There’s something pretty cool about a woman who celebrates her 50 th birthday by inviting all her friends to participate in a Loonie mountain bike race before launching her party proceedings. But then, you wouldn’t expect anything different from Cathy Jewett…
A Whistler resident for over three decades, the Toronto-born energy bomb has made a career of challenging the odds. Funny, competitive, enthusiastic, generous, outspoken — and tougher, pound for pound, than anybody I know — Jewett is a jewel in the rough. Always ready for action. Always ready for fun. Indeed, you only have to hear her cascading laughter once to truly understand how much this woman is in love with life.
Of course she’s not alone. At Whistler, women of all ages are re-defining the limits of the possible. From the young houndettes giving their male brethren conniptions on the steeps, to the hard-charging matrons still cutting it up like youngsters, the females in this valley are rarely defined as “shrinking violets”. Still, Jewett stands out.
But then that’s a big part of her charm. First as a liftee on Whistler, and then as one of the first female pro patrollers to be hired during the 1980 expansion drive, Jewett’s distinctive style and unbound passion for mountain life has endeared her to just about everyone who has ever worked and played with her.
“I can’t help thinking of my first year here during the 1976-77 winter,” she says. “I’d been hired to work at the top of the T-bar. But because it was such a dismal snow year it took a while for the T-bar to open. So I really didn’t have a job. But I was desperate. To get work, I showed up every day, even though I wasn’t called in, until they finally gave up and gave me a shovel.”
She laughs. “My first work memory is of getting sent to the Green Chair area to shovel snow onto the runs. Can you imagine how I felt skiing through snow with grass sticking out and not having a clue where I was going?”
But Jewett had a dream. She was going to make it at Whistler. And nothing — not rain, nor bad snow, nor lack of work — was going to stop her.
“I ended up working on just about every lift of the day,” she explains. “I was thinking this year about how the old Whistler gondola worked. It was pretty much manual labour: we’d push the cars around the bull wheel and when a light went off we’d send them up the mountain.”