Gondolas wrapped in First Nations art at Whistler-Blackcomb Peak 2 Peak

“These shapes come from and are inspired by my ancestors,” said artist Levi Nelson.

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Visitors to Whistler Blackcomb may notice something different about two of the Peak 2 Peak line’s gondolas.

Earlier this year, the resort’s owners, the Colorado-based company Vail, wrapped two of the gondola’s cabins with decals inspired by the work of artists from the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and Lilwat7úl (Lil’wat) nations. ). Whistler Blackcomb is located on the shared unceded territory of the two nations.

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The two cabins are part of Epic’s The Gondola Gallery, a Vail initiative to celebrate diversity and inclusion and the idea that, in the company’s words, “every skier and snowboarder has their own unique story about how they got there.” to the slopes”.

Levi Nelson’s red painting inspired the art on this cabin, part of Epic on the Peak 2 Peak’s Vail Gondola Gallery. Credit: Whistler Blackcomb/Vail Resorts sun

Along with BC’s two gondola cabins, two others, one at Park City Mountain in Utah and another at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, also received a facelift. The American Cabins used works by Jim Harris and Lamont Joseph White, respectively. Harris is a walking paraplegic and White is black.

Along with outdoor public art, The Gondola Gallery by Epic initiative includes a series of short films about the artists, their work, and their relationship with the mountains and ski culture.

The BC artists are Squamish weavers Chepximiya Siyam’ Janice George and Skwetsimeltxw Willard (Buddy) Joseph and Lil’wat painter Levi Nelson.

A trained museum curator, George is hereditary chief and co-organized Canada’s first Northwest Coast Weavers’ Gathering. Joseph is the former director of Squamish Housing and Capital Projects and currently advises on similar work for First Nations communities. The duo co-founded L’hen Awtxw Weaving House to share the teachings and practice of traditional Coast Salish wool weaving.

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Her Gondola Gallery wrap is based on her Wings of Thunder work, a geometric design using Salish weaving motifs. He is inspired by Thunderbird, a grandfather figure who looks after the Squamish people and is said to still live in the Black Tusk volcanic formation of Garibaldi Park.

“I wanted to make sure the story of the Thunderbird continues, that people understand,” George said. “I think that’s part of making people appreciate the land more if they know its history.”

“When we have the opportunity to do similar work, like at the Vancouver Mural Fest or with the Vancouver Art Gallery, the message is basically the same,” Joseph said. “If you’re in Squamish territory, here’s something about us. In our case, it is about weaving and telling stories through fabric and designing a gondola.”

Nelson’s painting, Red, serves as inspiration for Epic’s other Peak 2 Peak Gondola Gallery cabin. Red is a sacred color in indigenous culture, he says. “These shapes come from and are inspired by my ancestors.”

Head Weaver Janice George and Buddy Joseph contributed art to a cabin as part of Epic on the Peak 2 Peak’s Vail Gondola Gallery. Credit: Matt Sylvestre Courtesy: Whistler Blackcomb/Vail Resorts sun

Vail approached the artist while pursuing his master’s degree at Columbia University in New York.

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“The thesis consisted of four paintings in total, including this one,” Nelson said. He counts contemporary BC Indigenous painters Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun and Shawn Hunt among his influences. “I guess when I posted my thesis project on Instagram, people here in British Columbia saw it and then reached out to me and asked if I would like to participate.”

Nelson learned to ski in Whistler when he was “four or five,” so watching his work streak across the sky between the majestic peaks is exciting. But starring in Gondola Gallery’s short film meant revisiting those old skills, not to mention acquiring new equipment.

“When snowboarding became really popular, I became a snowboarder, but I was never good at it,” he said. “I always had a very bad time in the mountains and I kept falling. So when this project came up and they said, ‘We want to film you skiing,’ I said, ‘I think I know how to ski.’ I had to buy all the equipment. But it was like riding a bicycle.”

Chief Janice George and Buddy Joseph’s Wings of Thunder adorns a cabin on the Peak 2 Peak gondola. Credit: Whistler Blackcomb/Vail Resorts sun

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