She’s says she’s a West Coast girl through and through. No doubt. From the time she moved from Whitehorse to Sechelt when she was 10, the Sunshine Coast was her seaside playground. Water sports — swimming, fishing, dinghy sailing, paddling — that’s what defined her life in those early years. That is, of course, until Pam Barnsley discovered skiing…
“I was in my early 20s,” laughs the still youthful mother of three grown up kids. “My sister and I would take the Langdale ferry across Howe Sound and head to Grouse for evening lessons. Bad weather or good weather it didn’t matter. We had 76 cm skis on our feet and we were going for broke.”
Her husband Jaak had already learned to ski as a kid so he figured she’d soon get over it. But she didn’t. And anyone who knows Pam’s fierce will to learn can only smile at the young Sechelter’s determination to master this new form of (frozen) water play. “I don’t know why exactly, but I sort of became obsessed.” Then she laughs again and asks me if I need another cup of coffee.
We’re sitting in Barnsley’s kitchen-cum-living-room in the middle of suburban Whistler. The view out of their south-facing windows is a beautiful as anything I’ve seen anywhere in the community. Both mountains — Whistler and Blackcomb — act as living frames for a stunning panorama that includes pretty much the whole Spearhead Range. In the distance is Fissile Peak, and just beyond the crenulated slopes of Overlord Glacier.
“Nice view,” I remark.
“Yeah — it used to be.” And then she releases a big sigh. “See that monster tower on the west flank of Blackcomb?” I scan the slope where she’s pointing and can make out the dark skeleton of what must be a behemoth of a lift tower. “I think it takes away from the grandeur of the mountains. After Whistler spent so much for underground wiring this peak-to--peak gondola is going to look like the grand-daddy of power lines strung across the valley.”
I nod in sympathy. But we’re getting sidetracked…
Once hooked to skiing, Pam was no longer satisfied with the North Shore mountains. She was able to convince Jaak to join her for frequent weekend trips to Whistler. “It was the early 1970s,” she says. “The lineups were horrendous. Sometimes you just felt like you’d spent most of your day on the lift.” But there was no looking back.