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Whistler still a 'second home' for Montgomerys

Pique catches up with Olympic champ during visit back to resort



On his ongoing trek across Western Canada, there was no way Jon Montgomery was going to skip Whistler.

The resort's favourite skeleton champion/reality TV-show host/beer drinker was back in town last week with wife Darla, who's also a retired member of the Canadian skeleton team, and their dog Stark as part of an extended summer vacation and promotional tour for GoRVing Canada.

So at the same time as the second season of Jon's The Amazing Race Canada has been airing on CTV, the Mongomerys have been making a memorable journey of their own, covering four provinces in their RV while stopping at weddings, a 20-year reunion of Jon's bantam hockey team and, most recently, some downtime in Whistler.

Pique met up with the Montgomery clan back at the site of Jon's 2010 gold-medal triumph, the Whistler Sliding Centre, to hear about their trip, their recent move to B.C., and some memories of Jon's famous march through Whistler Village — beer in hand after winning Olympic gold — that officially jump-started his celebrity status.

Pique: What have been some of your favourite places to visit on this RV tour?

Darla: Well, Whistler is one of my favourite spots in general, but we've never been able to camp here before, just because we were always training or competing. So it's cool to be here for the first time camping and experiencing it through those eyes. But I would say Premier Lake, B.C.

Jon: She went there as a kid with family, and it's this tiny, tucked-away lake between the mountains, and you'd never know it was there unless you're with somebody who's been there before. We've been together seven years and she finally took me. It was like I made the cut after two and a half years of marriage and she could let me in on the secret.

D: I just had to make sure, you know?

J: We did Riding Mountain National Park (in southwest Manitoba), which for me is fun; lots of memories growing up. We really enjoyed Tofino — that's where we just came from. Here, we're at the Riverside RV Park, and it's super convenient to get into town, bike paths and Scandinave Spa is close by.

D: We'll be hitting that up, for sure.

P: So even after filming two seasons of The Amazing Race Canada, you're not sick of travelling around this country yet?

J: It never gets old, and there's always a different way to do it. Doing it at breakneck speed with The Amazing Race Canada gives you an opportunity to go to some places and do some things you might want to come back and spend some time at. I'd love to get back to the Yukon. I've been there twice in the last two years and haven't even scratched the surface up there. And Whistler is always going to be on that list, no matter what. I don't know how many times we've been here in the last six or seven years, I bet close to 100 times, at least.

D: Whistler's like a second home. And we don't spend a lot of time here in the summer, so any chance we get to (is great.) It's completely different, but just as amazing.

P: You guys are brand-new B.C. residents, living in Victoria now. Why did you choose that as your new home?

J: In 2007 or 2008, I had pre-purchased a condo in Squamish because I loved being out here — this was before Darla and I had gotten together — but the development fell through. Then together, we looked at Squamish, we looked at Vancouver. We got married in Kelowna and thought about the Interior. Last year we were looking at moving outside of Calgary, but we were looking for water, and there wasn't a stitch of water to be had in Alberta.

D: After my (career-ending) concussion, I wasn't able to do a lot and I started paddling. It was super therapeutic. I was drawn to it, and now we're out paddling all the time in Victoria. It's become one of those lifestyles where we're thinking about going to New Zealand in January and we're like, "Let's make it a paddle trip." It's been sweet.

J: We wanted to get set up in a place where we could see ourselves long-term, enjoy the lifestyle and the weather and the sporting opportunities that it presents, so Victoria seemed like a good fit. And Darla found a school out there to begin studying holistic nutrition, and that's her next step.

P: Are you recognized more now as an Olympic gold medallist or as the host of The Amazing Race Canada?

J: I would say that "The Guy with the Beer" is still the prevailing association. Not everybody knows your name, but they remember The Guy with the Beer.

D: "You're the beer guy with the luge!" they say.

J: When somebody is trying to tell someone else who you are, you're like, "They don't know, leave it alone!" But then they'll always go, "You remember the guy at the Olympics with the beer?" and the response is, "Oh yeah! I remember The Guy with the Beer. You're that guy?"

P: Jack Knox at the Victoria Times-Colonist recently tracked down Keara Brennan, the girl who handed you the pitcher of beer. Are you planning to reach out to her?

J: Yes! I have her email address. I didn't want to send one off just haphazardly saying, 'Thanks for the pitcher of beer,' because it meant so much more to me than that. I want to sit down when I've got a moment and put together a letter that reflects the way I feel and say, 'Thank you.' She lives in New Zealand, so maybe we'll make an attempt to buy her a beer when we head there maybe in January, which is pretty cool.

P: Do you still have the bylaw ticket for drinking in public that Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair issued you?

J: I still have it. It's a bit tattered and all folded up, but I will do something with it someday — maybe get it framed with a picture of the beer walk incident. It will be a treasured piece that gets put behind glass. So if he pulls you over for speeding, you tell him Monty still has his ticket.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.