By G.D. Maxwell
In the Village of Whistler, in the Land of Garibaldi, in the Kingdom of British Columbia, the tribes of Skiers and Shredders have come together to settle, once and for, the question burning deeply within the soul of both cults: Who is Better? Who is Right? Who has chosen the One True Path.
In social microcosms so secular they’re damn near atheistic, the tribes have migrated to this tiny, bucolic – but increasingly urban Ville de Plaisir – to duke it out with each other on the Sacred Slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb. At stake, at least in the minds of the combatants, is none other than the burning cross question of who sits at the right hand of God. Who can lay claim to embodying the Way, the Light, the Truth? If Vikings sail into Valhalla on a burning ship, will the disparate tribes of Mountain Kulture slide into Heaven on skis or boards?
Last year’s conclave of the tribes failed to answer the question. The Shredders thought their Big Air was bigger and airier than the Skiers’. "We smoked their sorry asses," said Shredder Headman Huck Meister whose innovative, hinged, 300cm board folded so cleanly at the apex of his jump he verily disappeared into it like a slice of mortadella in a skimpy hero sandwich.
"Bulls..t!" answered little Tye Jibberssonn, butting a roach into the blackened snow at the top of the Superpipe and jumping in on twin-tips turned up so high at each end it looked like he was riding a bentwood rocker.
The truth, like it so often is in Holy Wars, is lost in the noise of battle. The snow events of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival are, in fact, segregated in the extreme and fail to give voice to or answer the fundamental question. Grrls compete against grrls and boys compete against boys. Shredder vs. Shredder and Skier vs. Skier.
The Oooohs and Aaaahs of Big Air, Big Pipe and Big DudeCross events keep the tribes separate but equal. It is only on the ice they come together to settle things in the One True Spirit of Canada – Hockey.
In a bookended week of parties, events, sports, music, kulture and enough corporate logos to turn even the most mindless, jaded consumer into a rabid anti-globalization advocate, the Skiers vs. Shredders hockey game is an almost overlooked blip on WSSF’s radar screen. It shouldn’t be.
Last year’s game was ribald enough to draw the ire of our local Chief Wiggins and garner a new, definitional entry in the dictionary for the word idioblast. Finally, a forum to settle the burning question left hanging by the other athletic events. There were flashing skates, deft stickwork, enough beer to float a cruise ship, a lingering cloud of acrid smoke from those herbal jazz cigarettes the arena’s filters are still choking on… and hockey. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.