Opinion » Alta States

Alta States

Living the dream



By Michel Beaudry

She comes by her sense of adventure honestly. “My mother was a keen skier,” says Lisa Richardson, “but my dad wasn’t. When they eventually broke up, mum decided that skiing would become our family holiday thing.” No big deal, right? When you live in Vancouver or Seattle or even Denver, skiing as a family sport makes a great deal of sense. But when you live in semi-tropical Brisbane, Australia — a 20-hour drive from the nearest ski hill — the concept takes on a much more adventurous hue.

“She is an amazing lady,” adds Lisa with a laugh. “One year she had a horrific crash on the hill and suffered multiple fractures. But that didn’t stop her from driving us home at the end of our holiday…”

Inspired by their mother’s heroics, Lisa and her brother Tony pursued their love affair with skiing. “I was at the half-way point of a combined degree in arts and law in Brisbane,” recounts Lisa, “when my mother suggested that Tony enrol in the Dempsey ski teaching program at Whistler. As my brother’s lifelong skiing companion, I decided he needed a buddy for the trip.”

Tony and Lisa arrived at Whistler in the fall of 1994. “The snow was fantastic that year,” remembers Lisa. “Unfortunately, my brother tore all the ligaments in his ankle the first week, so he was confined to the couch for a while.” Not Lisa. She passed the Dempsey program with flying colours and took to ski teaching with alacrity. “I went back to university in Australia and taught skiing there that summer. It was incredible!”

Meanwhile, Tony had opted to stay at Whistler. So when the next fall came around, Lisa decided to rejoin her brother and teach for a few months before her law classes resumed in January. “It was weird,” she says of her second trip. “My friends had all moved on. It was a really different experience. I kept asking myself: ‘What am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?’”

And then there was this Canadian friend who said: ”If you want to stay in Canada, I’ll marry you.” Or the taxi driver who told her: “You should find a Canadian man to marry.”

She snorts in disgust. “That was truly bizarre,” she says. “I had a lot of plans for back home. I certainly had no intention of staying in Whistler full-time.”