Vertbag vs. Slick Mikh: Inside Whistler's crazy ski battle

Vertbag vs. Slick Mikh: Inside Whistler's crazy ski battle

For a glorious few months, Slick Mikh was king of the mountain, top of the public leader board that tracks the vertical distance covered by skiers and snowboarders at B.C.'s Whistler Blackcomb by reading a chip in their pass every time they head up a lift.

On a typical day, the snowboarder known as Slick Mikh puts up an impressive 14,000 metres by riding down the longest runs he can find.

Peak to Creek is his favourite. 

"I usually snowboard from the time the lifts open until the lifts close," he told CBC News. 

"I try to catch as many chairs as possible and I very rarely stop for any breaks or lunch. 

"I usually just take some snacks with me in my backpack."

Who is Slick Mikh?

Slick Mikh is not the name his parents chose, rather the winter alias of one Mikhail "Misha" Berman, a 28-year-old who last year decided to quit his high stress high tech job in Seattle, move to Whistler, rent a ski-in ski-out condo and dedicate himself heart and soul to snowboarding.

"Living my dream" as he puts it. 

Berman never set out to beat every other Whistler ski bum. First place was just a happy consequence of his minor life crisis and personal resolve to never miss a day.

But he admits it was pretty cool seeing his name —  well, fake name — on top.

That was before Vertbag got it going.

Nemesis Vertbag

Vertbag gained local legend status last year, setting an unofficial world record for most vertical metres skied in one season —  2,061,139 — a stout improvement on the Guinness World Record mark of 1,836,649 set by Whistler's Pierre Marc Jette in 2015.

The insane magnitude of Vertbag's accomplishment was the talk of the town. So was the speculation over his identity.

Was he a former ski racer, people wondered?

Did he have special access to lifts?

Just how was he able to post up to 25,000 vertical metres each day, every day?

The mystery drove Whistler writer Caitlin Shea to distraction. After weeks spent "desperately seeking Vertbag" she finally outed him in the local newspaper, revealing the biggest shocker of all — Vertbag's real name was Renee Lamoureux.

He was a she. 

Another world record?

Fast forward to this year. Lamoureux wasn't a major factor in the standings early on, as she was slowed by a Hawaiian vacation and hurt knee.

But once the knee started feeling better, Vertbag's march up the standings was unstoppable.

At one point it seemed the championship might come down to a two-person battle — Vertbag versus Slick Mikh. But Berman hasn't been able to keep pace, and Lamoureux is now in a league of her own, out front by almost 200,000 metres and on pace to break her own unofficial world record.

"I was not expecting to be on the top of the leaderboard again this season, but I'll take it," said Lamoureux, who was hard to contact for this story.

"I think all the hype last year made a lot more people keen to pad their stats, set personal goals and watch themselves climb the leaderboard. If I could be at the top again at the end of this year, I would honestly feel more satisfied than last year."

Misha meets Renee

Because she mainly skis Blackcomb and he mainly rides Whistler, Lamoureux and Berman don't often cross paths.

Funnily enough, the one time they did meet was the day she took over first place for good. 

"I said congratulations, you passed me," said Berman. "It was cool to meet and talk."

"We shared some laughs," said Lamoureux. "He's a nice guy."

Berman's admits he's now resigned to the silver medal.

"I'm not going to lap groomers to get first place," he said. "She pretty much just goes non-stop on three or four lifts. I tried one day to lap [the] Garbanzo chair over and over again — it's a short speed run. I ended up getting over 20,000 metres but it was a mentally exhausting." 

And sadly for Berman, real life is starting to creep back into the picture.

"Stupidly, I'm paying double rent because I didn't want to let go of my apartment in Seattle. Watching the bank account get lower and lower is haunting me a little," he said, sounding a little forlorn. 

So Berman is now looking for work in Seattle again, which means he may leave Whistler early if the right job offer comes along. 

"At first, I really wanted to be number one," he said. "I'm OK with number two."  

"I'm just wanted to spend a whole season here and not live with regrets."

  • Alberta premier unhappy with Suzuki honorary degree but defends academic freedom
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Alberta premier unhappy with Suzuki honorary degree but defends academic freedom

    EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley says she does not agree with the University of Alberta's decision to grant an honorary degree to high-profile oilsands critic David Suzuki.

  • Saskatchewan asks court if Ottawa's carbon tax is unconstitutional
    News
    CBC

    Saskatchewan asks court if Ottawa's carbon tax is unconstitutional

    Saskatchewan's opposition to a federally imposed carbon tax has reached the courts. On Wednesday, the government submitted a reference case to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to see if the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional. "The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was introduced into Parliament on March 28, 2018 as Part 5 of Bill C-74.

  • Van attack prompting 'talk about misogyny' as motive
    News
    CBC

    Van attack prompting 'talk about misogyny' as motive

    Theories are emerging about whether a hatred of women could have played a role in Monday's attack in Toronto, in which the driver of a van plowed into pedestrians down a busy street. One day after 25-year-old Alek Minassian allegedly tore down Yonge Street with a rental van, killing 10 and injuring 14, police revealed that the majority of the victims were women, ranging in age from their 20s to 80s. Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

  • News
    CBC

    Ontario Liberals understating deficit by billions: auditor

    "The consequences of these major differences between the governments projections and the likely actual deficits are significant," Lysyk said. Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberals have been trailing in recent polls ahead of the spring election, downplayed the discrepancy, calling it a long-standing "accounting dispute" between her government and the auditor general.

  • Lack of bishops' consensus, concerns over cost behind Pope apology decision: Archbishop
    News
    CBC

    Lack of bishops' consensus, concerns over cost behind Pope apology decision: Archbishop

    A lack of consensus among Canadian bishops played a role in Pope Francis's decision to deny a request that he visit Canada and apologize to Indigenous Peoples for residential schools, according to the Archbishop of Regina. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced in a March 27 letter that Francis could not "personally respond" to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action that he visit Canada and apologize.

  • Alberta adds more than 6,000 new affordable day-care spaces
    News
    CBC

    Alberta adds more than 6,000 new affordable day-care spaces

    The Alberta government has expanded its $25-a-day child-care program by adding another 100 Early Learning and Child Care Centres to the program. "Parents shouldn't have to choose between groceries and child care, which is why today's announcement means more money for groceries and more basic family necessities," Premier Rachel Notley said. The expansion follows a bilateral agreement with the Government of Canada, which will see the federal government invest $136 million over three years to expand Alberta's affordable child-care program.

  • News
    CBC

    Marketing board serves up new ways to promote P.E.I. lobster

    As P.E.I.'s lobster fishermen gear up for the spring season next week, the industry's marketing board is rolling out new ways to promote the seafood delicacy. The Lobster Fishers of P.E.I. Marketing Board has hired a marketing manager and an executive director, and has created a new website and logo that will "kind of be the face of P.E.I. lobster," said lobster board chair Charlie McGeoghegan. As well, there will be a promotion with Northumberland Ferries and its Chef on Board program.

  • Still flying at 86: Ukrainian pilot who survived Chernobyl disaster
    News
    Reuters

    Still flying at 86: Ukrainian pilot who survived Chernobyl disaster

    By Margaryta Chornokondratenko KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian military pilot Mykola Volkozub could barely move under the weight of a lead vest meant to protect him from radiation as he prepared for his first flight over the Chernobyl reactor after the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Remembering the incident still brings tears to the eyes of Volkozub, who survived the risk of radiation poisoning to live to a ripe age of 86 and still supervises test pilots for Antonov, a state-run aircraft manufacturer. Volkozub was deployed in a team of two pilots, an engineer and a scientist, to fly an MI-8 helicopter over the reactor to measure the temperature and composition of gases inside.

  • Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce subject of harassment complaint
    News
    CBC

    Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce subject of harassment complaint

    CBC News has learned that the Liberal MHA at the centre of a harassment complaint that has enveloped Confederation Building is Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce. One Liberal member described caucus meetings as "a joke," adding that people don't speak out because they are afraid of what will happen to them.

  • MMIWG national inquiry announces new executive director, director of research
    News
    CBC

    MMIWG national inquiry announces new executive director, director of research

    The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls will have two new people on its team starting Monday in the roles of executive director and director of research. Jennifer Moore Rattray, a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan, has been named the inquiry's new executive director.

  • PHOTOS: Memorial in Toronto for victims of the van strike
    Yahoo Canada News

    PHOTOS: Memorial in Toronto for victims of the van strike

    People gathered at a memorial for the victims of the van strike in the Yonge and Finch area of Toronto. Mourners lit candles and left messages to pay respects to the individuals involved in the tragic incident on Monday, April 23.

  • 4 Winnipeg unions say city labour relations are 'in chaos'
    News
    CBC

    4 Winnipeg unions say city labour relations are 'in chaos'

    In a letter to Mayor Brian Bowman dated April 19, the leaders of the city unions representing transit workers, police employees, firefighters and general workers warn city costs have increased due to the deteriorating relationship with their city counterparts. "This year, despite having no more grievances than previous years, we have had significantly more issues referred to arbitration," says the letter, signed by Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 president Gord Delbridge, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary, United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg president Alex Forrest and Winnipeg Police Association president Maurice Sabourin. The union leaders wrote that while their success rate in arbitration has risen, the settling of so many disputes through arbitration is costing the city and taxpayers, by extension.

  • Gerry Lowe will seek Liberal nomination for Saint John Harbour
    News
    CBC

    Gerry Lowe will seek Liberal nomination for Saint John Harbour

    Saint John city councillor and businessman Gerry Lowe will seek the Liberal nomination for Saint John Harbour in the provincial election this September. Lowe made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, confirming rumours that had been circulating for several months. Asked whether he has been promised a cabinet post by the Premier Brian Gallant, Lowe replied, "No. You know, talked about it.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio says he's quitting politics, cites family reasons

    Popular Quebec Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio announced Wednesday that he's leaving politics for family reasons. Di Iorio was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 to represent the Montreal riding of Saint-Leonard-Saint-Michel — a seat he won in a landslide with nearly 65 per cent of the vote. "My loved ones matter to me, their well-being is of utmost importance to me," Di Iorio said.

  • Meet Amy Kilbride, embalmer and funeral director
    News
    CBC

    Meet Amy Kilbride, embalmer and funeral director

    Kilbride has worked at the East Prince Funeral Home in Summerside, P.E.I. for seven years. As a kid, Kilbride never had any intentions of working in a funeral home. Kilbride began researching "green" funerals.

  • 'It's the worst job and no-one cares'
    BBC News

    'It's the worst job and no-one cares'

    The release of Facebook's content moderation guidelines has drawn attention to the difficult work of those whose job it is to review the material. The company says psychological help is available to all its moderators 24 hours a day. Angus Crawford spoke to one woman about the impact of a job where you look at some of the worst things the web has to offer.

  • Tourism group calls for minister's resignation over hotel tax
    News
    CBC

    Tourism group calls for minister's resignation over hotel tax

    Promoters of the New Brunswick tourism industry are not happy about a Gallant government decision not to introduce a hotel tax and they're calling on the minister of tourism to resign. Ron Drisdelle, the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick, said he was led to believe that Tourism Minister John Ames would bring in a $3 hotel tax on hotel rooms, and said the industry was surprised when Ames announced the opposite.

  • Rabbits vaccinated for deadly hemorrhaging disease amid B.C. outbreak
    News
    CBC

    Rabbits vaccinated for deadly hemorrhaging disease amid B.C. outbreak

    Rabbits were vaccinated en masse Tuesday in hopes of containing a highly contagious disease that's been killing the animals in B.C. The vaccinations, imported from France, were administered to dozens of the animals at the Rabbitat Rabbit Sanctuary in Richmond. Earlier this spring, B.C. issued warnings about rabbit hemorrhagic disease — a calicivirus that causes fever, convulsions and kills a rabbit within 36 hours.

  • News
    CBC

    Calgary to host 2019 Grey Cup

    Calgary will host the 2019 Grey Cup, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie announced on Wednesday. Calgary Stampeders president and general manager John Hufnagel — who has won four Grey Cups as a player and coach — called it a "privilege" to host the annual event. "The Grey Cup game and festival is an opportunity to showcase the Stampeders, our loyal fans and our great city," he said.

  • Layoff notices sent to 169 Vale employees in Thompson, Man.
    News
    CBC

    Layoff notices sent to 169 Vale employees in Thompson, Man.

    Vale is entering its "most significant phase" of layoffs in the lead up to the planned shut down of the company's smelting and refining operations in Thompson, Man., later this summer. The company has sent layoff notices to 169 employees, said Ryan Land, manager of corporate affairs and organizational development with Vale. Vale has been planning to stop nickel smelting and refining in Thompson for years, and the operations will officially cease July 31, the same day the layoffs are to take effect.

  • 'Fixer Upper' star debuts cookbook, talks post-show plans
    News
    The Canadian Press

    'Fixer Upper' star debuts cookbook, talks post-show plans

    Even though "Fixer Upper" has come to an end, Joanna Gaines is still going strong. The designing half of the just-wrapped HGTV show is showcasing her cooking skills with the release of her "Magnolia Table" cookbook. "Fixer Upper" has been one of HGTV's most successful shows, but the couple decided to call it quits after the show's fifth season, which wrapped up earlier this month.

  • City advised to spend nearly $1M more next year to improve sidewalk, bike route snow-clearing
    News
    CBC

    City advised to spend nearly $1M more next year to improve sidewalk, bike route snow-clearing

    Winnipeg has been advised to spend just under a million dollars more next year on snow-clearing to improve conditions on sidewalks and bike trails and make intersections more navigable for people who use wheelchairs or have visual impairments.

  • NYSE glitch forces Amazon and Alphabet traders elsewhere
    News
    Reuters

    NYSE glitch forces Amazon and Alphabet traders elsewhere

    By John McCrank and Chuck Mikolajczak NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Stock Exchange said on Wednesday that trading was suspended on its exchange in five stocks, including Amazon and Alphabet, for the rest of the day due to a technical glitch involving trade reporting. The exchange, which is owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc, said the suspension was due to a "price scale code" issue and any open orders in those securities would be canceled. The securities can still be traded on other exchanges, including those run by Nasdaq Inc, where the affected stocks are listed, Cboe Global Markets and IEX Group.

  • Gatineau family's plight highlights risks of toxic coral
    News
    CBC

    Gatineau family's plight highlights risks of toxic coral

    Jason Laframboise said he bought the 1,100-litre aquarium from a local business on Sunday and brought it home to clean. Several people who spoke to CBC News said the toxin found in saltwater aquariums comes from a certain type of common coral, called a zoanthid.

  • News
    CBC

    Women's hockey mockumentary becomes tribute to slain star, dentist Cindy McCormick

    Following the tragic death of a cast member and close friend, Quispamsis filmmaker Gretchen Kelbaugh wrapped a playful mockumentary production with a sharper resolve to speak out about intimate partner violence. Last in League features members of the Moms in Gear hockey team Kelbaugh belongs to, including one of the lead actors, Dr. Cindy McCormick. McCormick, a dentist and mother of two, was killed in October by her partner Bobby Kaine while the couple were in Alberta.