I expected that when I met up with Kelowna local, Jeff Willard to snowboard for the day, it would be a nice and casual afternoon. Instead, on the first run he sprayed me with powder as he flew above my head! The rest of his renegade crew, consisting of six boarders, showed up and wowed me with their spectacular jumps.
It was my first time photographing and shooting video of snowboarders and they made my day. I've coined them the Bluebirds of Big White. These people really know how to shred it up on the slopes. But what made it even more spectacular was perfect the bluebird sky all day and with snow that exceeded all expectations.
Challenge your body and mind on the ice climbing tower
After a day on the hill, I still had enough energy to check out another cool feature of Big White – the ice tower. Within the Adventure Park at Big White is a 60-foot tower constructed of four telephone poles with three-foot thick ice that gleams in the sunshine.
This was my first-time ice climbing, so I needed to be shown the ropes. Half way up, I got the photo I was looking for – and I was totally ready to come down. Being that high up on ice is a strange feeling and using the tools, not to mention trusting them, was intense. Ready to come down! I yelled.
I was out of my comfort zone and this is when the amazing Amber and Neil, who work as guides in the adventure park, told me, "GET UP THERE. YOU CAN DO IT MAN!" Their encouragement kept me going, giving me confidence. From that point on, my climbing tools somehow gripped the ice and I felt I could really do this. I dug in hard and pulled myself up and moments later I was near the top. Hell yeah! I saw the cowbell and I rang it furiously. I overcame my fears and dug in to conquer my body and mind. I'll never forget this experience.
Kevin O'Neil was the first person I met when I landed in Kelowna to visit Big White Ski Resort. Kevin and I had a chance to spend an hour together on the drive from the airport to the hill. I learned that Kevin has called this region home his entire life.
The roots of his family were planted in this area decades ago by his great-grandfather who walked from Wisconsin in the United States midwest to Seattle on the West Coast! In Seattle, he hooked up with a cattle drive going north to Canada – so he jumped on, followed it and never looked back. He came to the Okanagan Valley through to Kamloops and loved the area so much, he never left.
When you visit Big White, make sure to say hello to Kevin. He's part of the fleet of shuttle drivers. Thank you for sharing your story and letting me take your portrait, Kevin.
Ready to have some fun skiing among snow ghosts and meeting new people who live for the snow?
If you go
For more information on Big White and Kelowna snow conditions visit the website
Call Big White at +1 250-765-3101