In Whistler and the surrounding area, the name Pelchat is almost synonymous with snowboarding. It started with JF Pelchat, who was a part of the Wildcats, a legendary backcountry snowboard group in the ‘90s. Now, it’s his daughters Juliette and Amalia that are primed to take the mantle as the future of women’s snowboarding.
But that’s not all the Pelchat sisters are known for in Whistler.
They are also the driving force behind Whistler’s growing girls skateboard scene with their group The Real Wild Kittens, which hosts Ladies Skate events every Friday morning throughout the summer.
The idea first came to them while on a family vacation in Ucluelet, B.C. last year. Juliette, 16, and Amalia, 13, heard about a ladies skate event at the park in town and decided to check it out and invite their friends to join.
“Me and Amalia were in Ucluelet and there was a girls skate event, but it was kind of run down, so we decided to just go there and bring it back with the help of a few other pro snowboarders out there, like Marie-France Roy and Robin Van Gyn,” said Juliette Pelchat.
“And there was an awesome community that just showed up and then we were like, ‘Oh, this would be cool to bring this to Whistler.’ So, then we decided to host one in Whistler, and it ended up taking off last year.”
The first event they hosted only had about 10 girls show up, but by the second time, the word was out and more than 30 girls attended.
“There was a lot of things going on in the world at this time. COVID was a big thing, and everybody was pretty down about that and Black Lives Matter, and we were like, ‘OK, we got to bring something good to the skate park, or something good to this world, in these tough times.’ So we decided to host our first event at the end of June last year,” said Pelchat.
“The first one was not as big, but the second one was huge. It was insane. Everybody was so positive and so many girls there.
“We also wanted to start it because when we were growing up, we didn’t have that safe environment to learn how to skateboard and we wanted to provide the girls with that opportunity.”
From that moment The Real Wild Kittens began to take off and it transitioned from the success of the Ladies Skates into running camps and doing private lessons for any girls who wanted to learn to skateboard.
And now in Year 2, the business is starting to gain momentum with weekly skateboard camps, private coaching, sponsors and giveaways.
But no matter how big the business side of things might get, the free, drop-in Friday morning Ladies Skate events, for women of all ages, will always be foundational to the Kittens—because it was never about money. It was always about building a community of female skateboarders and “being able to give back to the skate community,” according to Pelchat.
While the Ladies Skate events have grown to the point where they see more than 20 girls show up consistently each week, Pelchat still hopes to get more older women to take part, whether it is a mom of one of the girls in the camp or just any adult who always wanted to try skateboarding but never knew where to start.
“We’re trying to get more adults out, but they don’t always want to ride with really young girls. But last year we had quite a variation of ages and levels,” said Pelchat.
“There’s actually a few parents that have started to skateboard because they are excited to see their kids learning and they want to be a part of it.”
One example of that is Pelchat’s own mom, Kristy La Mantia, who has been helping out with the camps behind the scenes, but decided to get on a board herself once she saw how much her daughters loved skateboarding and how big a part of their life it had become.
“I [started skateboarding] to support the initiative and to show the girls and other women that you can do it at any age. It makes my kids happy to see that I’m doing stuff that they’re doing and I’m not just a mom that sits there with a coffee. They’re just stoked to see me do stuff,” said La Mantia, who hopes to encourage more adult women to join her at the park.
“It’s so hard, but it’s so fun and it’s actually super rewarding when you do stuff that is challenging. So challenge yourself and get out and go and have some fun. It’s a bunch of us that don’t know what we are doing, but we are going to do it together.”
According to La Mantia, an adults-only camp is in the works for this summer but no date has been set yet.
For now, The Kittens will be hosting their next four-day camp this Saturday to Wednesday, followed by another from Aug. 7 to 10, while Ladies Skate events continue every Friday morning throughout the summer.
All information and details can be found @realwildkittens on Instagram.