“To normal people, it’s nothing. To us, it’s everything.”
Samuel Currie is talking about a long purple handrail that snakes down into Centennial Park in 100 Mile House.
A crew of snowboarders from Whistler have a ladder standing on Evergreen Crescent. There’s a wooden ramp attached to it that runs into snow piled up for a jump, so they can launch themselves at the rail and swoop down it – which they do, to varying degrees of success, repeatedly.
It’s nearly 5 p.m. on Feb. 15. The sky is grey and cloudy and light snow is falling. Alex Biel, 20, is holding a video camera.
He says they’re running out of light. They know. They’ve been calling it quits for 30 minutes. They’re trying to get the perfect shot, and it’s not easy.
Currie, 24, says this particular spot is a good one to snowboard because it’s easy to access, and the rail is famous.
“It’s kind of become infamous in the B.C. snowboard community.”
There are loud whoops from everyone when Currie slides down from the top of the rail and off the end – a trick he’s been working at since before noon. It’s the kind of shot he’s been looking for hours.
“You make it?” asks Matt Wanbon, 18, who didn’t see it after landing his own impressive trick minutes earlier.
“Yea,” replies Currie, his head down, walking back up the hill towards the ladder. “But I have a bit of daylight left.”
The crew of five – which also includes Maria Thomsen, 27, and Alex Ball, 21, – loaded up a minivan and left Whistler late on Feb. 14. They arrived in 100 Mile House at 3 a.m. and rented a room with two beds at a local motel. They planned on grinding more rails and shooting more video the next day at Buffalo Creek Elementary School, which is closed, near Forest Grove.
Thomsen is originally from Denmark. She moved to British Columbia seven years ago, and says she loves living here and snowboarding and has no plans to return home.
When asked why someone would leave Whistler – the snowboard and skiing capital of B.C. – and drive four hours north in a cramped minivan with tight accommodations to, all day long, propel themselves at urban infrastructure, she shrugs like it’s obvious.
“Street is a little more gnarly. You have to step it up a little bit. You can do all these tricks in the park, but you can’t land them so easy in the street.”
Wanbon echoes that point. He says there’s a big difference between riding in the park and riding on the street.
“At the park, everything is perfect. People maintain it. Professionals built it.”
However, there are consequences to riding here, he adds. Meaning it’s easy to damage yourself.
In the motel room, while cleaning up before dinner, Currie talks about how he thought the day went.
“No one got hurt, which is pretty good.”
Ball steps forward.
“I was pretty lucky, man.” He pulls up his pant leg and reveals a vertical red and blue gash about five inches long on his shin. “I got a rail right in there.”
“I guess I forgot about that,” Currie says.
Ball adds after he smashed his leg he thought he had better sit in the van a while. Then, after 30 minutes or so, he thought, “’I can’t just sit here and do nothing. I have to ride with my friends.’”
Considering it’s a public park and they were launching from a tight curve on a public street, everyone in the crew says they were pleasantly surprised with the response, and lack thereof, they received from people in the community. For the most part, if passerby was interested in what was going on they stopped to chat, or simply waved and smiled. Plenty of folks just drove right by.
They say no police or anybody from the District showed up. Currie says they understand there are issues with safety and liability. He adds if they get hurt, it’s on them, and not anyone else. He notes they try to be respectful wherever they go, and leave a place how they found it.
On this day, this crew is nothing if not determined. It’s evening and the temperature has dipped. Biel, the cameraman, is visibly irked with the “one-last-times” coming from the guys. Currie is resolutely climbing the hillside to squeeze in another run. He’s frustrated with himself for not landing the perfect, longest one.
“You can try something 1,000 times and it’s the worst feeling in the world [when you fail]. But, when you land it, man, nothing compares to that.”
Snowboarding drives you to succeed, he says.
“I can’t bring myself to stop.”