Travel Blog

16 Jan


Whistler is world renown as ski and snowboard mecca. It draws top level athletes from various sport backgrounds and nationalities every year, and seldom do these athletes leave after experiencing all Whistler has to offer.  Vera Janssen is a professional snowboarder who has called Whistler home for # years, she has filmed with Alterna Films, and now continues to work with on a webseries called “Vera’s Shredventures“. Despite living in Whistler and actively filming in the backcountry using snowmobiles, it took traveling to Alaska for her to meet Kalle “KJ” Johansson, a Swedish snowmobile superstar who has credits in films such as Slednecks 13, 14, 15 and many other movies as well. They fell in love, and now have a beautiful baby girl together named Nika Valdez Janssen and are raising her in Pemberton, along with many other young athletic families.

VERA: Where were you born and raised? Tell us a little more about yourself and your career in snowboarding.

I was born in Germany and started snowboarding at the age of 7, in 1990, when the first boards just arrived in the Alps. We had no parks then so I was riding the mountain, looking for things to jump off of. I got sponsored when I was 15 and turned pro at 18. I moved to Utah, then California when I was 16, because the snowboard scene was there and there were parks, and people filming. It was more organized than in Europe where the scene had a much tougher time evolving due to a certain ski federation…

VERA: How long have you been living in the Whistler/Pemberton area? Why did you leave Tahoe for Whistler?

At some point I got over riding parks in California. I appreciated powder more and more – and BC hands-down gets the most powder out of any other place in the world! There’s a reason it’s considered rainforest! It dumps all the time!

KJ: Where did you grow up? How long have you been snowmobiling?

I grow up on a small farm outside of Örnsköldsvik Sweden. We used snowmobiles and ATVs for farming and logging so i have been snowmobiling most part of my life. I was helping my dad to pack trails and drive out loads of firewood on the sled from i was around 8 years old. It was a lot of trail braking in tight trees with a heavy widetrack sled. I bought my first own sled when i was 14. It was a ’86 Arctic Cat Cougar that I soon was doing super mans over the road gap outside of our house into my mums garden. Think she has been shaken her head from the kitchen window many times seeing me flying over some crazy jumps.

KJ: When did you first come over to Whistler, and what prompted that move from Sweden?

I first came to whistler 2007 to ride the deep pow that i been dreaming of ever since seeing the first Slednecks film. I worked hard all summer in a mining camp doing 16 hour days to be able to do my first 3 months in whistler that I been dreaming of for so long. I first went with 2 other Swedish friends that did their first trip the winter before. After that I have been riding in whistler every winter.

VERA: How long have you been snowmobiling for?

I went in 1999 on a snowmobile trip in Tahoe for the first time, but I didn’t get really into it until I bought my own sled in 2007 and I have been sledding every chance I get ever since.

KJ VERA: You now have a beautiful baby girl, and a very interesting story about where her middle name comes from. Where did you two first meet?

We met in the parking lot at Thompson Pass, Alaska, during Tailgate. And because we like the sound of the name just as much as the mountains there, we decided to call her Valdez.

KJ VERA: How is it that with both of you actively snowmobiling around the Whistler area overlapping for 5 years and yet you never met earlier?

Alaska is a way better story.

KJ VERA: So your daughter is blessed with some pretty awesome athletic genetics from both parents, any plans for her future? What comes first? Skis, snowboard or snowmobile?

She has already been sledding and she often gets to ride the sled into the garage at the end of the day…

KJ VERA: How many passports does little Nika have?

She is the only Canadian in the family – born in Squamish! She also has a German passport and we have applied for her Swedish one.

KJ VERA: What are your winter days in Pemberton like now that you have to balance professional athlete careers along with raising a child?

Add Photographer, Filmer, and Video Producer to that. Don’t forget “three-meals-a-day gluten-free cook” and “best girlfriend ever”. Days are too short, there’s never enough time. Doesn’t help that my life is full of projects and my mind full of ideas. I can never be “done” with my to-do-list. I have too many ideas. i am trying to choose my battles, but as soon as there is a bit of time, I am on to the next project… Pemby is awesome, we love it up here! There are lots of other kids so we can hand the little ones around while the parents go shred. Lots of parents here are really outdoorsy and active so we fit in pretty well here.

KJ VERA: Any advice to other young parents in the community? Or advice to other athletes looking for their soul mate in the mountains?

Stop looking and start living!

Thank you for your time and I hope you two have an awesome winter!

Vera would also like to thank her sponsors that help make living the dream possible: Nikita Clothing Snowboards, Deeluxe Boots, Pow Gloves, Dragon, GoPro, MahfiaTV

KJ would like to thank Slednecks, 509, Route99 Motorsports, Evolution Powersports, Timbersled, Modrods, HMK, RSI, and HTR.

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