When you look at the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains today, it’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time when snowboarders weren’t allowed to ski on the mountains. For over a decade, only skiers were out in the Whistler Valley until Blackcomb Mountain was the first mountain in our region to welcome snowboarders in winter 1988-89 (Whistler Mountain followed the next season).
Blackcomb soon became a freestyle snowboard mountain. Before the first official terrain park was built in 1993, Stu Osbourne, who started working for the mountain in 1990, remembers snowboarders and skiers who take their breath off the wind lip on a glacier. “Here I saw the first photos of Ross Rebagliati and Doug Lungren. I think he was one of the guys who had one of the biggest breezes that the wind had ever blown,” said Osbourne.
Rebagliati started skiing and was a ski racer for the Grouse Mountain Tyees. During his school days, some of his friends convinced him to try snowboarding.
“I started snowboarding before we could” snowboard “,” said Rebagliati. He defined culture as underground. When snowboarders were finally officially welcomed on Blackcomb Mountain in 1988, he came with some friends from Vancouver on the opening day and was one of the first snowboarders to ride the Blackcomb chairlift.
In 1987, when Rebagliati was 16, he attended the first snowboard camp in Canada. The camp was led by Criag Kelly, who portrayed Rebagliati as Wayne Gretzky of snowboarding. At the camp, Kelly’s appreciation for Rebagliati’s talent gave him the confidence to seriously practice the sport, including joining the Burton team.
Snowboarding started in the 1990s and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan were the first to include snowboarding. As a Whistler local, Rebagliati became the winner of the first Olympic gold medal for snowboarders and beat the silver medalist in the men’s giant slalom by 0.02 seconds. However, his win became uncertain when a urine sample showed traces of marijuana. Rebagliati’s medal was taken away, but eventually returned to him. He insisted that he only inhaled used smoke and didn’t smoke at all even before the competition.
Rebagliati did not withdraw from the World Cup too long after his Olympic victory and did not compete at the 2002 Olympic Games. He worked a lot on media projects, started his own snowboard and built a house in Whistler, which he described as “the house that bought snowboarding”.
In the past three decades, snowboarding has become firmly established as part of the Whistler community, and many celebrated snowboarders have trained in both Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains. However, the museum lacks information about the sport and athletes in our collection, perhaps because snowboarding is still considered a fairly young sport.
If you have any snowboard stories you’d like to share, please visit us at the museum! We’re looking for personal reports, photos, artifacts, and more to fill the gap in our collection and ensure that Whistler’s snowboard history is documented as well as the history of downhill skiing.