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Whistler ski pals reunited, four decades later

‘Skiing is a sport that we can do, hopefully, our whole life’

It was 1980, as Denise Brynelsen recalled, and the Rendezvous Lodge was under construction on Blackcomb. A group of four friends hopped in a white truck, headed up the rocky access roads used mostly to haul construction materials up the slope, and drove as high as they could. When the access roads stopped, they hiked up the ridge, clipped into their skis and made their way down what was then only known to locals as the Saudan Couloir. On their drive back to the valley, the friends snapped a photo.

Those friends—Justine Frazee, Louise Krivel, Nancy Brown and Brynelsen—had been skiing Whistler together every weekend for the previous five years.

All four were from various areas of Vancouver, but met at the resort in the early- to mid-’70s. Long before Whistler Village was built, when the Creekside base offered the only lift up the mountain from the valley, their families all had ski cabins in the highlands area behind Rimrock.

“We began skiing in Grade 8, and we skied every weekend right through high school,” Brynelsen said. “The four of us girls, we terrorized the mountain up there.”

Usually, “we’d ski all day and then we’d pretty much hang out at the Husky station,” she added.

After high school graduation, life started getting in the way of those Whistler weekends, and the friends fell out of touch.

“Of course, we all ended up getting on our different career paths, through divorces and marriages and children, so we really didn't see each other that much after high school,” Brynelsen said.

But two years ago, after reconnecting through email and Facebook and learning their original group still had properties in Whistler, the four friends met up and recreated that photo snapped on Blackcomb, 40 years later. “It was fantastic, we had a blast,” Brynelsen said. “It didn’t feel like we had been apart at all.”

She added, “It was like no time had [passed]. We were ripping it up on the mountain and having fun and talking about memories. I mean, the chatter on the chairlift was nonstop.”

With Frazee, Krivel, Brown and Brynelsen all celebrating their 60th birthdays in 2022, the four friends reunited in Whistler last weekend, from Feb. 4 to 6, to keep the tradition rolling with another weekend full of skiing, après and a dinner at Rimrock. Brynelsen hopes these weekends become an annual occurrence. “Maybe more than an annual—maybe we'll do a few weekends together, that's what we hope. Because now we're winding down our careers, we have more time to ski," she said.

Brynelsen’s advice to current Whistler crews looking to keep shredding together for a few more decades?

“It's definitely fun to keep your little groups together; your ski buddies,” she said. “Skiing is a sport that we can do, hopefully, our whole life. Many of our parents skied into their 80s, so that's what we're hoping to do. Because Whistler is our mountain and we love to ski it, and we hope to keep doing it.”