Marc Jette has done the impossible, all for a great cause.
All Photos by Mark Sissons
WHISTLER - When you’re trying to keep up with a Guinness World Record holder, stamina trumps technique.
I discovered this recently on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb trying to keep up with long-time Whistler resident Pierre Marc Jette, who skied an astonishing 1,857,812 vertical metres over the 2014-2015 season in the name of Alzheimer’s research, almost double the vertical skied by the runner up. By the end of our third peak to creek run I was wobbly and winded. But 56-year old Jette, a former Canadian telemark racing team member, was just getting started.
“I was really confident that I could break the record,” he recalls as we ride the Creekside Gondola back up. “ I’ve skied over a hundred days a year for nearly 50 years. And I’ve always skied really hard all the time.”
Marc shredding through the iconic Whistler powder.
Jette says the fundraising idea came to him one day while he was hiking as an opportunity to reconnect with his family in Quebec after decades apart. He chose Alzheimer’s as his cause he says because it had claimed several close relatives and he wanted to help raise awareness about this debilitating disease.
“I wanted people to be aware that Alzheimer’s is going to be the new cancer,” he says. “It’s going to affect so many people so soon and they are so far from finding the answers. The Alzheimer’s Society was very supportive and gave me the tools I needed to do the fundraiser.”
Although he ended up reaching only a fraction of his goal of raising over $400,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society of BC, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Over the course of a gruelling 84 days on the mountain last season Jette was often on the first gondola car up on the morning and the last chair down in the afternoon. On his best day he skied nearly 90,000 vertical feet, the equivalent of nearly 20 peak to creek runs. A former gymnast, he credits his training, along with regular meditation and carefully calibrated diet with keeping his stamina intact during one of Whistler’s toughest seasons. “The hardest part was skiing all those rainy days last year,” Jette recalls. “One day I did 19 runs on Red Chair in the rain.”
Ultimately, what kept him motivated throughout those gruelling four months, Jette says, were the positive reactions he received from people he met on the slopes and told about his project. “I didn’t even think about the skiing. I just wanted to get to the lift and talk to people. I got really motivated by the energy I was getting from them.”
Jette still gets emotional recalling that cold and rainy Saturday last March when he finally broke the Guinness World Record. Welcomed at the base of Whistler by an enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers, including the mayor, he felt ecstatic, and not just for entering the record books. “I was on a cloud. It was magical. On my last run before I broke the record I learned that my family in Quebec had gotten back to together because of what I’d done. They had been fighting and not talking but now they were finally communicating after so many years.”
Clearly for Jette, being the catalyst of his long overdue family reconciliation was worth skiing more than the distance between Whistler to Edmonton in a single season. Even if he had to break a world record to do it.
You can track your own vertical now too with the new WB+ tracker.
It’s a good thing that Pierre Marc Jette isn’t pursuing another world record this season. That gives the rest of us a fighting chance to win an unlimited pass for the 2016-17 season by being the WB+ member who skies the most vertical.
Whistler Blackcomb’s new WB+ tracker lets you collect stats and data about your time on the mountains, including number of days on the slopes and total vertical ridden. You can also use WB+ to set goals, track progress, collect badges for notable milestones, and even compete against other skiers and riders. WB+ is free for users who register and can be accessed from desktop, tablet and mobile devices. It will also soon offer members the ability to connect with friends, create groups, climb leaderboards, and share stats via social media.
Pierre Marc Jette’s vertical metre record – described by one writer as the equivalent of stacking the CN Tower on top of itself 2,300 times – is the current WB+ benchmark. After spending a rocketing day on Whistler’s slopes witnessing this world-beating master of speed and stamina, I’m guessing that it’s going to take awhile for someone to surpass him.
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