THE ORIGINS OF POLE WHACKING
Words by Donny O’Neill The saying goes that if you’re single in a ski town, and don’t know how to pole whack,...
Words by Ilanna Barkusky
Since the revelation gondola first began turning 12 years ago, Revelstoke Mountain Resort has emerged as an ample proving ground and home base for some of the most destined-to-shine big mountain skiers in the world. One bright example of late is the Blondes—a three-woman, backcountry wrecking crew who have been making louder amounts of noise with each passing year. Comprised of Quesnel, British Columbia, native Emily Childs, Calgarian Janelle Yip and Norwegian transplant Tonje Kvivik, this dynamic trio are the best three-for-one offering since Charlie’s Angels.
The road to Revelstoke was vastly different for each. Childs grew up in Northern B.C., where her parents took over Troll Resort from her grandfather, who opened it in 1972. With a house the same distance from the T-bar as the bus stop, she ended up taking many “sick days” during school, which served as a chance to hone her skills before making her way to “the place all the kids dreamed about, since it was in the ski movies we watched religiously,” she says.
To the east, Yip was born and raised in Calgary, and like many fellow Cow Towners, grew up skiing in Fernie, B.C. As a teen, she began competing in the park and spent most evenings clocking after-school laps at Canada Olympic Park. But once her love of competition faded due to a combination of pressure and costs, Yip opted out of applying to post-secondary in Calgary in favour of a move to Revelstoke.
Across the pond, Kvivik’s mom taught her to ski at the age of two, while being brought up in Berchtesgaden, Germany. At the age of four, Kvivik and her family returned to their roots in Kristiansand, Norway, two hours south of Brokke Alpinsenter, where they had a cabin and were regularly first in line on powder days. But after graduating high school, she realized she wanted to go back to the big mountains that surrounded her as a toddler. Her first stop was Serre Chevalier in the French Alps, where she lived for a year before making a pilgrimage to Canada, promptly applying for permanent residency after finding her state of mind “very stuck in this beautiful country.”
The Blondes came together during their first year in Revelstoke as they were initially discovering the resort. All three say it was a natural decision to join forces, and to convince each other to buy snowmobiles so they could begin exploring the backcountry while documenting their exploits. Their first online edit, Let’s Get Sketchy, immediately turned heads, thanks to double-stager cliff drops and backflips galore. Their next offering, How To Chuck Your Carcass, which was unveiled at the Intersection film contest during the 2018 World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler, cemented their hard-charging reputation as a crew to keep tabs on, and was honoured accordingly with the People’s Choice Award.
Each member of The Blondes draws from different influences due to their largely diverse backstories. Kvivik, for one, credits her brother as the biggest, stating, “He always believed in me, so it motivated me to push myself harder and learn new things.” She also looks to Childs and Yip for constant inspiration, and pinpoints their ability to work well together as the reason for their growing following. Childs considers hers to be the friends she skied with while growing up in Quesnel, from first T-bar to last. “People who love the sport just because it’s the most fun thing you can do—that’s what inspires me,” she says. Yip, for her part, found inspiration in sources less close to home, from slopestyle skiers like Tom Wallisch, Henrik Harlaut and female generational forces like Kelly Sildaru and Sarah Burke, all of whom fueled her fire in her early days as a competitive skier. As her focus shifted to bigger mountains, she’s admired Leah Evans for “pioneering her own mountain business ventures and being an all-around amazing person,” and “Michelle Parker for her infectious energy, and Tatum Monod for her style and tricks.”
After a couple of seasons working together as a crew, The Blondes have burst onto the radar by showcasing a seamless mix of fun and boundary-pushing skiing. With support from Atomic, The North Face, Mons Royale, Dakine and Valley Retreat B&B in Revelstoke—look for them to continue to inspire (most notably in their debut appearance in Matchstick Productions’ forthcoming film) while kicking ass and taking names.
“It’s a bit tricky sometimes to balance three personal lives and our goals,” says Yip. “But it’s been a fulfilling path so far, and we are brewing up some exciting plans for the future.”