Blackcomb Mountain opened to snowboarders in the 1987-88 season. While it would take another year for Whistler to begin embracing snowboarding culture, Blackcomb was generally supportive of “knuckle-draggers”, thanks to the persistence and passion of a few staff and community snowboarders. Additionally, Blackcomb Managing Director Hugh Smythe could see the strategic benefits of welcoming a new group of riders.
Before terrain parks were a common feature of ski resorts, snowboarders traveled from across Canada and around the world to enjoy Blackcomb’s many natural features, perfect for sending big air and pushing the limits of this new sport. , like the natural quarterpipe. and wind lip on Blackcomb featured in numerous publications and films, including the cover of Snowboard Transmonde with Doug Lundgren. Prior to the establishment of the official park, groups also built their own rough kickers and halfpipes on the mountain. This sometimes involved trying to avoid the watchful eye of ski patrols.
Stu Osborne has been instrumental in the snowboarding scene at Blackcomb. Stu started as an instructor and rose to snowboard coordinator and then terrain park supervisor, founding Blackcomb’s first management-sanctioned halfpipe and snowboard park. While Kokanee Snowboard Park officially appeared on the Blackcomb trail map during the 94-95 winter season, the first halfpipe and park launched earlier.
There, the skiers versus snowboarders mentality still existed at this time, and despite approval to create the initial halfpipe, access to the resources of the Blackcomb operations team needed to build the park was a another story. To circumvent the lack of resources, Snow Ejectors, a private snow removal company, became a sponsor, providing custom painted shovels for construction. The first halfpipe was created using these shovels and some cat time.
At a competition featuring many of the best riders in the world, the Snow Ejectors’ hand-painted banner was larger than those of any other sponsors, much to the chagrin of Blackcomb management. The following year more equipment and support was provided by Blackcomb Mountain. Prior to the opening of Kokanee Snowboard Park, Blackcomb became one of the first resorts in Canada to purchase a dragon pipe, specialized grooming equipment capable of carving a uniform halfpipe far more easily than digging by hand.
In the beginning, “Blackcomb Snowboard Park” was exactly that: a park for snowboarders. The rules had changed (at least in this niche area on the mountain), while a large sign specified that there were ‘no skiers allowed’. Skiers waited outside the snowboard park in groups and bombed the park together on a train so they were harder to catch. However, it wasn’t long before the park evolved to accommodate both snowboarders and skiers as the more inclusive “snow park” we know today.
Originally, the park features of Blackcomb and other Canada West Ski Areas Association resorts were classified as ski runs, with greens, blues, blacks, and double blacks. As most people probably understand, riding a beginner’s track requires different skills than riding a typical green track; however, the system broke down when a visitor jumped far beyond his ability and suffered a debilitating injury. The resulting lawsuit was eventually settled out of court and, learning from that experience, the terrain park ratings were changed to the same ones we see today.