SKI BIG 3 TRAVERSE
Words by Kevin Hjertaas | Photos by Bruno Long Contradiction, they say, is the key to humour. Perhaps that’s why Rob Heule,...
Words by Dani Baker
As a freeskier whose style juxtaposes grace with aggression, aspiring guide who’s palpable bond with the mountains speaks volumes of her family’s profound history within them, and self- proclaimed horse girl with Bow Valley roots as deep as they come, Ginny White is part of a new vanguard of professional skiers growing their mountain acumen through the guiding world.
In recent years, the 27-year-old Albertan has earned her own name in the ski world through shooting with renowned filmers and photographers and releasing a handful of head-turning edits, but her family’s rich heritage and involvement in establishing Canadian ski culture is not to be overlooked. This lineage dates back five generations, with each contributing another imperative layer to the outdoor and tourism-focused lifestyle fostered in the Canadian Rockies today.
White’s great-great-grandfather Dave laid the foundation in 1894, opening the first general store on Banff Avenue. Her great-grandfather Clifford was one of the original members of the Ski Club of the Canadian Rockies, helping build the first ski lodge at Mount Norquay, along with Temple Lodge and Skoki Lodge in Lake Louise. Her grandfather Clifford Junior and his wife Bev then bought Sunshine Village in the ’60s, and built the resort into what it is today. And her great uncle Peter and his wife Catherine, both influential artists, founded the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
“It’s important for me to keep the history alive and I feel an obligation to maintain my roots in Banff and the ski industry for this reason,” White explains. “If it weren’t for the family story and the ingrained desire to be in the mountains in any form, I don’t think I would be where I am today in terms of being a skier and a person.”
To add to her family’s impressive accolades, White’s father Brad is a full-time ski guide at Mustang Powder and teaches courses for the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) in the winter, while her mother Donna runs the show at the family ranch near Canmore.
“As of now they are both technically ‘retired,’ but they don’t do that super well,” White says. “As a person they have both encouraged me to follow my dreams, work hard, and pushed me to do things that they never did. And that being happy and healthy is more important than anything else, so I strive to live life as good as they do.”
In their 2019 edit, Backcountry Moms, White and her main ski partner Alex “Army” Armstrong’s mothers sit down to drink margaritas and hilariously banter about their daughters. In legendary fashion, Donna recalls that she was still skiing while seven months pregnant with White.
“Pretty much immediately after my sister and I were born, we were taken on backcountry trips in the National Parks and sleeping in bunkbed drawers because there were no cribs.”
White’s parents enrolled her in ski and racing programs shortly after she could walk. This gave her muscle memory to come back to after straying away from skiing at the age of nine to satisfy her curiosity about team sports. She didn’t return to the slopes until the end of high school, when she realized she loved it again on her own terms. Needless to say, her family and the mountains welcomed her back with open arms.
“Watching my mother ski is my biggest influence on how I ski. She is the prettiest skier on the mountain and makes perfect turns in any snow. And my dad is always having the most fun, so I try to combine their two styles and just have as much fun as I can.”
Having been part OF Mustang Powder’s extended family since she was eight years old, White developed some incredible relationships with her father’s guiding colleagues—one being Diny Harrison, the first female internationally certified mountain guide in Canada. Harrison told White she thought she’d be a great guide, and encouraged her to think about doing a practicum. Despite her father’s hesitations, she eventually committed to a season of doing just that.
“I would say that my dad did everything in his power to dissuade me from following the guide path,” she says. “But after an entire season working closely with him, I think both our mindsets shifted and he realized this was what I wanted to do. Now he is incredibly supportive of my decisions and efforts to become a guide.”
After completing three seasons of practicum work at Mustang, endless CAA courses, and tail guiding with CMH Heli-Skiing, White is almost ready to apply to the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG).
Swayed by the desire to push her skills in bigger terrain with boundless sled access and the heightened level of opportunities and exposure that comes with the community of photographers, filmers and creatives in the area, White opted to make the move Squamish, British Columbia, last winter. Her first season in the Sea-to-Sky region found her exploring her new surroundings, building her guiding résumé, “practicing getting her sled stuck,” and filming her season edit with Trew and self-produced projects with Armstrong. But it unfortunately came to a swift end in February, after breaking her wrist at Whitewater Ski Resort while attending the Coldsmoke Powder Festival. The injury required surgery right before the best snow of the year, but ultimately gave her a head start on laying low once the ski season was cut short by the pandemic.
“Alex and I had some fun projects that got put on hold, but at the end of the day, I’m happy with the days out I had this year and was grateful to be in Squamish where we could still go for walks outside and enjoy life a little bit.”
She and Armstrong also have some exciting video projects in the works, including the potential for a Backcountry Moms II, which would see the two of them take their moms heli-skiing.
Looking ahead, White plans to carry her family’s legacy forward in her own special way, combining her arguably hereditary desire to guide others through the mountains while continuing to make her mark on them as a sponsored athlete.
“If you had asked me four years ago if I ever wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps and become a guide, I would have laughed out loud,” she says. “Some things choose you.”