Column: May Your Year Be Gloriously Ordinary

I’ve interviewed “the Godfather of Freeskiing”, Mike Douglas, a couple of times and we’ve collaborated on enough Whistler Blackcomb projects that I mostly forget what a legend he is.

Around Whistler, everyone has high watermark moment in their resume.

I’m more interested in the way people practice the art of reinvention than their endless recollections of the Glory Days.

That’s why I was so excited to see the premiere of Douglas and his Switchback Entertainment compadres’ film, Snowman, at the Whistler Film Festival – Mike doesn’t rest on his laurels, and he’s not afraid to experiment. My favourite project of his, after the Embedded series, was a short film he made of the Lillooet Lake Rodeo.

Rodeo from Switchback Entertainment on Vimeo.

Snowman was not at all what a Salomon Freeski TV fan would expect – in fact, it was more in line with what a rodeo-goer would anticipate – a tale of working folk accustomed to falling off the horse and getting back on again.

After all these years of shooting pro athletes in exotic locations, Douglas hung his first feature length project on the story of his best friend from high school, an endearing weather geek who almost died in a helicopter crash in the biggest mountains imaginable. Kevin Fogolin isn’t really leading man material, and the story doesn’t follow a conventional heroic arc. That’s why I appreciated it.

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It was a deeply personal debut film about growing up far from snow, dreaming of a bigger life, and it relied on an ordinary guy – a reluctant, intensely private, kid from Campbell River.

For a few years, I was Pemberton’s Community Reporter to CBC Radio’s BC Almanac. I called Mark Forsythe every few months and told him about things that were happening around Pemberton.

Christmas Eve was Forsythe’s final show, and that, or some combination of that, the churchbells ringing through downtown Pemberton, and my kid sleeping on my shoulder as I ran errands, had me misting up.

Forsythe, if you ever heard him handle the talkback lunchtime program he hosted, was a class act. He was never dismissive of the ordinary person, or their experience or opinion. And for a time there, calling in with community reports from Pemberton, I was part of a show that made people in small towns all across the province feel like our little stories mattered too.

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These days, everyone with a twitter, medium, snapchat, and instagram account is a broadcaster, collecting followers and likes and churning out quippy content and filtered photos. Everyone is being exhorted to be their own brand, to be extraordinary.

I love listening to interviews with rockstars and celebrities and award-winning novelists, and I love watching Mark Abma or Kye Petersen or Ingrid Backstrom slay a line as much as the next person.

But walking out of the Snowman premiere, I thought, my world needs more stories like this… of regular folk, who love snow, and who realise, at some point in their lives, that sharing little moments on snow with your family might, ultimately, be the most important measure of things.

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William Martin in the Parent’s Tao Te Ching says, “do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives… Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.”

Or, perhaps, of a powder day.

“And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

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