Without a doubt, Whistler is a naturally beautiful place to visit or to call home, but it is the inner weavings of the Whistler community that breathe life into our town. While many get the opportunity to call Whistler home for a season, or a chapter of life, there are few that are able to grow permanent roots, but when they do, they shape our community. The Smiths are one of Whistler’s cherished families for exactly that reason.

Each family member has distinguishable passions and as individuals are actively carving their path while in their pursuit of happiness – yet uniting them is their love and commitment to their family. Not only does the Smith family set an authentic example of a real and unfiltered version of love for each other, but they are accepting of all, encouraging of passions, supportive during hard times and undeniably impacting the heartbeat of our town for the better because of their contagious approach to life.

From a young age Ben Smith, (dad) taught his kids:

“What matters most is finding the essence of you. Pro snowboarder, surfer, model, mountain guide – do whatever you want to do, but what is your essence? It’s different from your job and your passions. If you know what your essence is then you don’t have to hide.”

An empowering statement for us all. 

Julie and Ben Smith together in the snow.

The Story: The Smiths Move to Whistler

Originally from Ontario, Julie became a school teacher and taught all over the world pursuing unique opportunities. Ben and Julie met while they both happened to be living in Switzerland. When the two became pregnant for the first time, with their daughter Journey, they moved back to Ontario to be closer to more family. While in Ontario their second oldest daughter Irie (Ireland) joined the family. The more time they spent in Ontario, the more Julie’s soul begged to move west.

Uprooting to Vancouver, Julie shares:

“We didn’t have a vehicle, we had two kids and we were dirt poor.”

While Ben pursued a career Julie was a stay-at-home mom of now three as they welcomed their first son, the BC-born, Truth. When Truth was only 11 months old the entire family’s life changed completely. 

Julie suffered a traumatic brain injury while snowboarding. She has zero memory of the snowboarding accident that altered her and her family’s life forever. She changed. She was a new person. Her close-knit family bond kept her grounded through recovery.

“You can choose to press in instead of check out in these moments. And that’s what we did. We talked so much because I needed my children to understand that the mom they knew had died and come back differently. It’s an extremely hard conversation with young kids, and we have all suffered tremendously because of this accident.” 

Six weeks in recovery wasn’t enough to heal all, but a big breath of fresh air was brought into their family 11 months later in the form of Oak, the youngest Smith to join the family. 

“He was born into our family as a healer. He has an excitement for life yet remains calm, loving and accepting, he shares this healing balm with everyone he encounters.” 

Because of what happened to them, Julie and Ben deliberately brewed a family environment where they do their best to be compassionate and kind, working on being good listeners, who are willing to go to the depths with each other.

“Each one of us is so different on the outside, but on the inside we share the same values.” 

And then they started their love affair with Whistler. The frequent trips to the mountains began in 2008. The family would spend the whole summer in Whistler, and then gradually every weekend in the winter as both Irie and Truth took to the snowboarding community.

It wasn’t for everyone when they decided to make the move over ten years ago, but it was a move they made together. Each Smith family member has a view on Whistler and they have all felt it has equally impacted their life just as they have impacted Whistler’s community. 

The Smith Family pose in the summer in Whistler.
The Smiths together at Thanksgiving this past fall. PHOTO THE SMITH FAMILY

Meet the Smiths: One at a Time

Julie Smith

Pronouns: She/her

Tell us about yourself, Julie.

I am a Whistler local mother of four, a doula and a prenatal educator.

What do you love most about living in Whistler?

Whistler is such a beautiful, unique town. What first drew us here originally was the freedom our four children enjoyed being outside ALL day. When the kids were young we biked everywhere. Every day we would pack up and meet friends at the lake or skate park, and come home dirty, tired and content.

As the kids grew, like many, we made Whistler our full-time home. Our four are VERY different. Our middle two, Irie and Truth, fell in love instantly with mountain life. Snowboarding being at the forefront for both they instantly settled in. We were blessed with friends that quickly became family as most people here do not have a family.


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The kids roamed like a pack of wolves and on a daily basis you would find one of us moms rolling up to various lakes etc. and 12 kids spilling out. It was very free-range and incredibly safe. They learned about the elements and co-existing with wildlife from experience. They developed a deep respect for Mother Nature and what it meant to live in a close community with others. They learned to look out for each other and there was a simplicity to life.

What connected you most to the community?

I have been blessed to facilitate programs through Whistler Community Services for young mothers and expectant parents. Because there are few people with family here it became apparent there was a lack of support for these important transitions. What an honour to do this for years and to watch these kids and families grow.

Whistler is a very special community. It is not just about skiing and snowboarding. It is a place where you exist and commune with people you may never otherwise hang out with. You know your local barista, you know your cashier at the grocery store, you know your snowboard instructor and English teacher. It is a community with more diversity than first impressions may give you.

It is not just the Village. There is a greater community all around. I have found great delight in watching and witnessing my kids, and their friends, go into the world doing incredible, very different things. Some of them taking their passion for the mountains and making it their livelihood. And there is a greater joy now that our kids are grown to have them come home and appreciate this little town we so love.

What is the biggest impact Whistler has had on you?

The biggest impact Whistler has had on me is giving me the deep well of humans I have had the privilege of navigating life here with. Some have come and some have gone. All from different parts of the world, all with a common thread and interest in being outside, and the impact, the imprint, it has left on each of my kid’s hearts; all for very different reasons. There is, and always will be a very, very special place in my heart for this mountain town we have called home.


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Ben Smith

Pronouns: He/Him

Tell us about the transition to Whistler through your lens.

In 2001, we moved to Vancouver from Ontario with two kids who were one and two. We started snowboarding as a family at Mount Seymour and eventually settled in East Vancouver, where we had two more kids.

As the kids grew we started coming to Whistler as much as we could. Weekends turned into weeks, then entire summers until finally we rented a basement suite in a friend’s house and started coming every weekend, every holiday and every summer. After a couple of years of that, the kids announced, “We aren’t coming home and want to go to school and live here”.

So, we moved to Whistler full time and I commuted with the hopes of finding a more local job that could support the family. Unfortunately, I never found that job and kept working in Vancouver slowly trying to get to a spot where I could work remotely. COVID granted me the opportunity to finally work remotely.

We moved here for the love of the mountains. To have the best mountain in North America one and a half hours from the city and ocean, and in Canada, is pretty special. We made friends here and had deep connections raising our families together.

As I was working and splitting my time in the city, the kid’s activities were a great place for me to connect with other parents. I also got involved in municipal committees and joined the Transit Advisory Group, the Housing Affordability Taskforce, and the Design Panel. It’s there that I learned more about important municipal issues and expanded my network of Whistlerites.

Having worked for Michael Audain early in my career in Vancouver, I was fortunate to have a connection to the Audain Art Museum and have volunteered there, which provided a connection to the more artistic side of Whistler.

As I look to the future, I’m unsure if Whistler will stay home forever. I know for sure that the mountains and the outdoors will remain a part of my life. I still have the desire to live in a small town where people are connected by the shared desire to adventure, to get outside and live amongst nature.


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Journey Smith

Pronouns: she/her

Age: 22

Journey, tell us about your time in Whistler.

I grew up here and graduated from Whistler Waldorf, and then when I was 18 I moved to Vancouver island. I always knew I was an ocean lover so I didn’t truly resonate with the mountain lifestyle, however, what I did really appreciate was the experiences and opportunities I was given while growing up here.

I developed a love and respect for nature. I think moving away from Whistler has definitely made me appreciate it more when I come back. It makes me grateful for having had the opportunity to grow up in a small community where everybody knows each other; in a way it feels like a family.


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Irie Smith

Pronouns: She/her

Age: 21

Tell us about you and Whistler.

I moved to Whistler when I was 12 years old, although we were weekenders and summer-ers a few years before then. I begged my parents to move to Whistler probably a year before we did after I spent two days at the Waldorf School and loved it! I have learnt so much from living in Whistler, which I have been able to use throughout my adult life, living abroad and moving through the mountains.

I think Whistler is like the land of misfit toys, in the sense that people come here for different reasons and end up finding a family with people they may otherwise have never talked to. I especially love the community events hosted by Arc’teryx Whistler and the Whistler Blackcomb Ladies Nights, both offer a good way for people to learn things they may not have otherwise learned. It’s the little things about this place, like the knowledge that if I go into the Village I need to have at least an hour to spare because I will see at least three friendly faces to chat to.


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Truth Smith

Pronouns: He/him

Age: 18

What is the best part of Whistler for you?

The thing I love most about living in Whistler is the environment I’m surrounded by. I’m really lucky to be able to explore everything around me. I love doing that, whether it’s snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb or going for a hike through the woods behind my house, or, best of all, going to the lakes with my friend crew in the summer. It’s super cool to be able to have access to all that.

The skatepark connected me most to the community. I pretty much grew up there and quickly became a part of the great community that’s there.

Whistler has taught me to stay grateful. Growing up in Whistler is something many people dream of and being able to call this place my home makes me feel super lucky. I’m super grateful for that. 


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Oak Smith

Pronouns: He/ Him

Age: 16

What connects you most to Whistler?

If I’m being completely honest, as a young queer teenager in Whistler, I’ve struggled to find what I truly connect with in Whistler. I found as I’ve gotten older that I am very drawn to the earth and what it has to offer, especially in Whistler. I enjoy the cool lakes on a summer’s day, a rainy walk on the Valley Trail, and the colourful leaves that cascade over Whistler Village in the fall.

I love how many different people you get to meet and how many stories you get to hear. Whether it’s someone who’s living here or just passing through, everyone here has a story and a background.

Whistler will always be the place I grew up, the place I was raised, and the atmosphere I inhabited throughout my youth. I find that Whistler will leave a chill, nostalgic mark on me. I live in Whistler and have built a routine around this small town. I get my coffee, I go to the three thrift stores we have and I walk through the Village.

I see myself when I’m older coming back to Whistler in a light way. I tend to take for granted the beauty and infamy of this town, but deep down I am truly grateful for the people and experiences I’ve had here.


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Love by nature is something that evolves. It grows, it solidifies connections, it teaches and most importantly it brings joy. It’s apparent that the Smiths know a thing or two about love; falling in love with Whistler, the community, and offering unconditional love for each other’s individualism.

We hope you might consider falling in love with Whistler, whether that’s for a weekend, a vacation or a lifetime.


Abby Cooper is a Whistler-based photographer, splitboarder and dog mom who is always looking for new adventures to take her farther and higher. You can usually find her in the backcountry, surrounded by good people (and dogs).