Ben Murphy was one of the main players on the Australian Freeride scene until he moved to Canada full-time in 2001. He has spent most of his time coaching in the resorts near Calgary and competing occasionally in Big Air and half-pipe comps. Ben grew up in Wollongong and is also an accomplished surfer. The need for waves and snow has seen Ben make the move from Calgary to Tofino on Vancouver Island where he coaches skiing in the winter and manages a surf shop in the summer.
What led you to moving to Vancouver Island?
I wanted to get back to the ocean. I have spent a long time living in Calgary and needed a change of scenery. I came out here to the island quite a few years ago and fell in love with the place and this year I had the chance to move here.
I spent the winter in Nanaimo which is 1 hour and 20 mins from the ski hill and and surfed and skied on my days off depending on what the snow and waves were doing. In March I got a call from the owners for Pacific Storm and they offered me a position managing their surf rental business so I packed up and moved to Tofino.
What do you like about living there?
I get to ski and surf! I had some days where I was surfing some fun 4 to 6 foot waves and skiing pow the next day. It’s not like Calgary where it’s -25 most of the winter. It’s more like -5 and ocean around you and the summer here is sweet – the rain forests here are amazing.
Are you still coaching skiing?
I am coaching out of Mount Washington Mount Washington which is one of the resorts on the island. It’s way more low key than Whistler but it still has loads of great terrain. I am coaching with Jamie Tanner who I know from way back when I was in Ontario he just retired from the Canadian national freestyle now we are coaching the local team on the island. It’s a awesome club – the parents are great and they get right in there and help build jumps, courses and even shovel snow for me.
What’s the skiing like on Vancouver Island?
It’s pretty sweet. This past season wasn’t so great for snow but on the pow days we had it was incredible. There’s some wicked terrain here and the backcountry is sick too. In the past years the snow accumulation on the island is pretty high I heard stories of up to 10 metres of snow.) The snow is a very different density here way more moisture in the snow pack so it sticks to the steeper pitches and is a bit heavier than the snow in the Rockies, but it is still epic for the steeps. You just have to be careful of avalanches in the backcountry.
What about your skiing – what are you into now?
I’m surfing quite a bit now. I have been doing the odd comp here trying to get involved in the Canadian surf industry There’s some good surfers here – one guy, Pete Devries, rips.
I still love skiing, no question about it, but I think I was coaching way too much in the past so it became more of a job than a sport. Just before I moved from Calgary I went to a ski film premier and saw a clip from the Travis Rice movie, “That’s it, that’s All” . It’s the only snowboarding movie I have ever purchased and after watching that, mystoke was on powder, big lines and backcountry booters. Oh Yeah!!
Photo by Vladimir Vuckmirovich