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Opening the Mountain Flood Gates

Winter's official start marked by lift line reunions

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nadia samer

revving into stardom

Growing up on Vancouver Island and frequenting Whistler at any early age, Nadia Samer had a childhood that many locals would envy. But she also grew up tough, asserting her independence early, which she demonstrated when she hitchhiked from Whistler to Vancouver for her first ACL surgery and returned on the bus, all at the age of 14. Now 25 years old and 11 knee surgeries later, Samer is in a comfortable niche of sled-assisted big mountain skiing and continues to push her own limits in the male-dominated world of snowmobiling.

Pique: Where and when did you learn how to ski?

NS: My first time on skis was on Blackcomb; my parents had a condo here that they bought in the late '80s. My dad had been skiing Whistler since 1969, my siblings and I all did kids camp and after a few years of that we just chased my dad around the mountain. So I've been skiing Blackcomb since I was one and a half years old. We were living in Campbell River at the time, so we'd be over once a month or so to Whistler, otherwise we would spend the weekends skiing Mt. Washington.

Pique: When did you get into snowmobiling and what was your motivation to make that investment?

NS: I bought my first sled when I was 18 and still racing ski cross and competing in big-mountain competitions. I saved up money for, like, three years and paid in cash, it was like watching three years of construction, painting, blood, sweat and tears being handed over the counter.

I really enjoyed big mountain skiing and I felt like I needed to get (into the backcountry) to get the big lines. I really like a challenge and it seemed like all the guys doing film and photo work were using sleds to get to the tops of lines in the backcountry. It seemed like the natural progression. I'd say about 60 per cent of the time I'll have skis with me, sometimes when it's super deep and storming you're not going to have the visibility to go after big lines on skis. With a snowmobile you can mess around in the trees and flatter areas and still get that "riding pow" experience even if it's flat or uphill.

Pique: What does Opening Day mean for you?

NS: I've been lining up for opening days for longer than I can remember. When I was working construction my site superintendent was a real passionate skier, and we would always get opening day off if it were on a weekday. In the past few years since I've been going to university, luckily it's lined up that I can get to class later that afternoon or not have classes scheduled at all.

It's the start of a milestone; it's right before my final exams and I have this whole build-up of work, stress and dealing with sponsors and film companies. I really don't have much of a social life around school, so on the opening day line-up I like to be there really early and hang out in the corral. It's the first time (for the season) that I get to see all my winter friends, all my ski friends. It's like a reunion of sorts.

Pique: What is your favourite run or zone?

NS: I ski Blackcomb 99 per cent of the time, unless I'm with snowboarders who happen to want to be on Whistler, or if I want to hit Air Jordan I'll line up at the Peak Chair super early. I love Chainsaw Ridge and I love Spanky's Ladder. I love long, steep runs and like to open it up with big Super-G turns on open faces where you can come screaming out the bottom.

Pique: What's on your radar for this season?

NS: I'm involved with the Pretty Faces all-girls ski movie, and I'm also shooting Shades of Winter 2. I have four girls coming over from Austria to film here in Whistler for two weeks in February and March. It will be some in resort, but a lot of it will be sled-ski based. I'm stoked to get them out on sleds. I also just bought a speed wing so I think I'll be bringing out the skis a bit more this year because a parachute makes everything more fun.

Pique: Speed wing? Explain.

NS: It's where you take off with a parachute smaller than a paraglider, and you can take off cliffs or steep runs with the chute open. You touch down, lift off and ski off cliffs. It's huge in Europe and it's just starting to blow up here. I went a few times last spring and it changed everything. All the lines that don't go, suddenly work.

 

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