They’re known as the Greys on Trays, sixty-somethings who are psyched to snowboard. They head the Whistler gondola lineup on powder days and they rip on race boards. The new face of snowboarding is an old one.
Gary Baker will never forget the first time he saw a snowboarder on Whistler.
The teenager came from nowhere, hit his two-year-old daughter and sent her flying.
"I was ready to outlaw them then and there. I was furious," the 66-year-old recalled recently.
That was years ago. Baker was a seasoned skier and his sentiments were shared by many, ski resort owners among them.
Bans on numerous mountains followed but snowboarder numbers grew regardless, forcing skier acceptance.
"There were more and more (boarders). If you can’t beat them join them," was Baker’s take on the matter five years ago.
He took up boarding at 61, a sofa pillow unabashedly strapped to his bum.
"The first time I fell on my behind I saw stars," he said.
"I strapped and duck-taped a pillow there for the first few days after that.
"There were looks (from people) but none that bothered me.
"Most people on the bunny hills thought it was a good idea.
"Skiing came very naturally to me but boarding didn’t."
Good friends Dale Reynolds, Tom Thomson and Ron Slack were already on snowboards – distinctive racing or carving boards they still use most days.
Reynolds began at 50, leaving his skis in storage for a new pursuit he’d been watching develop over the years.
Like Baker, boarding had initially left him unimpressed.
"It was a very different board then – like a small surfboard with a rope on the front," he said of his first encounter with a snowboarder back in the late 1970s.
"He’d put some Sorrel boots on and kept them tight with bike inner tube elastics.
"I thought it was kind of stupid because nobody knew how to ride them.
"The next year I thought: some of them are having fun.
"The next year all of them were and the next year I was thinking: they’re having more fun than me."
Plenty of teenagers agreed.
A snowboarder’s average age was 17.2 years when Reynolds took up the sport, and almost all boarders were male.
As a 50-year-old beginner, he had nowhere to hide.
"I used to get strange looks but there were also guys in their 30s coming over in the line and asking how it was going.