The Sea to Sky corridor is a place where the rock is steep, the mountains are jagged, and the rivers are wild. It is no surprise that the magnitude and variety of these geographical features have attracted a passionate group of extreme athletes. As a mecca for adventure, the options are endless. Rock climbing is found around every corner and a plethora of steep skiing and fluffy powder lines await on surrounding peaks and glaciers. Rivers and creeks provide world-class whitewater kayaking and deep green forests shelter steep, flowy mountain biking trails. These are the features that draw the growing community of extreme athletes to the Sea to Sky Corridor.
Beyond the increasing popularity of these extreme sports, a new generation is starting to emerge in the corridor. The children of many thrill seekers are stepping onto the athletic scene. They are not only a part of this extreme culture, but will soon drive it. As extreme sports continue to be a defining feature of this region, questions of how the next generation of young shredders will balance the inherent risks associated with extreme sports will be at the forefront discussions at kitchen tables as well as conference table in the Sea to Sky region.
In this part of BC, genetic and environmental factors contributing toward high-risk lifestyles. Riding a fine line between stoke and fear, some parents in the corridor have identified an expectation of kids to follow their parents in their pursuit of extreme sports. The combination of talent, coaching, and world-class terrain has many kids poised to be successful in every extreme sport that the Sea to Sky has to offer. However, many parents are intimately aware of the consequences when things go wrong in the mountains.
Stacy Kohut, a downhill mountain biker and a world championship level sit skier is roughly the same height as the crew of 10 year olds he surrounds himself with on the ski hill or skate park. After an accident in 1992, ironically unrelated to extreme sports, Kohut became paraplegic. That hasn’t stopped him from bombing down the side of a mountain at 65 kilometers an hour on his four-wheeled downhill mountain bike. “I’m a stark reminder to a lot of my friends of what can happen if you mess up,” says Kohut. “But I’m also a nice reminder of how you can get yourself out of a situation if you set your mind to it. We are helping the human body, the human mind, and the human spirit evolve.” What is happening along Highway 99, from Vancouver all the way to Pemberton is something special when it comes to extreme sports. “That’s why a lot of us are here.”
Koel Shinkaruk (9) and Oliver Doyle (11), rip around the Squamish mountain bike trails faster than most. They are in the top tier of the sport for their age and dream of becoming professionals. Both boys often ride with their dads and love the speed and air they get when they mountain bike. The two boys are in agreement; they both want to ride “the biggest, craziest, and most technical trails.” Koel’s father and avid rider, Kameron Shinkaruk, says that Koel has a natural ability for mountain biking and progressed much while riding with his father. “I have the confidence in him and he feels that flowing from me to him.” Koel agrees that riding with dad provides confidence and there is a high level of trust between him and his dad.
Shinkaruk’s concern about the dominant role of technology in his kids’ lives inspired him to foster their love for the outdoors. “As parents, we have to push this, because the relationship to electronic devices with this generation is horrible,” said Shinkaruk. Along with other Squamish parents, the Shinkaruks allow their kids the freedom to choose sport that personally interest them - and in the Sea to Sky, that generally leads to extreme sports.
Growing up in the Sea to Sky playground offers special opportunity. This is a special pocket of Canada where those playing out of bounds is mainstream. As the old schoolers of Squamish age, and a new generation take the stage, one thing is for sure, Seat to Sky is going to have some bad ass grandmas and grandpas trying getting after it with the younger shredders.
Maranda was raised on the edge of steep rocks and raging rivers. The astounding backdrop of the Sea to Sky Corridor influenced her disposition in life - as it does for many kids growing up here. Instagram: @maranda_stopol