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Boundless enthusiasm

Transforming ourselves and the skiing industry by stepping outside the boundaries. Lisa Richardson checks in on how Whistler Secondary keeps the love of alpine fresh in students through its outdoor rec leadership course.

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Stuart Rempel has a sickness. The Senior VP of Marketing and Sales at Whistler-Blackcomb set an addiction in motion 137 months ago that he’s now powerless to stop.

Every month, every single month of the year, be it November or July, he goes skiing.

It started as a game. Back when he was working with K2, it was a joke among the boys, a friendly workplace competition. They’ve all since dropped out. Rempel is going strong.

"It requires a little ingenuity and some hiking a couple of months of the year to keep it going," he said. "It’s a sickness. I read of two guys in the States who have now skied for 218 months. Skistreak.com guy posts his stuff and he’s at 13 years. I’m not trying to break any record. I just go because I love skiing."

It’s a personal game, but one that gives a busy corporate executive an excuse to strap on his boards when there are deluging in-trays full of excuses not to. It’s a game that has injected a whole level of adventure into skiing, and kept his passion for the sport strong 35 years on.

Keeping "the stoke" of babyboomers, of teens, of everyone who tries the sport for a week or a weekend, is critical to the success of skiing and snowboarding as an industry, and to Whistler’s success as a resort. The moment skiing and riding become something people can take or leave is a capsize point that should send us all racing for the liferafts.

After all, sliding is so inherently addictive that an entire town has sprung up in Whistler made up of people who "came for a season," and found excuses to stay. From the mayor to Whistler-Blackcomb’s Senior Leadership Team to the President of Tourism Whistler, the village VIPs are regularly seen on the hill. Which gives us a common vernacular.

But do Whistler kids speak the same language? For every young local freerider or racer, there are plenty of Whistler teens who shrug off the mountain, happy to leave it lurking in the skyline. Happy to leave it, full stop.

Whistler Secondary School student Adam Woods, on skis since he could walk, admits, "I was getting bored there for a while with skiing. I got my ski instructors level 1 last year, and that didn’t really interest me."

Apathy isn’t so unusual for a teenager, but Whistler youth might be our canaries in the coal mine. Maybe their stoke isn’t being fuelled. Maybe, the Whistler-Blackcomb experience has become too packaged, too safe, too sterile for them.

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