by Leslie Anthony
From the first time I cracked one of his books (The Serpent and the Rainbow) I knew two things: a) his was an immersive, investigative anthropology like no other, one that plumbed the true wisdom and knowledge of ancient cultures through direct experience, and b) Wade Davis was a storyteller extraordinaire.
This was only reinforced over the years as I read more of what Davis had to say about the human condition and our collective relationship with the Earth, and heard him speak passionately about this—including several memorable appearances in Whistler, addressing everything from the Sacred Headwaters initiative to sustainable tourism. In his cross-country 2009 CBC Massey Lecture series and eponymous book “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World,” the author, photographer, filmmaker, ethnobotanist, anthropologist and by then National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence took us on a world-circling journey that highlighted the significance of the knowledge humanity may have lost through a graphic telling of what remains. The Wayfinders celebrates the art of navigation that allowed Polynesians to “infuse the entire Pacific Ocean with their imagination and genius” before moving on to the understandings and accomplishments of indigenous peoples in the Amazon, Andean Cordillera of Columbia, Australia’s Arnhem Land, Nepal and the upland forests of Borneo.
In fact, whatever Davis brings his articulate magnifying glass to bear upon comes to life for an audience in a way that few other presenters can match. So a chance to hear him speak live—as he will at this year’s Mountain MULTIPLICITY event during the 2014 World Ski & Snowboard Festival—is a chance not be missed. The soft-voiced man who may be the West’s most influential advocate for the world’s indigenous cultures will explore mountain culture as we don’t know it, touching on material from 15 books and film work like Light at the Edge of the World, an eight-hour documentary series produced for National Geographic.
While Davis is headliner, what he’s participating in (and has always advocated for) is the art of oral tradition—storytelling—and Multiplicity brings together a range of individuals and experiences to follow suit. Well received in the past, this year’s version of MULTIPLICITY promises to be the sleeper “big event” of the festival.
“Mountain Multiplicity is the most underrated event of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival,” writes Magee Walker of 33 Mag. “The event consists of a handful or two of the world’s most interesting people (no, really). It’s like TED Talks of the mountain: each speaker has a few minutes to share their most compelling story with you. Some rely solely on words, others use photos, film, or other media to tell their tales.”
In addition to Davis, this year’s line-up includes photographer and Mountain Life publisher, Todd Lawson, who just two weeks after Typhoon Yolanda touched down in the Philippines, left for a sojourn in the island nation with his family. Once there, serendipity led them to a group of relief volunteers on a tiny island devastated by the biggest storm the world has ever seen. Whistler icon Ace Mackay-Smith relives the best and scariest parts of her trip to the remote mountains of Siberia with legendary skier Scot Schmidt and the late, great snowboarder Craig Kelly. Squamish’s Will Stanhope, fast-becoming one of the world’s top trad climbers, recounts the search for a mythical rock wall named Mariposa in a remote Argentinian Patagonia. Whistler photographer Andy Dittrich will narrate a wildlife slideshow from his work in Africa, South America and Asia for the Discovery Channel series Biggest & Baddest. Expect stories of anacondas, elephants, crocodiless, and silverback gorillas. Freediver Mandy-Rae Cruikshank has attained an impressive 12 Canadian National records, seven World Records, and finished first with Canada’s team in two World Championships, yet few know of her involvement in the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove that exposed the horrors of the Japanese dolphin slaughter. Personal training guru JF Plouffe will present on his recent “Fjords and Boards” ski-and-sail epic in B.C.’s spectacular Jervis Inlet.
If that sounds as interesting to you as it does to me, you’ll want to jump on tickets quick. Get them online at the WSSF site.