Traslin Family Traditions

Dinner for two: Mike and Andy Traslin hunker down with a warm dish on a night out. [Photo] Jason Hummel

Andy Traslin first ventured into the backcountry as a teenager while on a family ski trip to Whistler, B.C., in the mid ’90s. Inspired by Scot Schmidt in Blizzard of Aahhh’s, he wandered out of bounds and started hiking along a ridge. “I just started walking randomly with no gear. It was definitely a learning curve,” he says. Mike, Andy’s older brother, remembers him heading off, adding, “We were like, where did Andy go? I guess he saw where he wanted to be and went and tried it.” This Forest Gump-like attitude of getting an idea in his head and going all in has earned Andy the nickname “Andy Gump” from his older brother. It’s also been a driving force for the brothers’ many endeavors, which for three decades have exemplified the sort of understated yet bold skiing for which the Sea to Sky is known.

Part of that can-do attitude, a trait both Traslins carry, can be traced back to their childhood, when the boys’ blue-collar Czechoslovakian parents worked hard to keep their sons active. Mike and Andy would take a 35-minutes bus ride from their childhood home in North Vancouver to Grouse Mountain resort to ski before heading to hockey practice. “We didn’t tell our hockey coaches, but we would ski all day on the local hills—and we were mostly into moguls,” says Mike, 49. No matter the sport, the Traslins always aimed to excel, as is evident from their accolades. Mike qualified for the 1990 Mountain Bike World Championships at the age of 18, and both brothers were members of the Canadian Ski Mountaineering Team with Andy reigning as a three-time national champion.

The Traslin brothers now live in Kelowna, B.C., and oversee safety and first aid at hockey games and concerts, but their drive hasn’t diminished. As of February, they’ve earned turns for 173 consecutive months. At first, they were just thinking of it as skiing every month of the year, but, according to Andy, 45, “We realized that they were all earned, because most of the time we’re doing a lot of backcountry and not riding lifts.” On top of this, Andy’s also completed four-million vertical feet of human-powered climbing—via mountain biking and ski touring—in four years in the Coast Range.

The duo has put down countless first descents (really, try to count them and you’ll lose track) all over British Columbia. Mike made first descents of the Mt. Burwell Couloir in 1999, Mt. Chris Spencer in 2001 and Philistine Peak’s North Couloir in 2011. Andy’s list of firsts includes Crown Mountain’s Northeast Chute in 2008, Vancouver Shipyard’s Pinner Chute on a subpeak of Crown Mountain in 2009 and Mt. Fitzsimmons’s East/Northeast face in 2011.

Mike Traslin shows his respect to the Coast Mountains in North Vancouver, B.C. [Photo] Andy Traslin

While each of these descents stands alone, one memory of skiing in the Sea to Sky stands above the rest: their first Spearhead Traverse, which they completed in 1995. “It wasn’t the greatest way to do it,” Mike notes before diving into a recap. The brothers set out with no map and ill-fitting skins. “We knew where it would begin, and we knew where it ended and what the mountains would look like, but we didn’t know what was going on in between,” says Mike.

They raced the weather while dealing with constantly malfunctioning gear. “We had the fitness, so that was our skill. We learned all the other skills later, like a lot of people do once they figure out that there’s a better way,” Mike admits. “It definitely wouldn’t have been recommended. If I was just a downhill skier, it wouldn’t have worked out.”

The highlight of that trip was making it to the finishing point just in time to stash their skis and dance to their favorite punk band, Pennywise, at the base of Blackcomb. “Right when we finished, it was like, ‘Oh, cool. There’s one of my favorite bands,’” says Andy. “It was pretty epic.”

Since then, the Traslin brothers have each completed the 25-mile traverse over 20 times. While they’ve managed to dial in the route and ski ever major peak on the traverse, as well as each stand on the podium in the first-ever Spearhead Passage Race—a roughly 16-mile skimo race—they’ve never again been able to time it with a Pennywise show.

To the casual observer, British Columbia’s Sea to Sky—the Coast Mountains surrounding the same-named highway—doesn’t seem like a world-class backcountry destination. But just out of sight is an expansive range that gets buried in some of the deepest and most stable snowpacks anywhere. In Issue 139, contributor Ryan Stuart documents the characters of the area, such as the Traslin brothers, as well as the intensifying chase for in the region and how managing the scarcity of snow will take an appreciation of 10,000 years of human history. To read the full story, pick up your copy or subscribe.

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  1. Andy Traslin says:

    Ride on. Thanks for the stoke.

  2. Mike Traslin says:

    Thanks for sharing. Getting out in the mountains is a beautiful activity. Still searching for animalpowchin.

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