Photojournalist
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Portrait of a Mountain Town:

Revelstoke

Small Town. Big Mountains. Classic Kootenay Charm.


I stretched across the bench seat with my right hand, grabbing a flannel while trying to keep my eyes straight ahead. My eyes squinted at the “light-speed” effect of snow and sleet. I wiped the foggy inside of the windshield—more of a smear than clear, but at least I could make out the lights of oncoming vehicles snaking ahead. A semi rolled past me, kicking up a maelstrom of snow and dirt. At least my wipers still worked. Kinda. I should’ve expected something like this upon taking my (new to me) 1997 Ford on its maiden voyage to Revelstoke. Access is anything but easy—but that’s what brings me here year after year.

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The Gauntlet

Driving Rogers Pass in blizzard conditions is a rite of passage for anyone who makes
the pilgrimage to Revelstoke.

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Slow. Down.

Rogers Pass sees more fatal vehicle accidents than almost any other highway pass in Canada, despite seeing far less traffic than its metropolitan peers.

Rogers Pass is the kind of place that inspires excitement and fear in the hearts of almost everyone who winds up Highway 1 between Golden and Revelstoke. The snow is among the finest in the Kootenays; the avalanche danger is among the highest. The views from the road are spectacular; the number of vehicular accidents is staggering.

Finally, I began to recognize familiar signs that I was close. I pulled into the truck stop—my traditional stand-by campground, and collapsed exhausted across the front seat, not even bothering to get into my makeshift bed in the rear.

The following morning I learned what I had already deduced: the heater core in my truck was toast. A stellar start for someone planning to car camp the next two winter months along the Powder Highway.

Ah well, you risk it to get the biscuit out here. And in the Kootenays, the biscuit is the lightest, driest champagne powder you’ve probably ever skied. Lucky for me, finding old Ford parts is easier in Revy than in any major metropolitan center. A quick lap around the town uncovers a nostalgia for the way mountain towns once were, before the Aspens and Vails of the world were taken over by droves of Ferrari-driving trust-funders more interested in boutique village shops than chest-deep powder in the glades off the Stoke Chair. Revelstoke has remained, by and large, unchanged: Old trucks, ski bum Delicas, cheeky signs, semi-pro hockey and overcrowded pubs—it’s all there, for the better. It’s classic, quintessential salt-of-the-earth Kootenay charm.

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If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Just keep on truckin’.

As a hopeless romantic, I adore the nostalgia. But there is, of course, that other reason people come to Revy. It looks something like this:

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Frequent Flyer

Earn your turns (& flight time) in the backcountry.

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out there.

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In Deep.

I love shooting skiing. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s good for the soul. Every day is different, unique, a welcome challenge.

However, as a photographer, I felt constrained by the short daylight hours and variable avalanche conditions in the backcountry. And as a photojournalist, I knew there was more to the story than I was capturing in the backcountry and on the hill. So on days when it was too risky to tour or I returned as the light was fading, I roamed town, camera in hand, hoping to catch a real glance of the soul of this town.

When I hit the streets I began to notice trends I hadn’t seen in other mountain towns. This wasn’t a party town like Whistler or an old-money resort like Vail; around every corner I saw families enjoying winter across the generations, filled with an energy only fresh snow can bring. I was reminded of my upbringing in quaint, rural New England.

And it wasn’t only parents and children frolicking in the snow—it seemed everyone was out on the streets between last chair and last call. Snow or shine, this was a place where people still lived, ate, drank, worked, shopped, and hung out in the city center. It gives vibrant life to even the stormiest of nights, and fills downtown with a welcoming atmosphere for locals and tourists alike.

As a longtime (three-year) inhabitant of my truck, I have a deep appreciation for places that embrace the transient and frugal vehicle-dwelling community. It’s a recognition that, no matter where we’re from or what we’re worth, we’re all here for the same reason. And seeing a groggy-eyed neighbor putting on ski boots outside their tent, a light flicker in the car tucked in the back of the truck stop, or nine Aussies raucously sharing a two-bedroom apartment (good on ya’ mates!) confirms that we are all in this together.

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Downtown Apartment

Rent: $0.00

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Ski bumming.

Luxury Accommodations.

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#VanLife

Not just a hashtag.

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Nuking

(up here it has nothing to do with Trump or North Korea.)

It’s that togetherness that sets Revy apart from other ski destinations. We’re all here for the same reason. You can check your ego back in the metropolitan cities 400km in either direction. This is a community bonded at the deepest level: for the love of winter and mountains.