longtime fans... and their kids. The first time I heard “Three Feet High and Rising”, it was on cassette. De La Soul's sound, though, has come up with its listeners, from tape to CD to digital.

Big air in Whistler Village

Snowboards are differentiated by their sidecut and camber, for performance on different types of snow. But come on: snowboards are at their best when they’re flying through the air.

The Shred Show’s big air competition delivered just that: high-flying performances from Olympic athletes and local heroes alike.

Big Air at Whistler: WSSF 2014
Photographing the rider, or taking a selfie?

Max Eberhardt walked off with the win (and $25 grand in prize money), with Kyle Mack and Justin Morgan rounding out the top three. April 13 saw the Shred Show’s slopestyle event, up in the terrain park on Blackcomb mountain. The iciness of the course led to a late start: one contestant turned to me and muttered, “... This is gnarly.”

The official media vantage point sucked, so I skied further down into the terrain park to take a few photos as the comp got underway.

And, yeah, conditions were pretty gnarly.

Confession: I blew off the last stage of the Shred Show's slopestyle event to catch some ski time up in Seventh Heaven. Come on, give me a break: I spend a lot of time at City Hall. I later found out that Kyle Mack took the top spot on the podium, with Sebastien Toutant and Matts Kulisek rounding out the top three.

If you can’t have a powder day, then you hope for a bluebird day, and Whistler has been delivering. Once the sun hits, it’s like skiing or riding on a giant Slurpee. Despite a very, very late start, all of Whistler and Blackcomb now has full coverage. You can even still ski out to the Village, though it’s a bit tenuous toward the base.

Mountain Multiplicity: Keeping mountain culture strong

Sunday evening saw the Mountain Multiplicity Show, a sort of micro-TED event featuring speakers who have lived their lives off-piste.

Amazing though National Geographic mainstay Wade Davis’ keynote speech was, my favorite was Ace MacKay-Smith’s account of a heli-assisted ski film shoot in Siberia. Flaming booze, rickety helicopters, and multiple avalanches made for a journey not for the faint of heart (or liver). Her tale was hilarious and harrowing. MacKay-Smith’s story highlighted the beauty and danger of the backcountry, and how the two are inextricably linked.

Ace MacKay-Smith: Ski legend

I'd been looking forward to the Mountain Multiplicity show since getting here. Over the past two seasons, ski touring has worked its way deep into my heart, impossible to extract. Like the shrapnel in Tony Stark’s chest.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

The Mountain Multiplicity Show was a benefit for the Spearhead Huts, which will give skiers backpackers shelter from the utterly unforgiving elements as they journey along the Spearhead Trail. A simple wooden hut can save your life; or at least be more comfortable than sleeping in a snow pit.

MacKay-Smith left before the speakers’ group photo op, presumably to go do something dangerous; or maybe just to DJ somewhere in the village.

Will Stanhope, JF Plouffe, Todd Lawson, Andy Dittrich, Wade DavisWill Stanhope, JF Plouffe, Todd Lawson, Andy Dittrich, Wade Davis

Get your ski on

You haven't missed out. The Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival runs through April 20, culminating with a Roller Derby after-party. Yeah.

There are big-air events daily, each of which would void your insurance, so fuhgeddaboudit.

Also, the weather has been fantastic. Enjoy some laid-back spring skiing or riding: it's all very Euro-style at the moment: 50% skiing, 50% chilling on sun-drenched balconies. Where do you think "aprés" comes from?

[The photos in this article were shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M1; except for the Mountain Multiplicity photo, which was shot with an Olympus Stylus Tough. Olympus was dumb trusting enough to turn me loose with their gear. Not gonna lie, I briefly considered stealing the OM-D.

Also a shout-out to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for putting me up. It felt weird, though, to not be sharing a space with 11 Australians. Nature hates a vacuum.]

More in News

Views from a refugee camp: Who gets into heaven?

I have just returned to Vancouver Island from Greek refugee camps where I met a Yazidi man named Jason who told me about his escape from ISIS in Iraq.   His story begins on a desert road where a...

Vancouver's bicycle sharing grows as 15 new stations installed

Mobi bicycle by Shaw Go in Vancouver. Photo by Christopher Porter from Flickr Creative Commons

International Women's Day Concert celebrates female musicians who turned tragedy into triumph

Every March 8, on International Women's Day, we hear about the achievements of brilliant, talented women around the world. But how often do we learn about the physical and mental disabilities or...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.