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Living Large

The culture of extreme skiers

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Page 5 of 10

"Nature and it’s beauty and solitude."

Not everyone I talked with was as introspective and thoughtful as J.D. or even Joe. Chris Winter is 29, an age when thoughts of settling down might begin to cross the minds of some of us mortals. But Winter still espouses a live-for-today attitude.

Although there is an important distinction between the sort of extreme skiing J.D. and Joe are involved with and what Chris does. The former are more backcountry ski mountaineer types, while the latter is a free skiing, big air guy.

Chris makes no excuses for the lifestyle he leads or the dangers involved.

"If I die tomorrow it would be sad, but I would hope that everyone who knew me remembered that I was living large."

But why? Why this obsession with living on the brink?

"It has to do with getting close to death and feeling alive, it’s not the actual going down the hill it’s the lifestyle. We’re a unique group of people living life to its fullest."

It may sound like rampant testosterone, but it’s hard not to be at least a little charmed by Chris’s unrestrained enthusiasm. He may talk of dying, but you get the impression that this is one person who doesn’t see it happening to him. And in talking with him I sense that he is someone who doesn’t just love life, but is in love with it and all it has to offer.

He mentions that he is just back from Europe (mostly Verbier). How does it compare to Whistler or even North America in general, I ask.

"It’s going off, it’s a free for all!"

He goes on to explain that the obvious trend in North America is a clamp down on safety, and he prefers the European attitude where one is usually expected to take responsibility for oneself.

But no matter how invincible you may feel, people do die in this sport. I ask Chris if there has been anyone close to him who has died in the pursuit of living close to the edge.

"There was one person, Brett Carlson."

Brett Carlson was killed last year while attempting to jump a road at Taluswood. At the time he was being filmed for a locally produced video on extreme sports called Parental Advisory. I ask Chris why an experienced skier would attempt a jump that to an outside observer would appear to be suicidal?