"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature... Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
- Helen Keller
He's one of Whistler's truly iconic characters. Along with the likes of Jim McConkey, Nancy Greene, Dave Murray and Rob Boyd, tough-guy Eric Pehota played a unique role in the development of Whistler's brand-identity during the resort's formative years. On this point there's no doubt — the town wouldn't be the same without him.
Know what I mean? In conjunction with his photogenic partner-in-crime, Trevor Petersen, Pehota showed the extreme-ski world of the late 1980s and early '90s just what West Coast Canadians could do in scary alpine settings. Petersen was the front man, the handsome pony-tailed skier whose picture everyone wanted for the cover of their magazines. But it was Pehota who set the beat. And with his mountaineer's squint and his northern B.C. straight-talking ways, he brought an edge to the duo's hairball ski adventures that harkened all the way back to the crazy days of Dag Aabye.
Some of those exploits — now over 20 years old — have yet to be matched. Some likely never will be. But don't try asking Pehota about his skiing legacy. He's far too busy with his own life to stop and contemplate his place in Whistler history. And as far as he's concerned, that's exactly the way it should be.
"There's more to life than being famous or making a lot of money," he says. "For me it's all about balance and sustainable living. I'd like to think that if the grocery store closed tomorrow, my family would still be able to survive through the winter without starving."
And he's not just spewing here. The Pehota family — Eric, Parveen, and sons Logan and Dalton — is virtually self-sustaining. "We have a pretty sizeable garden," he explains, "and Parveen does a lot of her own canning. We also raise chickens year-round and turkeys in the summer. In the fall I go out hunting with the boys and try to fill the freezer with some game." He smiles. "I built a sawmill on my property and I have an extensive workshop too — so I can pretty much do the building and maintenance stuff myself. It all works out in the end. We work hard, sure, but we're more independent because of it."
I decided to catch up with Pehota after he'd proudly posted a Facebook message about 16-year-old Logan being named to Powder Magazine's "Top twenty Skiers Under Eighteen." We hadn't crossed paths in years. Time to re-connect. Besides, it might be fun to find out what that old coot was up to. I mean, the guy was 47 now. Surely he'd slowed down some. I should have known...