Parkin Costain Talks Freeskiing
Parkin Costain just celebrated his birthday complete with eighteen boys pelting each other with paint balls in a wooded battleground, recovering with junk food, and a sleepover where nobody slept. Normal stuff for a boy turning twelve.
As the ski season comes to a close, we asked Parkin to sit down for a rare still moment and tell us what it’s like to create the headlines, “Costain Sweeps Freeskiing Events” and discover if he really is fearless.
WL- So Parkin, what exactly is free skiing?
Parkin- Free skiing is like hitting all the cliffs on East Rim (on Big Mountain). It’s going fast and hitting drops.
WL- How did you do in this season’s competitions?
Parkin- Last year I won the entire Canadian series. This year we went to about ten events. I had some falls so I didn’t do as well. So, I probably got first in every one except three.
WL- We heard you had a pretty big fall at Grand Targhee. What was that like?
Parkin- Yah, that was a big fall. I came in off the top, made it through a tough spot and then went off a fifteen foot drop. My left foot went into the ground and it made me spin around backwards and flip over. I did a backwards tomahawk for thirteen seconds down the hill. The furthest I flew on one of them was thirty-five feet. It didn’t hurt that bad. My leg hit a tree and I had a big bruise. I was freaked out by the trees though. I don’t care about going off a cliff, but I’m scared of hitting trees.
WL- That’s crazy. Good to know you’re scared of something. Why do you think you are so good at freeskiing?
Parkin- Because my dad grew up doing it and he used to take me skiing with him when I was a baby in a backpack. He started me on skis at two, then I started hitting cliffs when I was six and winning competitions when I was eight.
WL- Who most inspires you?
Parkin- Well, as a free skier, Tanner Hall because he’s bringing all the tricks from the terrain park to all mountain. And my Dad. He started out as a snowboarder and when I was born, changed to skiing. He loves powder.
WL- What else do you love to do?
Parkin- Mountain biking downhills. I won the race up on Big Mountain last year. I also like to make stuff like potato cannons.
WL- How did you make that?
Parkin- I looked everything up on YouTube and went to Ace and told my mom I’d pay her back for all the stuff for it and then she bought it all and I never did. That thing was so fun; it was taller than I was. We launched from the parking lot behind The Wave and it went about a quarter mile.
WL- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Parkin- Hopefully winning money at all the national competitions for free skiing. Or world wide.
WL- What advice would you give younger kids who want to do what you do?
Parkin- Follow your dreams and practice. Ski as much as you can. I just ski a lot and it helps me get stronger. My dad takes me on cliffs and teaches me how to position myself so they should find a coach to help them. Pick a line, pushing your limits a little bit. If you land it, you’ll do better than you thought you could. Pick the funnest and strongest line you can think of.
WL- What do you like best about living in Whitefish, Montana?
Parkin- The mountain. My favorite run is Picture Chutes in Hellroaring Basin.
Then Parkin stands to go and I fire one more question at him, “What’s the best part? What do you love most about what you do?” In this moment, there’s a glimpse of the man he will someday be when without hesitation he says, “Overcoming fear and facing a challenge.”
Pete also authored a page in a new book, Fifty Classic Ski Descents in North America.
Bestselling Author Laura Munson
Laura Munson does not show up empty handed. Rather, she carries a bag of groceries in her arms, filled with Vine Sweet Mini Peppers, Genoa Salami, Barrel-Aged Greek Feta Cheese and a bottle of German white wine. The last item is in honor of the German version of her New York Times bestselling memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is… arriving in the mail.
She is a bearer of gifts and as she stands in my kitchen, slicing feta and peppers, arranging them artfully on a plate, I realize this is true on more than a simple level. The gift she’s carried and delivered to people all over the world is her story. When her personal essay, “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear” was published in July, 2009 in The Modern Love column of The New York Times, it exploded over the internet and the result was an offer to publish her memoir.
Now, stories of the gift she’s given, stories of healing, come back to her. They thank her for her raw and honest memoir about the summer her husband told her he didn’t love her anymore and her brave and unique response to that moment.
Last Spring, Laura Munson went on her first book tour and as she prepares to embark on her paperback tour in a few weeks, she generously agreed to answer a few questions.
WL – You are going out on your paperback tour. What are you most excited about?
Laura - The first time I went on tour it was all business and it was all new. I’d been holed up in my house in my small Montana town writing for years. Being exposed to the energy inherent to large urban areas activated a different side of me. I had never flexed that muscle before as a writer. Learning the business side of writing, being in the public eye and speaking in front of people (in the Good Morning America studio) was a big change from the country. The writing life is isolated enough, compiled with the solitude of life in Montana, and the plunge into urban areas can be a bit mind-blowing. I’ve had to learn to filter all that energy—sometimes it’s a different city every day. This time I think it will be a bit more natural and even fun because I know that side of myself now.
WL – Is there a particular event on your tour you’re looking forward to?
Laura – I am excited about the whole tour, and because the book is being published in eight different countries, I have had the honor of being asked to do really inspiring things like More Magazine’s Reinvention Convention. I’ll be in Los Angeles and have the opportunity to speak alongside 30 amazing women including Rita Wilson and Christy Turlington Burns.
WL – That sounds incredible. It seems like life has changed a lot since you were published a year ago.
Laura - Suddenly, I have all these new peers. It’s so exciting to get out of Montana and see what other people are up to. It’s good news for people who live in non-urban areas. You can still be part of that cultural conversation.
WL – And how about your family? How has this year been for them?
Laura – My kids are proud that their parents got through a hard time and like hearing stories about how the book has helped others. I received one letter from a blind woman in Tel-Aviv who had downloaded the book. She said it helped her get over the loss of her seeing eye dog to cancer. When you can share a story with responsibility and compassion, it can hit the hearts of those hundreds of miles away. My husband and I will talk about scenes in the book and think – remember how we handled that - so it’s become a reference point for us too. There is a lot of power in making it through what we did. And when we hear from a soldier in Afghanistan who has been touched by the book or a 22 year old Malaysian man whose girlfriend left him, it just begets more abundance in our own lives.
WL – Why do you think memoir is so popular right now?
LM - Memoir is hot because people want truth. It is a high calling though and a humbling experience. People are sharing with me because I’ve shared with them. I would like to publish a novel next and hopefully have room for both memoir and fiction in the future.
WL – How would you describe what your memoir is about?
Laura - Essentially, it is a book about choice. It is about powerfully choosing your emotions, which is the opposite of being a victim. I have done talks in YWCA’s, JCC’s, country clubs, high schools, colleges, retirement communities, bookstores, libraries and many others. The number one thing people want to discuss is the inner critic. I read somewhere that we have something like 60,000 thoughts a day and 80% are negative. We need to tell ourselves a new story: you are enough just the way you are.
WL – Finally, what do you like best about living in Montana?
Laura – Montana has been my very best teacher and it’s my grounding force. On this tour, I’m bringing various feathers I’ve found here, a braid of my horse’s hair in a pouch, and heart shaped rocks found in the Flathead River. They are a reminder of what we have here. Once nature has gotten under your skin, it’s important to bring it with you. Tours can be disorienting and I find that having a bit of Montana in my pocket really helps keep me in balance.
As she answers this last question, we look up and the Montana sky gives her another gift to take along on her tour. Her face lights up and she races for her camera, stepping out in bare feet to a wet deck. A rainbow’s vibrant arc spreads above the frozen lake. She looks at me and says, “That’s what I’m talking about. A rainbow against a background of grey. Relationships matter and nature is what grounds me to them.”
Laura Munson’s paperback comes out in April, 2011 (Amy Einhorn/Putnam). For more information about Laura’s tour dates and destinations, visit her author website- Laura Munson, Author. You may also want to visit her insightful blog These Here Hills.
What motivates a citizen to run for office for the first time? What causes them to step outside their everyday life and offer time and energy to the community in which they live? What drives a person to raise campaign funds for an unpaid, volunteer City Council seat?
To answer the question, I sat down with John Anderson, a local lawyer and father of two school age sons, who is running for office for the first time. On his back porch, with the sound of his children playing in the background and an occasional whistle for his dog, he offered his perspective.
Have you ever run for office before?
No public office.
What made you want to run for Whitefish City Council?
I’ve been on the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Board; this will be my 5th year. For the first three years, the Chamber was known as a good networking organization and I really thought it could become a lot more. About two years ago, I was asked to be part of the selection committee for the new executive director and every hiring committee wants a lawyer. We came across Kevin’s Gartland’s resume and went through the interview process. I thought there was something we could do with the organization if Kevin came on board. With that in mind, I accepted the Chairmanship and with the help of the Board and Kevin, we adopted an agenda focused on economic development.
Back then times were really tough. You know, a lot of my friends were carpenters. They hadn’t even gotten to Williston yet. It was before everyone started flocking to the oil patch. There were no jobs. I had a lot of friends in real estate who were having a really hard time. I thought the Chamber was the one organization in place where I could lead the effort to make it the leading economic development agent in Whitefish. The board was really supportive and has never rejected any portion of my agenda that I’ve ever presented to them.
What did the Chamber accomplish for economic development?
We’ve been able to bring many organizations in the valley together to coordinate resources. There were 6-10 organizations all focused on economic development. All their members were paying dues and spending money and donating, contributing, but not a lot was getting done. All of that money was going to very small efforts. So, we got behind some of the valley’s resources and were able to bring some of the resources in Kalispell up to Whitefish. All of the government and private assistance programs now have office hours in Whitefish.
There isn’t a lot of demand right now though. That’s really the next problem to tackle. There is a lot of money in the valley for investment. I think there’s roughly ten million dollars in either tax subsidies or government funds of some sort just sitting there waiting to be spent on good projects. But, there just aren’t the projects. There isn’t a demand. Demand is a little tricky in trying to get the capital available.
I guess you would need to get people to know those funds are available. Everyone thinks you can’t get funded for anything right now. How do you let people know?
Yes, and I’ve asked the Flathead County Economic Development Authority to help us market to the valley that these things are available. To Whitefish in particular because Whitefish is in a unique spot. We are doing pretty well compared to the rest of the valley. So, you’ve already got some good things going to build from. There are some good jobs in tourism. People aren’t getting rich, but they are doing okay.
So, being on the Chamber Board was a stepping stone to running for Whitefish City Council?
My term was up and I’d like to take the ideas developed there and bring them to the city council.
Was it a hard decision to run for office?
Well, making the decision was pretty hard because twice a month for four years is a big commitment. I’m a pretty busy lawyer and having a family and trying to ski every now and then and enjoy why we’re here. But, Shani, my wife, is a big help. She’s very supportive and it was a decision between the two of us because it would be time taken away from the family. And that’s where a lot of your time goes. But, most of the time I run on relatively little sleep and I am good at rearranging priorities.
How did you and Shani meet?
I was going to law school in Missoula and she was from Austin, Texas and was in school for her teaching degree. She moved up here and didn’t know a soul. She was wandering through the mall in Missoula and saw a picture of a gal adopting a dog who she had been in college with in Texas. She called her up and this gal was dating one of my roommates. Shani and I dated and it wasn’t a year before we decided to get married.
Are you from Montana?
No, I’m from Wisconsin. About an hour north of Green Bay. I came out here in 1988 and was working for the forest service at a ranger station west of Missoula during the summers in college. And I knew I wanted to stay out here. I got my law degree here and worked for a few summers. But, Texans are homing pigeons so we went to Texas for a while. I gained a lot of valuable experience there as a lawyer.
What brought you back to Montana? To Whitefish?
We came back about six or seven years ago. We decided to move back to Montana and wanted a small town that could satisfy someone from Austin so we came to Whitefish. We just love it so much. It is a perfect combination of so many things. World class skiing, great schools, the best places to eat, the community. It’s spectacular.
So what are some issues important to you?
I think whether we like it or not the Critical Areas Ordinance is something we are all going to have to deal with. The next council is going to have to resolve it. It’s been made an issue and frankly I think that parts of it need to be simplified that just aren’t working. The best intentions went into it for the most part. Clean water was the primary goal and I don’t know if most folks know it, but Whitefish gets a lot of its drinking water from the lake so it is important that the water stay clean. Anyone who takes a sip of water within the city limits has probably got some portion of the water from the lake in it. So, I think that’s a good goal to have, but it really needs to be much easier to administer. I don’t think anyone right now can build a house and be certain it is in compliance with portions of the Critical Areas Ordinance. It’s just so complex and it needs to be simplified and made clearer. I think my being a lawyer can start to help us get there.
Is there anything you’d like to see changed in Whitefish?
I’d like to see the downtown and the Highway 93 businesses more coordinated in their approach to Whitefish and it is going to take a long time for that to happen. And what I mean by that is that when you come in (and I don’t think there is anything wrong with their appearance right now),but it is going to change over time. I hope those businesses on the strip and downtown realize they depend on each other and that coordinating appearance or signage or landscaping would help development. One of the goals of the Chamber was to get the two areas to talk. While at the Chamber, we had them sit down and talk and they at least agreed to have a study done to determine what would be best for the strip. A collaborative approach would help all the businesses in Whitefish.
What do you think should stay the same?
I’d like to see the downtown stay the center of town. That’s what attracts people and gives it its vibe. And I hope that people appreciate the ski hill. Just a few years ago it was at risk of closing. I don’t think people realize that without Foley’s investment, I am not certain that we’d have a ski hill this winter. People really need to understand the hill’s importance. Another thing that a lot of people don’t realize is how important the railroad is to the economy. There are a lot of jobs in this town from the railroad and those people are making a very good living, contributing their tax dollars and serving on boards. Between tourism and the railroad, those things have helped Whitefish ride out some difficult times.
Is there anything you’d like people to know about you?
I tend to bring people together. I think that’s the best approach. And with what I do for a living, I realize that’s not always possible. I also understand the toll it takes on a community when there’s a lot of divisiveness and rancor. You know, you just have to keep talking to people. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to alternate routes, but I tend to try to bring people together and I will make every effort I can (personally it’s kind of the way I’m wired) to try to keep the communication open. But, I’ve done it enough to realize that at some point talking isn’t going to do you any more good. I have the ability to find out where that line is without drawing it too quickly. I tend to be more patient.
Also, people should understand that I am pro business but I also think that businesses thrive in places where people want to live. Whitefish is a place where people want to live. In studies about the best cities to do business in, there is always a very vibrant downtown, but also they aren’t so restrictive to limit growth in other parts of town. Focus on maintaining character, but promoting growth too. People think zero regulation is best for business. I don’t think that. And over regulation is bad too. That stifles it. You need to cultivate a business atmosphere. It doesn’t just happen. Whitefish has a reputation of being difficult to do business in in terms of getting permits or finding out how things work. I think the city should be more friendly and do their best to make it easy.
I have one more question. Well, actually two. How tall are you?
Six foot six.
And what do you like best about Whitefish?
I don’t think I could really say. There are a lot of things that come together in Whitefish to make it unique. Whitefish is Whitefish. That’s what I like about it.
For more information about John, text JohnAnderson to the number 90210 or visit his campaign website and Facebook Page. There are currently three Whitefish City Council seats and six candidates running for the opportunity to have their voice heard. They include Mary Vail, Richard Hildner, Life Noell, Frank Sweeney, Doug Wise, and John Anderson. Whitefish Life would be happy to speak with any or all of the other candidates should they be interested.
Chef Steve Nogal
Stop by McGarry’s Roadhouse and you are sure to be welcomed by either Sandy or Steve Nogal, or both. Their restaurant is an extension of their belief that family and friends are of quintessential importance and breaking bread together is where substance lies. Steve took the time to talk to Whitefish Life about their restaurant, their partnership, food and a small story about Bill Gates.
WL- McGarry is not your last name so where does the name of the restaurant come from?
Steve- The restaurant is named for my maternal grandfather, James T. McGarry. His picture hangs on the wall along with other relatives going back three generations.
WL – You and Sandy work as partners in business and in marriage. How do you break up the roles in both?
Steve- Sandy is the pretty one who works out front. I’m the nasty one, and I work in the kitchen. I like knives and fire. Sandy likes smiles. She says that I’m the boss at work, and she’s the boss at home. That, and separate bathrooms seems to be our secret.
WL- There’s a large wooden knife with names carved on it that hangs above the kitchen. Can you explain the story behind it?
Steve- It was made by friends saying goodbye to us from Whidbey Island.
Note- Between 1989 and 2003, Steve and Sandy were the innkeepers and chef for the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island.
WL- What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened during your years working together?
Steve- Almost having to pack up the belongings of Bill and Melinda Gates when they were running late to check-out of the Inn at Langley during the sold-out summer season.
WL- How are your wines selected?
Steve- We are “Northwest centric” in our tastes, and we support our friends from that area. We love the flavors, and they match well with our food.
WL- Family and friends are clearly very important to you. How do you incorporate this into your restaurant philosophy?
Steve- They are one and the same. Family recipes as well as the integrity to which they lived has been our model.
WL- If you could design a meal for a guest, what would you choose for each course?
Steve- Penn Cove Mussels with Thai curry sauce, wild greens salad with a cherry vinaigrette, roasted free-range chicken, red skinned potatoes, asparagus and strawberry shortcake.
WL- Now for something to let our readers have some insight about you outside of the restaurant. What are your three favorite movies or TV shows?
Steve- The Sopranos, Deadwood and Lawrence of Arabia.
WL- And your favorite books?
Steve- Musashi, Perfectly French by Patricia Wells and Joel Rubuchon, Kitchen Confidential.
WL- Finally, what do you like best about life in Whitefish?
Steve- The people we meet who truly love to “break bread” and the dogs who adopted us.
Steve and Sandy’s slogan is “eat good food, drink good wine, celebrate good friends.” You can find them and often the dogs who have adopted them at 510 Wisconsin Avenue in Whitefish. Please visit the McGarry’s Roadhouse website for more information.
Interior Designer Hunter Dominick
Although Hunter Dominick of Hunter and Co. has tried very hard to work the southern phrases out of her lexicon, it is clear that her innate southern charm has as much to do with her success as her excellence in her profession. Hunter’s down to earth and welcoming personality shone bright in our recent interview with her where she was open about the difficulties of managing parenting and a job she loves.
WL- How did you become an interior designer?
Hunter- My father is an interior designer and and my parents met in design school. My mother was a painter and later a librarian. I thought I would be a painter too, but my mother said that painters don’t make any money. So, from the time I was little I knew I would be an interior designer.
WL- So, it runs in the family?
Hunter- Yes. When I graduated from college, I asked my dad for a job. But, he had partners and wasn’t able to hire me. I think he still regrets that because we were never able to work together. It’s hard because my family is here while my parents are in Virginia. But, we own an antique store in Roanoke, Virginia called Antique Blue so we do work together on that.
WL- How did you start your business in Whitefish?
Hunter- I moved here from Colorado in 2000 and opened Hunter & Co. in 2001 from home. I thought working from home would be ideal but it was too hard. I needed a space to work so I opened an office in the Railway District. At that time, there were no interior designers in Whitefish. Later, we opened the showroom where it is now.
WL- Do you just work locally or do you have other projects?
Hunter- We work all over. Right now we have three jobs going in California.
WL- You have a successful business and two young children. How do you balance being a mom and a businesswoman?
Hunter- Oh, don’t ask me that. That’s a hard question. Sometimes I feel like I don’t. When my son was born, I tried to stay home but it was hard for me. I like to work. Now, I take one day a week off to focus on my kids and take care of myself. I also try to incorporate all the errand type stuff into my work week so when I’m with the kids, I can concentrate on what sport they are playing or activity they are doing or just them. My husband (Bayard Dominick of Steeplechase Development who is working to see the vision of a remodeled Whitefish High School come to fruition) is very supportive and a great dad.
WL- Thanks for your time. One more question. What do you like best about life in Whitefish?
Hunter- The people. The low key atmosphere, no interstate. The lifestyle.
Mr. Ottsen, Volunteer Extraordinaire
This past ski season, a group of fifth grade boys sat together for lunch in the Base Lodge. They talked about the ski runs, next season’s football and baseball teams and Mr. Ottsen.
“Mr. Ottsen is awesome.”
“I know. Mr. Ottsen is the best.”
These boys were not talking about a sports star or a coach or even a teacher. They were praising a volunteer who for the past months had come to their school almost daily to teach them Latin. That volunteer is Ron Ottsen, who one day ten years ago walked into the school and just volunteered to help.
The kids recently had a surprise party to thank Mr. Ottsen for the time he invests in them, complete with homemade Peppermint Ice Cream (made by Mrs. Moen) and homemade gifts of appreciation. We asked Mr. Ottsen to tell us a little more about himself and what makes volunteering so important to him.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Iowa, but also spent part of my childhood in North Dakota and Nebraska. I spent three years in the Navy after high school and made one cruise to the Far East on an aircraft carrier, visiting Hawaii, Okinawa, Guam, Japan and Hong Kong. I then went to college and got my B.A. degree in History and Geography from what is now Cal State Fullerton, California.
Could you tell us a little about your career?
Later on I got my Master’s Degree in Social Work from USC in Los Angeles. I remained in California for the rest of my work life, spending most of my career working at Camarillo State Hospital in Camarillo, California where I worked with extremely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents ( severe behavior problem kids). I did individual and group therapy, some family therapy, and helped with many community outings with the kids. I wore many hats as most staff members did! I loved my work and was very devoted to it.
That is fascinating. How did you eventually end up in Whitefish?
I became close friends with a psychologist who also worked with the kids and we often took summer vacations together, frequently camping trips to the Northwest. He was from Montana originally and introduced me to Glacier National Park and I immediately fell in love with it. We discovered Whitefish on our travels and found it a convenient place to stay on our trips to Glacier. He retired five years before me and decided on Whitefish as his retirement home. It didn’t take me long to decide to come here also, especially since I could be so close to Glacier, and I had always wanted to retire to a mountain area. I fell in love with the mountains as a kid when I first saw them in Colorado on a family trip and I always loved going there on trips. I retired in October of 1998 and drove here immediately after my last day of work!
And then how did you begin working again with kids in the schools?
I walked into the principal’s office one day ten years ago and just volunteered to help. I wanted to continue my work with kids, but in a far more relaxed and fun way than I had done in my career. I usually volunteer three days a week, although right now I am there first thing every morning because I am doing a special book project with a small group of nine kids who Mrs. Moen and I picked out. My favorite part of volunteering is that it is extremely rewarding in so many ways and I just love the kids. They are so much fun to work with and I stick with the 5th grade because kids of that age are so genuine,open, sincere and appreciative. I don’t know who gets more out of it – me or them. It’s a win-win for everyone. They are the center of my life here and I love every minute of my time with them. I have told them that I would rather be in school with them than anywhere else! I am also mentoring a student from last year’s class at his home at the request of his father and have been seeing him twice a week all school year.
What other interests can you share with us?
I have loved to travel all my life and have traveled to most areas of the U.S., most of Westen Europe including Russia when it was the Soviet Union, the Baltic States, Greece, Turkey and Morocco. This summer I am taking a ten day tour of England, which includes Edinburgh and Scotland. I never got married myself – somehow, things just kind of worked out that way. It wasn’t planned, but I always tell people who say I should have had kids, that I do – hundreds of them, as the result of my work, both professionally and non-professionally. I spent 25 years coaching little league baseball, was a Big Brother in the Big Brothers/Sisters organization for 20 years and did youth work in my church. I couldn’t have done all that if I was married and had kids. I also want to state that I have a very close-knit family and that the love that exists in my family is very important to me.
We want to thank Ron Ottsen for the time he spent with us and the time and energy he invests in Whitefish kids. And if you happen to see him in Glacier Park this summer or on a walk around town, stop and give him a thumbs up. The world could use a few more Mr. Ottsens.