Jumping Through Hoops— Whistler’s Fire & Ice
There’s something magical about watching a group of fire spinners performing in a heavy Whistler snowstorm. The primeval driving force of burning flames juxtaposed with the serenity of falling snow gives Whistler Blackcomb’s weekly Fire and Ice show an almost surreal, magical feel… And then the fireworks kick in and a dozen skiers and boarders start back-flipping through a ring of dancing flames. Then the real fun begins.
The Fire and Ice show is a Sunday night Whistler winter tradition that’s been wowing spectators for the past 13 years and local skier Mauro Nunez has been hucking through the burning ring since day one.
“The first year they had it was the year I moved to town,” Mauro says. “Back in 98-99. They were looking for dudes to jump through a flaming hoop and they were paying. That was good enough for me.”
So good in fact, that even as he rode the freeskiing wave to multiple sponsorships and a few years of traveling the globe, Mauro almost always made it back for his Sunday night show on the slopes outside the Garibaldi Lift Company.
“You do five or six jumps in training,” he explains. “Another six or so in the actual show– lets call it 15 jumps a night, 18 shows a year, times 13 years… you can do the math.”
That’s over 3500 jumps, although Mauro admits only about half of those are through the actual flaming ring. “We build that jump from scratch for each show. These days we aim for a 40-foot gap with an 8-foot step-down. It has been bigger, 55, or sometimes it’s only 25 depending on the snow. The ring used to be 10 feet diameter but now we use one that’s 12 feet. It’s not that bad. Once you’re in the air you’re already though the hoop.”
While he admits to crashing on the landings “many times” Mauro has never hit the ring or lit himself on fire. “Myles Ricketts is the only guy who ever took out the ring,” he laughs, “knocked it right over.” Ricketts escaped unscathed. A film stuntman once heard about the show and jumped through in a professional flame suit.
“Even his head was on fire, people went nuts,” Mauro says. “Usually it’s just us though but people still really love that show—the fireworks, backflips, front flips. Then the jumpers come down and high-five the kids. It’s fun.”
But is it scary?
“It can be nerve wracking,” he admits. “We build the jump fresh so the takeoff is never solid, the landing can be soupy. There’s a crowd, some people are not used to that. Plus sleds zooming around, lights, the fire…”
Despite all this, Mauro says he’s never had nightmares about his job. “God no. Not about jumping anyhow. Maybe now that I have to organize all the performers and firespinners and make sure everyone shows up on time. Now that I am in charge it is kind of stressful. The switch backflip through the fire is the easy part.”
The Fire and Ice show take place every Sunday night throughout the winter. Click here for times and location.
Also, here’s a Youtube video of a Fire and Ice show from a few years back.