words and photos: Mary Walsh

I had only been to Whistler twice before booking tickets to head north in early December. Leanne Pelosi was hosting the second annual Early Bird Social, and there was consensus that snow was in the air. I had heard how much fun the first Early Bird was a year prior, and I was sure I didn't want to miss this all-ladies ride day to welcome winter. So, I hopped on the internet, booked a flight and was on my way to British Columbia on Friday, December 3rd.

It's pretty incredible how great the excitement is for ride days like this. Nearly seventy women showed up, smiling from ear-to-ear upon entering the LuLu Lemon store in Whistler village on Saturday morning. Whistler locals, Vancouver inhabitants, Washington residents and a few even made the trek from California and Utah, one goal in mind, to take as many laps as possible and share the excitement of the season to kick off winter. The day started off with yoga, kombucha and quinoa at Forlise in the village—which sounds more crunchy than it truly was. The yoga was fast-paced, challenging, and really woke up the ol' IT bands. The quinoa and yogurt bar supplied by Julia Murray, Whistler local and purveyor of Jules' Fuel, was incredibly delicious (we highly recommend picking up a bag of the breakfast mix, it's so good). And the Brew Dr. kombucha—it was super tasty as well. Ladies like solid riding fuel in a decidedly un-hippy way.

Leanne was the catalyst for Early Bird Social and had gathered a legendary group of women to lead the charge down the mountain. All of Full Moon, sans Robin Van Gyn, who was finishing up a guide trip, was in attendance: Hana Beaman, Marie-France Roy, Annie Boulanger, and Helen Schettini. The ladies were joined by Kimmy Fasani, who had come up to Whistler from Mammoth to get in on the action and Whistler's own Domique Vallee and Taylor Godber, all of whom eagerly jumped in the opportunity to head out with groups of women around the mountain to celebrate the advent of winter. The enthusiasm, kindness, and down to Earth personalities of each of these women belies the fact that they represent the top tier of snowboarding talent. They have all logged hours and hours in parks, on streets, and now as the champions of off piste riding and even though they are so humble about their collective achievements, the fact that this group was assembled for a mellow day of celebrating snowboarding was not lost on the women in attendance at Early Bird. It. Was. Legendary.

Mother Nature must have noticed the extra dose of estrogen in the air, because she wanted in on Early Bird, too specifically in the form of a storm pattern that moved into Whistler late Friday and stuck around all weekend, propelling massive flakes all through the sky. Early Bird Social was officially a powder party! Groups of ten or so ladies split off, each with a pro guide and dispersed into the wilds of the resort. I was lucky to be in a group with Kimmy, Hana, and Dom, as well as Whistler's Chelsea Moen, Oakley Progression Session's Christine Savage, Burton's Chelsea Waddell, and a grip of new riding buddies from BC and Washington. We eased into a comfortable riding group seamlessly, navigating the low visibility storm conditions with a welcome tenacity. The greatest thing about Early Bird is that it is so mellow. Laps are taken all over the mountain, following the whims of the crew. From time to time we'd cross paths with other groups, exchanging high fives and flashing mega grins. We hiked a bit, went in the trees, explores, and ripped down groomers. It was as much an excited cacophony of riding together in a big hunk of women as much as a celebration of early season snow for a region that was too dry the previous year. Stoke was in full swing and it was awesome.

By late afternoon, legs started to get heavy from the long laps through fresh snow and cheeks were red and chilled. The snow was still falling and it was time to head into the village and relax before Sunday morning, which was looking too good. A great day snowboarding definitely needs to be followed with some proper post-riding activities and Leanne, Whistler, and Lulu Lemon had the après schedule packed. The Early Bird ladies dried off at Merlin's with rounds of Caesars and massive plates of nachos, exchanging phone numbers and Instagram handles to keep in touch throughout the season. This is one of the coolest side effects of a women's ride day such as this one. There is a palpable need on the ladies' side to meet other females to ride with. Girls are stoked to snowboard with boys, of course, but it's really cool to have some fellow chicks in your clique. Early Bird, and other events like it, facilitates relationships long after the lifts have stopped running for the day through their easy atmosphere.

As the sun set (and the snow continued to fall), the staff of Forlise removed the yoga matts and set up for a proper retro-themed après party, complete with hot cider beverages, white wine spritzers and local, farm-to-table hors d’oeuvres. Fur-clad patrons lined up next to neon-emblazoned partygoers, warm inside as snow stacked outdoors. Winter was officially in Whistler, facilitated by the dedicated Early Bird crew along with some help from Mama Nature

Thank you to Leanne, Hana, Kimmy, Marie, Annie, Helen, Taylor, Chelsea, Chris, Colin, Erin, Jessika, Forlise, Jules' Fuel, Brew Dr., Whistler Blackcomb, and everyone who made this winter kick-off a epic day and a wicked weekend!