Vancouver Island Sled Bum, Tom Walker
Ucluelet isn’t exactly well known as a hot destination for sledders. Situated on the west side of Vancouver Island, the small town’s backyard is the Pacific Ocean, stretching all the way to Japan. With average winter temperatures above 5°C, “Ukee” doesn’t get pounded with much snow. It’s better known as a Canadian surfing hot spot. Located just down the highway from the more touristy Tofino, Ucluelet is a place for those more interested in catching waves than posing.
So What Is a Sled Bum from Whistler Doing on Vancouver Island?
Living in Whistler a few years back, Tom had seen the writing on the wall. He’d come to the conclusion—which many current Whistler residents have also surmised—that the ridiculously priced housing had far outpaced a person’s ability to pay for it. Having grown up on Vancouver Island, Tom decided to return to his roots. He found an affordable piece of land on the Island and built a home. And while the sledding isn’t as convenient as it was in the Coast Mountains, there are epic moto trails and stacked waves right out his backdoor now.
When you live in Ucluelet, going sledding is a bit of a mission. With a warm climate heavily influenced by the ocean, Tom has to travel. And while there are many places to sled on Vancouver Island, from the west coast it takes a couple of hours to get to most of them. Going riding involves turning the truck east, inland over the twisting, turning and undulating BC Highway 4, then bushwacking up a mountain till you hit enough snow to drop off the sled.
More often than not these days, Tom’s sledding comes when he organizes a week or two in-between jobs at the construction company he started. When that happens, it’s time to pack up the truck, hit the ferry and journey back to his old stomping grounds of Whistler and Pemberton.
Vancouver Island Shredder, Tom Walker
Just before Christmas, Tom shot me a text, and for the first time in several years we managed to get out for a rip together.
Tom and I had ridden together a fair bit before he moved. We’d often be out shredding pow with a mutual group of friends. Usually finishing well after dark, we’d make it to the truck chilled in sweat and stoked. On one memorable occasion, we were soaked through after riding 25km of trail in a torrential downpour.
Recently going through my archive of photos, I had a good chuckle as I tripped down memory lane. My hard drives are littered with hundreds of photos of Tom, from back on his ’09 Ski-Doo XP through a couple XMs. I probably have more photos of Tom than any other rider, since we were both always keen to get out and shoot.
Style is something that’s unique to everyone, and Mr. Walker has grown into one steezy mofo. Six or seven years ago, he was really into riding the alpine, carving deep pow descents and getting some air under the track. As time has marched on, his sled’s track has stretched from a short track 146″ to a mountain crushing 163” T3.
Beach Bum at Present, Sled Bum at Heart
Meanwhile, Tom become a very well-rounded rider who makes everything look very natural. More often than not these days, he’ll lay down gnar lines in steep, tight trees. But when the sun pops out after a storm and the snowpack has stabilized, Tom can still be found chasing air miles and wide open turns above the trees.
It may take a little longer to to get to the goods from the west side of Vancouver Island, but it’s worth the extra effort for Tom Walker.