Whether you count yourself a snow-sport lover or not, there’s no more arresting sight than when November rain clouds lift to reveal the North Shore coated in white. Can’t wait? Then delve into the next-best thing: pristine images of skiers and snowboarders knee-deep in a winter wonderland.
Freeskier Mike Douglas knows all about winter. Growing up in Campbell River in the 1980s, he convinced his high-school English teacher to accept a self-produced film for an essay assignment rather than a handwritten text. The result, “Born to Ski”, shot on Super 8, pretty much summed up the trajectory he would take from then on: first as a member of the Canadian freestyle ski team, then as a pioneer of freeskiing in the 1990s, a “new school” approach to skiing inspired by the progression of snowboarding in half-pipe and slopestyle competitions.
In 1997, Douglas designed a twin-tip ski, the revolutionary Salomon 1080. Suddenly, skiers could go backwards down a slope and switch up takeoffs and landings with newfound aplomb. For this accomplishment, as well as his aerodynamic creativity, Douglas reigns as “the godfather of freeskiing”.
Interviewed at his Whistler production studio, Douglas told the Georgia Straight that he accepts that title without hesitation. “It beats being a nobody,” he said with a grin.
Douglas globetrots nonstop. Last year, his film company, Switchback Entertainment, produced 50 snow-sport-related assignments, from Salomon Freeski TV episodes to a feature-length documentary, Snowman, in which he costarred with high-school friend and Born to Ski coproducer Kevin Fogolin, an avalanche technician.
Earlier this year, Whistler Blackcomb approached Switchback to make the just-released “50 Years of Going Beyond” in celebration of Whistler Mountain’s golden jubilee. As a central player in that history, Douglas found himself once again filling dual roles. “It is intimidating,” he admitted. “In the last couple of projects, I’ve been both a character and a director. I definitely felt some weight having lived here half my life and always having looked up to these guys.”
By “these guys” he means the original blue-sky thinkers who believed Vancouverites, tired of enduring long lineups on North Shore ski hills, would trek two hours north for something grander; at the same time, the hope was to catch the eye of Winter Olympic Games organizers. Judging by how things turned out, they got that right.
Watch “50 Years of Going Beyond” below.