Mountain Seymour, the Spearhead, sky-high snow patches in summer: whatever the mission the Traslin brothers of Vancouver, British Columbia, are all in. By Steven Threndyle.
For 10 years, ski mountaineer Andy Traslin toiled in construction safety at British Columbia’s Vancouver Shipyards,at the base of the North Shore Mountains. In winter and spring, the same slender line of snow, dropping like a dagger from Crown Mountain, would tempt him. Barely a ski-length wide, everything about the project was burly. Finding the entrance was challenging, and exiting the gully was equally risky. Inspired by his heroes, Eric Pehota and Trever Petersen, he did it anyway. Traslin’s descent, like some of the other feats he and his brother Mike have completed in the past two decades, won’t likely ever be repeated.
Mike and Andy Traslin are the Canadian-born sons of Czech émigrés, who arrived in Canada after the failed Prague Spring revolution of 1968. Sport had been a staple of their parents’ lives in Europe, and Mike and Andy excelled in hockey and tennis. Mike admits that it could be challenging living with the “old country” discipline that their father would demand, and he eventually quit tennis. They both began skiing at Grouse Mountain, learning their turns from their father’s friend, another Eastern European. “Fun didn’t always factor into how a day on the slopes usually went,” he says.
Around that time, mountain biking beckoned. Mike raced against legends like John Tomac and Ned Overend during the heyday of cross-country. Andy soon followed. Their massive oxygen capacity would lead them into the world of “ski-mo” (ski mountaineering) races. Andy says, “Competing was never the be-all and the end-all; it was worth doing just to get faster and more efficient in the mountains.” But Mike liked being on the National Team, racing in ski-mo events throughout North America. A trip to Europe to compete in World Cup races, though, proved to be a reality check. Mike says, “Physically, the Euros were mutants, racing on feather light gear that cost a fortune.”
Perhaps due to their father’s disciplined ways, the Traslins started keeping score and doing things their way, especially once they got sponsored by Suunto– Finnish, makers of an altimeter watch. Some of their achievements boggle the mind: Andy has completed the Spearhead Traverse, between Whistler and Blackcomb, 25 times, and Mike’s done it 20. For four years in a row, Andy racked up a million vertical feet of combined backcountry skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the other seasons. They are most famous for their “Turns All Year” project, where—even in the driest, sketchiest of seasons—they seek out patches of sheltered snow so that they can say that they have “skied” at least once every month of the year. They also come up with crazy mini-competitions between themselves, such as their quest to climb First Peak on Mount Seymour a hundred times in a calendar year in the gnarliest conditions imaginable: freezing rain, graupel, and blinding snowstorms.
Entering middle age still in remarkably good condition, Andy Traslin wonders what lies around the corner. The Traslins have never been in the spotlight in the way that other sponsored skiers and mountain bikers have. After all, the streak will soon finish its tenth season, and they have re-located to the Okanagan, where year-round snow is mostly found in the back of your freezer.
Mike Traslin turns wistful. “Sometimes, I think you can love sports too much. It becomes like a drug and you can get a bit obsessive about it. It’s not always a good thing, you know. You can’t be sponsored forever.”