Opinion » Alta States

Alta states

The Norwegian connection – Creating a legend in Whistler



Page 2 of 4

Ornulf would not be denied. "So finally they give in and we head up north in the Volkswagen van together," he continues. Picture it: it's still September. Still beautiful outside. But the road beyond Squamish is barely passable. In fact, it's not much more than a gravel track for most of the ride. Fortunately there's not a lot of traffic and they make it to the base of the mountain safely. "We get there early - we have the whole day ahead of us," he continues, "so I convince them that a walk up the gondola run would be fun. Of course we take our skis with us..."

He admits he never imagined just how far away the top of the mountain was. "Well, we eventually make it all the way to the Roundhouse," he says. "I'm impressed - those guys have kept up pretty well. But they're definitely flagging." Their madness is rewarded however. "There's already snow on the ground - quite a bit up top actually - and we get to ski all the way back down to the mid-station shack on Red Chair," adds Ornulf. He barely finishes his sentence before a guffaw escapes. "Well, to be honest, there was a hell of a lot of logs and stuff still on the ground. It was more hop-skiing than anything else..."

Back in Vancouver, Johnsen set about his new marketing tasks with the zeal of a true believer. But it wasn't easy. "I figured the best way to get the word out about our school was by working through already-established organizations," he explains. "So I decided to set up some pre-season conditioning programs with the YM and YWCA." He stops speaking. Sighs happily. "I loved those YWCA sessions. That was my introduction to Vancouver women."

Meanwhile, Ornulf's relationship with his erstwhile partners was beginning to fray at the edges. "I soon realized that Roy saw himself as the ski school director, not me," he explains. "He wanted me to be the chief instructor instead. But that wasn't the deal we'd agreed on. I was super disappointed. I didn't really know what to do. Should I just drop everything and join my friend Per in Aspen? I didn't know..."

A ski bum at heart, Ornulf couldn't bear to skip town without spending a little more time exploring Whistler's vast domain. And once he'd strapped his skis on, he couldn't leave. "As soon as the mountain opened and I saw what was really up there, I decided it was worth sticking it out," he says with a little kid's grin splashed across his features.