By Kristina Carroll

Loading onto a Whistler chairlift is like pulling up a seat at a stranger’s table—you never know who you’ll sit with or what stories they’ll have to tell.

Riding the lifts can easily turn us into silent voyeurs. Often the only sounds are the passing wind and crinkling jackets as we shift, sitting and watching the boarders and skiers carving and slashing below. However, dangling from this wire queue where time is measured by the space between lift towers, why not exchange a word or two with your chairlift companion? You’d be amazed by what a stranger can tell you in 20 towers or less.

On Whistler’s legendary Peak Chair (a quick one at only 12 towers) I once sat next to a petite, wispy woman stylishly dressed in Nike’s latest plaid jacket-vest combo. I commented that I liked her jacket, bashed the pricing, then segued into a rant about corporations while she nodded politely before softly mentioning getting her jacket at a discount.

“How?” I asked.

She had designed it. I fumbled over my apologies, picking the last bits of my foot from my teeth. With a sweet smile, she quietly said, “no worries.”

“So, do you see people on the mountain wearing stuff you designed?” I asked.

“Sure.” She pointed to a snowboarder wearing a unique jacket with a trout design and a girl in a bright puffy red jacket. Then she pointed to me, to my Westbeach Jacket. “I designed that, too. I used to work for Westbeach…years ago,” she explained earnestly. (While also unintentionally dating my fashion sense, or lack thereof.)

I looked ahead, 9 towers to the top. I asked her about the designing process. She happily explained– First she collects inspiration from all over: magazines, blogs, fabrics, even going so far as to sketch bathing suit patterns on the beach in Hawaii or sneak pics with her iPhone at the bar in Whistler when she thinks no one is looking.

7 towers left. She talked about designing the structure of the outerwear (measurements, buttons, flaps, stitches, the nifty little pocket to tuck your iPod) on her computer. This is called a tech pack.

3 towers left. The tech pack then goes through the gauntlet of a creative team, then to the factory for a prototype, then back to her for adjustments, then back through the creative team, then, then, then…

1 tower left. She finishes by pointing at me again. “Then you wear it.”

“Wow. Thanks,” I meant it for the story but suddenly I loved my trusty old jacket a little more, as well.

Lift the bar. We reach the Peak. Goodbye.

When you’re caught-up in Whistler’s bright, playful, high-energy vibe it’s easy to forget that this is a small place with huge culture. Much of Whistler’s art, movies, music, and yes, even fashion is inspired and created right here in the mountains, perhaps by someone sitting next to you. Despite the vastness of the view below, the chairlift can serve as a reminder of just how small of a world it really is.

Here’s a super quick Youtube panoramic of the views from Whistler’s Peak Chair.


Feet Banks moved to Whistler at age 12 so his parents could live the dream and ski as much as possible. He ended up living it too. After leaving home Feet did a few good stints in warmer climates and 4 years of writing school before returning to the mountains to make ski movies, hammer out a journalism career and avoid the 9-5 lifestyle as long as possible. He’s been a hay farmer, a hole digger, a magazine editor and has a jump named after him on Blackcomb Mountain, Feet’s Air. It’s tiny.