The Big Idea: Second generation local builds on family’s entrepreneurial spirit

The Big Idea: Second generation local builds on family’s entrepreneurial spirit

Business in Whistler for the Hamazakis has always been a family affair.

In the late ‘70s, Yosuke Hamazaki’s parents established a heli-skiing operation followed by a collection of retail shops and were influential in opening the door to the Japanese ski industry that locked to Whistler in the ‘80s.

The second generation of Hamazakis in Whistler has carried on the family tradition. Yosuke’s sister, Kyoko, is at the helm of the families’ Advantage English School and Yosuke heads up an independent ski shop, runs a freeride ski academy and produces eco-friendly mountain lifestyle products while raising the third generation of Hamazaki groms (two daughters and a young son) with his wife Maiko.

Hamazaki’s ski shop, TMC Freeriderz has been a part of freeskiing right from the beginning. Running a freeride ski shop and building a brand and culture around that community at a time when skiing was undergoing a massive shift saw his business innovate and evolve right alongside the ski industry he so passionately supported. Those pioneering values and a passion for an innovative lifestyle continue to drive Hamazaki and have carried through to all of his projects.

True to the core

Independence and originality have always defined North America’s first freeride ski shop.

“TMC Freeriderz was originally inspired by the core snowboard shops of the ‘80s and ‘90s, like The Snowboard Shop or Westbeach,” said Hamazaki. “Although I was a skateboarder, drawn to these shops like a kid in a candy store, I was never comfortable as a skier in them.”

So Hamazaki grew his own shop, catering to a niche group of “alternative” skiers, who were small in number, but big on passion and pushing the boundaries of the sport in those early days.

Loyal customers over the years helped Hamazaki’s shop go the distance, building a community that found a gathering ground here. Many familiar shop faces have ascended to legendary status as pro athletes and the culture continues to evolve.

Hamazaki’s goal is to bring innovative, fun and original brands to his customers. They were the first shop to stock some of the biggest brands including ARMADA skis in 2000, Line and Faction. This commitment to innovative products and the evolution of the sport keep TMC Freeriderz on the leading edge of their industry.

Lip Service

Hamazaki’s newest product, Whistler’s Lips, was created out of necessity for life in the mountains. Raising a young family in Whistler means never letting the weather discourage you from living life outdoors. He knows firsthand, the toll Whistler’s winters and the high alpine can take on faces, especially on the little lips of Whistler kids enjoying hours on end playing outdoors, day after day, regardless of the conditions.

The playful flavours for parched puckers come with whimsical Whistler-inspired names like Peak to Peach, Tantalus Tiramisu, and Cheakamus Chocolate. The products that showcase a unique slice of Whistler are a necessity for locals and make a sustainable souvenir for visitors.

Wax on

Being open to alternatives and opportunities for advancement has Hamazaki taking action to reduce the environmental impact of wax debris we leave behind with every run.

“More often than not, we are using standard waxes that contain many harmful ingredients,” said Hamazaki, concerned about the negative impact on our water sources, local wildlife and the receding glaciers those in the snow industry are trying so hard to protect.

Wanting to offer an alternative to fluoro-carbon and wax consisting of toxic substances, without sacrificing speed, Chocowax was born using biodegradable, chemical-free ingredients with an all-natural blend of negatively charged ions that reduce friction, supercharging ski speed.

Hamazaki’s ultimate goal with Chocowax is to provide an alternative, and by offering this change, I hope that some of the bigger wax producers take note and innovate in an eco-friendly way.

“We are striving to be a lifestyle based product option. We are proud to be amongst many other companies who enable a choice to the consumer,” Hamazaki explained. “If major wax companies would make the change, or at least add eco alternatives to their product line, this would be a huge positive change.”

It’s this commitment to questioning the norm in search of improvement that keeps Hamazaki moving forward and has taken this story from that of a 16-year-old Whistler kid making t-shirts out of his parent’s ski shop in 1994 to a successful entrepreneur carrying on the family tradition, living an innovative life in the mountains.

Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in their sector.

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