MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Fall Winter 2018

FALL/WINTER 2018 MLCM 41 words :: Feet Banks Bruce Rowles got hooked on skiing the old fashioned way—by sneaking around and lying to his mom. “I used to pretend we were all studying at my buddy Rick’s,” Rowles explains. “But Rick’s mom was a ‘bad’ mom and she would take us skiing up Grouse Mountain. I was in high school and I skied 78 times that year, all nights.” Born in England and raised in West Vancouver in the 1960s and 70s, ‘Rowlesy’ grew up on the North Shore with his buddies, rope- swinging over creeks or bootskiing down the sand piles being used to build the Upper Levels Highway. The rest of his free time was spent exploring southern British Columbia with his parents. “We went to great spots,” Rowles remembers. “Up the Squamish Chief, to Cape Scott, Cathedral Lakes, Long Beach… I remember standing in the rain at Long Beach holding my sleeping bag over a fire and cursing my dad’s existence. We slept under tarps and were soaked the whole time. But years later, when I’d go touring and winter camping in Whistler and people would whine about the cold I would think, ‘thanks dad.’” But Rowles’ parents didn’t ski, so his first time on the slopes was with his Grade 4 class trip to Mount Seymour. “We went up and one kid broke his leg on the rope tow right away,” he recalls. “So everyone was standing around watching that and I thought I would go for it—straight-lined all the way down and launched past the bottom of the tow and into the trees. The liftie had to pull me out.” And with that, young Rowlesy was hooked. He logged four days of skiing that season, and six the next. “I got my first pass at Grouse Mountain in 1973,” he says, thumbing through a huge flapping bundle of old passes—a lifetime laminated. “After that it was game on.” But Rowles remembers another skier from high school who was even more dedicated to the sport. “There was an empty desk behind me,” he recalls. “One day I walked in and the seat was taken—there was a new girl in class… but it was actually Trevor Petersen with his long blond hair. The teacher said, ‘It’s nice to see you again Trevor, and it looks like you are feeling much better.’ Petersen was so tanned—he wasn’t getting his ski days in at night. And a couple days later that desk was empty again.” Petersen ended up in Whistler and became one of Canada’s premiere ski mountaineers. Rowles, a talented painter and illustrator, enrolled at Capilano College after high school and didn’t migrate to the mountains until a few years later, after string of bad events—including the death of two friends in a mudslide in Lions Bay—convinced him to drop out of art school and run to the hills. “I’d been to Whistler before,” Rowles says. “With my buddy Andy Fulton and his dad. Andy and I went to Toni Sailer Summer in Whistler in Grade 8. We stayed at Adventures West in #6 and our cabin boss was [freestyle ski legend] Wayne Wong, who would hustle the campers each night at poker. He’d never let anyone else deal.” According to his ski passes, Rowles’ first full Whistler winter was 1981. He secured a job as a liftie on newly-opened Blackcomb Mountain (also known as “the dark side” by traditionalists who preferred the original ski hill in BRUCE ROWL ES The art of a ski life LEFT PAGE A fistful of small plastic cards looped together with cord. For Rowles, the best times of his life—and some of the worst, are contained along that single tether. ABOVE The lightboard and the loup. Self-portrait. MOUNTAIN LIFER