Pints with Pros:
The Olympian Next Door
by Malcolm Yates
Olympian Ryan Johnson with FIS National Cup and a pint at the Locavore.
The premise for this article was simple: have a beer with one of Squamish’s many outdoor enthusiasts and see where it leads. For me, that sort of wide open space can be dangerous. When a carriage horse has its blinders on, the focus is straight ahead. But take off those blinders and you don’t know where the hell you’ll wind up. Thankfully, ex-Olympic mogul skier Ryan Johnson is a consummate pro (on and off the snow) and had our whole evening planned before I could say, “off-axis 1080.”
“Why don’t we go to The Locavore Bar & Grill?” Ryan suggested. “We can settle in and talk about how well Canada did in freestyle!”
I’m paraphrasing a bit (we were texting) but my original pitch was to talk about Ryan’s career and how it felt being at the top of the mogul run on top of the Worlds. Instead, Ryan wanted to focus on the facets of freestyle skiing. I should’ve known he’d be more into promoting the sport in general than himself in particular, Ryan’s a class act all the way. Personally, if I’d been a member of the Canadian National team from 1996 to 2002, came 7th in both the Nagano and Salt Lake Olympics and took first in one of my last FIS events, I’d have it tattooed on my chest and carry a big ol’ sign that said, “Hey, check out what it says on my chest!” But that’s just me.
Before hitting The Locavore we made a pit stop at Ryan’s former teammate, Trennon Paynter’s house. Trennon is the Head Coach for Canada’s National Halfpipe Ski Team and graciously allowed us to borrow the FIS Nations Cup Crystal Globe that Canada won last year. As a mark of our country’s prowess there can be no greater accolade. As a table centrepiece over a couple of pints? Overkill for sure, but cool as hell.
Ryan Johnson conquering the moguls. Photo: Mike Ridewood
For those who haven’t been lately or didn’t know the backstory, The Locavore started humbly as an on-site food truck whose namesake was a distillation of their mission statement: local eater, or one who eats locally sourced food. And in the beautiful greenhouse space beside the food truck was The Joinery, a tapas style restaurant that focused on organic, locally sourced appetizers fit for both fingers or fine dining. So what happened? The two became one: the Joinery joined forces with the Locavore under one banner, under one skylit roof. And in doing so, The Locavore Bar & Grill promises an emphasis on sustainability and a menu comprised of dishes off of the farm, out of the sea, or off the bone. That is to say there will always be a local meat dish, fish dish or vegan dish available. Add to that the Joinery-style rotating appies, crafted cocktails, a variety of wine, beer and cider all local to BC and BOOM: there’s your Olympic gold medal. But let us set all that amazing food aside and address the room for one second. No, I mean literally; let’s talk about the room. Because it’s truly unique and marries the great outdoors with the creature comforts of indoors as only a greenhouse can. You are at once communing with nature, yet protected from her harsher tendencies.
After taking some obligatory shots of the FIS Crystal Globe, we stored it safely away so we could get to talking and drinking.
“Canada won 5 of those last year,” said Ryan. “The Nations Cup for Halfpipe, then Cassie Sharpe won for Women’s halfpipe, Simon D’Artois for Men’s, Elena Gaskell for Women’s Big Air and Mikaël Kingsbury for Men’s Moguls.” We clinked glasses to Canada kicking ass and drank deeply of the Session Ale on tap.
I got Ryan to reminisce about his early days: terrorizing his local ski-hill, an early stint at ski-racing (“Not a good fit,” lowlighted by a full bladder he was forced to relieve at the top of the race course one day) and Ryan’s eventual focus on the majesty that is mogul skiing. Being able to watch the ‘88 Olympics in Calgary was a huge inspiration for Ryan. And ten years later he represented his country in Japan. Just when I thought we’d struck a rich vein with Ryan’s personal achievements he steered the conversation back to today’s athletes.
“You know,” says Ryan. “Mikaël Kingsbury is probably the winningest athlete of any discipline.”
Fact Check: the kid’s a beast and is the most accomplished mogul skier of all time.
Over some heavenly charcuterie and our second pint (they were “session” ales, after all) we talked a bit about the part-time coaching Ryan does with Momentum Ski Camps and his participation in Whistler Blackcomb’s “Ski With an Olympian” program. The overarching theme was giving back to the sport and celebrating the next generation.
“I love coaching, mentoring some of these rippers and watching them become champions.”
If they grow up to be half as poised as you, Mr. Johnson, the world will be in good hands indeed.
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