The Calgary/Banff/Lake Louise area in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was a hotbed of snowboard culture, starting with Ken Achenbach opening the Snoboard Shop in Calgary in 1983. Images of the shop team, which consisted of Ken, his brother Dave, Don Swartz, Jon Boyer, Doug Lundgren and friends, dropping big cliffs and shredding incredible pow lines were finding their way into the pages of snowboard mags across the world and naturally, it lured riders there to see what the fuss was about.
Enter a burly 17-year-old from Stouffville, Ontario named Dennis Bannock. Dennis liked what he saw and trekked east to Lake Louise. There, he joined a crew called Team Core., which included Allan Clark, Greg Todds (R.I.P.), Scott Newsome and Scotty McFarland (among others) who made names for themselves by truly pushing the limits of what had been done before—by bringing freestlyle to real mountains. The area’s light pow, rocky terrain, and the magic combination of the right people at the right time played a critical role in the development of big-mountain freeriding.
Soon after, however, some of the orginal Lake residents were lured west to Whistler, which was gradualy becoming the centre of the Canadian shred scene. As the Team C.O.R.E. members moved on, bringing their powerhouse brand of riding along with them, it had an indomitable effect on snowboarding as we now know it.
Snowboard Canada talked to Dennis Bannock, about those days of progress in the Lake and why he and many others had to leave them behind.
“When I moved to Lake Louise, I was 17 years old and it was a huge party. We lived in Charleston staff accommodation. It was basically, like, eight of us dirtbags in a four-bedroom unit. We had really good snow in ’89 and I was riding with Team Core: Scotty McFarland, Scott Newsome, Greg Todds, rest in peace, Dave Achenbach, Doug Fink, Tony Smith, Tim Nelson, Paul Nelson, Al Clark, Damian Buckley, Taylor Pearcey, a kid named Joel and Tony Hasenkrug.
“What attracted me to the Lake in the first place? My friend Jeff Oldham was living and working there the previous winter and came back to Ontario with stories of powder and cliffs he dropped. I was really over what was happening in Ontario, so my friend Matt and I drove out together. When we got there, we were a just a bunch of dudes living together who just wanted to party and ride a huge mountain with soft snow.
“We were frowned upon back then; we were the scourge of the mountain. We all wore flannels and no goggles; we wore sunglasses if it was a sunny day or if it was snowing. We’d just look like dirtbags back then with a lot of duct tape holding our shit together. We’d ride North Cornice, Two-Three Shoulder and the Movie Hit. If it was icy and we hadn’t had snow in a long time, we’d just end up doing Wewaxy 500s, our top-to-bottom jib run, jibbing every snowmaking device in sight.
“I lived there from ’89 to ’92 and riding was a gamble. Half of us were hung over—most of us were hungover—so we’d just toss our carcasses off stuff and hope for the best. I don’t think we were responsible for anything really except having a good time and perhaps making all the little kids running around on skis say, “fuck, this looks good—I want to do this. ” This was after the hot dog skiers were the scapegoats, and we actually became the scapegoats. People hated on us, just for our look, and we didn’t care. We were the trouble on the hill.
“But it was a good time. There was so much stoked energy from all of us to hurl ourselves off shit. We had a really tight crew that fed off each other, and we had to stick together since there were only a few of us snowboarders, so we really got the gears from the skiers in town. Some of it fun and some not, and there were a few run-ins with tourists that we had to take care of.
“Team Core had so much talent. It was awesome to be a part of that happening. The tricks we were doing? We were trying Mistys and spinning lots of Threes and Fives, a lot of Half Cabs, a lot of Backside Ones. I remember Greg Todds doing this Backside Five with a Ho-Ho, on a straight jump. It was called a GT Roll.
“But… we would always hear about how much snow Whistler was getting. It also sounded like the scene in Whistler was a little better: it had more than three bars, a skatepark and was closer to a city where it was usually 10ºC. Plus, Jeff Bzowy had moved there as well as my buddy Seb from Ontario. So, in the summer of ’92, I was fortunate enough to get a job as a sandwich boy at Camp Of Champions and I fell in love with Whistler Village—the skatepark, patios, new people and so many girls. It was great. It was a bigger scene and it felt like the right thing to do since I couldn’t really get into the Lake Louise summer scene. As soon as the winter was done and everybody was done working at the ski hill, everybody moved out. When I moved with Paul and Tim Nelson, Al Clark and Jeff Bzowy were already in Whistler and Kevin Young had already been here for a little bit. It seemed like the West Coast had more of a scene. Whistler’s just the hot spot.
“Moving to Whistler taught me how to ride elephant snot. Back in the Lake we were blessed with champagne powder and you could move straight from Ontario to the Lake and shred pow no problem, whereas if you come to Whistler you have to set your board back. It really helped my riding—definitely helped it.
“For the most part in Whistler we’d just try to go huge on the hit runs. Marc Morriset, Kevin Young and [Sean] Johnson were on the cutting edge so whatever they were doing was the shit to do back then. They were taking it to bigger jumps, taking it into the backcountry. I got to ride a few days with [Alex] Warburton, chasing him through the trees—that really helped my riding. It was cool. I’ve been living there pretty much ever since.”