Words: Jen Girardi
Photos: Mitch Winton
Since the beginning of snowboarding there has been a sometimes not so quiet conflict with those who stand sideways and those who face forwards. Skiers fought to keep snowboarders off the mountain at first, but most changed their minds when they figured out we would pay for lift tickets. Slowly, skiing has learned from snowboarding, taking the concept of twin tips from snowboards and making their way into terrain parks everywhere. While skiers and snowboarders might ride the same terrain, until this past weekend they have always competed separately.
On Saturday, April 16th, 2016, Gibbons Whistler put on the inaugural Gibbons Style Session in front of the World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF) crowd. Featuring a never-before-seen format, the Gibbons Style Session paired up a skier and a snowboarder into a team of two. Teams rode the features at the same time, were scored as individuals, and then their scores were combined for an overall team total. The reality of low snow levels in the valley this winter in addition to tropical conditions for April in Whistler pushed Gibbons to come up with a creative solution for a ski and snowboard event to close out WSSF. The Gibbons Style Session took place in Skier’s Plaza in front of a packed crowd, with athletes warming up to Chromeo’s Set on the Festival’s Main Stage.
Each invited athlete had been given the opportunity to choose his or her own teammate; the only rule was that the chosen partners be the same gender, and of the opposite sport.
In total there were 19 teams of athletes with 24 men and 14 women who competed for a total of $17,000 in cash and prizes. An $8000.00 cash prize was awarded to the top men’s and women’s teams. With both the men’s and women’s teams riding the same course and format, Gibbons Whistler kept it classy and awarded equal prize money to men and women. Why? Because it’s 2016.
Whistler Blackcomb parks crew built an unique rail feature, consisting of two elevated cannon style tower tubes, that allowed athletes to ride the course at the same time. The Gibbons Style Session saw athletes get creative with their partners during this progressive contest format. In classic Whistler fashion the athletes and spectators keep going though rainy weather that eventually cleared up just in time for finals.
Blaine Gallavan came up from Bellingham, Washington, and took home the Best Style Award for putting down a Misty Five with a Hand Plant off the rail. Whistler local Ryan Manning won the Highest Individual Score Award with a 90.0 during qualifiers. Both Blaine and Ryan were awarded $500 bar tabs for The Longhorn Saloon and shared more than ten percent of those winnings with the crew at the Style Session after party. The finals saw the top five men’s and women’s team throw down for one last run. Contest killers Tyler Nicolson and Evan McEachran scored 177.5 and took the win for the men. Women’s finals saw the dream team of X-Games Gold Medalists Kaya Tursky and Spencer O’Brien earn the top score of 147.0 with stylish tricks and clean landings.
So it turns out that Skiers and Snowboarders can ride together. Who knows what’s next.