Behind Extremely Canadian
It all began in 1994 when renegade freeskier Peter Smart and comrades introduced a new kind of ski instruction to Whistler, BC. They set out to teach adventurous skiers how to attack the steeps with more confidence and control, but revolutionized ski instruction while they were at it; bringing clients to places and doing things that a traditional ski school wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Extremely Canadian is still all about big-mountain skiing. Specializing in all-mountain guiding and coaching on the twin giants of Whistler and Blackcomb — with 5,000-feet plus of vertical and a combined 8,000 acres of skiable terrain — Extremely Canadian’s Steep Skiing Clinics are all about improving and refining your off-piste technique. They’re also about finding the wickedest terrain and best snow: chutes, bowls, couloirs, trees and steeps will all become second nature to participants. Diving head first into the increasingly popular backcountry realm, they are also dominating the limitless expanse of ski touring and split-boarding options in the lift-assisted Coast Mountains surrounding the resort. Conquer the Spearhead traverse, or catch a full day of untracked runs with our vast knowledge of the area. None other than the legendary ex-president of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG), Keith Reid, spearheads this program. Of course, to round out their repertoire they are also offering Avalanche Skills Training (AST) Level 1 & 2 courses to better prepare skiers and riders for their backcountry independence. With guides hand-picked from the pantheon of Whistler ski luminaries: film stars, ex-national team members, and free-ski heroes, you can’t go wrong.
Now that seems like a simple formula for success, right? Well, it wasn’t all that obvious back in the summer of ‘94, when life-long ski freak Peter Smart read about the Egan and Deslauriers brothers bringing their steep-ski clinics to Whistler from Vermont. “Hey,” he grumbled, “we have plenty of local talent around here who can do that job, and they know the mountains.” Jill Dunnigan, playing her usual role of motivator while Pete lounged in the summer heat, gently urged him to “put up or shut up”. Smart wrote a proposal letter to both Sunshine Village and Blackcomb Mountain, and they pounced on the idea. The next move was a cross-country drive to kidnap cohort Greg Dobbin, who grew up racing and skiing with Smart at Quebec’s esoteric Mont Glen, and was currently playing municipal politics in Cowansville, Quebec. Having lived in Whistler for three seasons, Greg was known as a local mountain goat; a go anywhere, do anything guy. Add this to his political diplomacy credentials and it fit in well with what Pete and Jill were thinking of. Pete’s other background in motorcycle racing, it should be mentioned, has had no — well, little — effect on how he runs his clinics.
Back in Whistler they wrestled free-ski diva and Warren Miller star Wendy Brookbank into the fold, set up shop on a handful of borrowed change, and ran five clinics that winter on Blackcomb and one at Sunshine. Peter, Greg and Wendy all had the same ability to ski long, fluid big-mountain off-piste lines and communicate the hows and whens of this kind of skiing. Plus a ton of local knowledge. Skiers took notice and in the 95/96 season, the number of clinics climbed to 15. The Extremely Canadian train had left the station. Not everyone was happy of course. Locals razzed Extremely Canadian about showing tourists all the good lines and secret spots. In fact, one friend’s displeasure made Wendy cry. She got over it. Everybody did. Nowadays local mountaineers and hotshots call Extremely Canadian asking if they can guide for them. It’s an indication of changing times: ski bums creating a career for themselves by doing what they love, and loving what they do.
Sponsors and partnerships followed with Rossignol and Columbia Sportswear, who’ve been committed ever since. Still, there were the usual business growing pains. An excerpt from Jill’s 1996/97 diary: Did a deal with Whistler & Blackcomb (one year prior to the merger). “Sold our soul and paid double commissions to the mountains and offered clinics twice weekly (36 in total). Worked our asses off. Hired more people. The Whistler/Blackcomb merger was announced. Pay-off came when the mountains cut their specialty programs (outside contractors) from over 18 to one — us. Still growing; up 20%. Ate a lot of Kraft Dinner that year.”
Since then they’ve run full tilt every winter from December to mid April. Sunshine was dropped due to lack of numbers, but exciting Extremely Canadian guided ski trips to mountain resorts around the world were added starting in 97/98. Now the ‘Extremely Canadian World Tour’ as it’s dubbed has grown into it’s own, offering epic week-long guided ski trips to the best freeskiing meccas around the globe, always seeking the next untapped powder haven. Spin a globe with your eyes shut and put your finger on it; odds are you’ll hit an area Extremely Canadian has guided a trip through, or will be soon.
99+% of clients claim they will be back for more action (and this apparently has nothing to do with their infamous après-ski at Merlin’s bar). Kudos pile up for both the clinics and its guides: Wendy made North Americas top 50 skiers in a 1999 POWDER magazine. And the same year, for the first time, Peter, Greg and Wendy all appeared in the prestigious POWDER Photo Annual. In 2000, Peter was voted one of the top 100 ski instructors in North America by SKIING magazine. And in 2005 MEN’S JOURNAL voted Extremely Canadian best ski school. In the years to follow, their growing staff has been plastered throughout international ski publications from cover shots to articles, biographies and more; too many to name.
Not bad for a little summertime notion. Care to join us?