Having had a couple of tough days at Whistler, with poor conditions and injury, I was finally able to get some quality skiing in. Over the last few years I have been very short on good conditions for skiing but a day like today reminds me why I love skiing and how awesome it can be, despite some tricky conditions!
Another early start (6am pickup). Weekends in Vancouver are starting to take their toll as there is just no down time, not that I’m really complaining!
The forecast was cold, -9 in Whistler (little wind) and snow forecast in Vancouver. We hit heavy snow before we had even got to Squamish although this then stopped before being replaced by light snow and a steadily dropping temperature. When we got to Whistler, we didn’t go to Creekside as Liam was doing a backcountry skiing course, the temperature was -10 and most of us hadn’t considered we were getting dressed outside which made things a little interesting. -10 is very cold!!
It was Superbowl sunday, which combined with the cold forecast had us hoping for a very quiet day on the slopes. Liam was doing his course so the team was Laura, Josh, Vicky and I. There was no queue so we headed straight up Blackcomb mountain.
The first couple of runs took us through the trees. I was instantly so happy as the conditions were amazing. The visibility was great even though it was very cloudy and snowing. The snow was fresh, light and even. I hardly hit any ice all day and we had fresh powder basically everywhere we went.
The second chair we got was a little interesting. We were next in the queue and the chair stopped. After a brief pause we were told that there would be a 5 minute delay while they called maintenance. He arrived had a look and then started to disembark the chair that had just set off. This involved the people getting off the chair from about 6ft up which was quite entertaining to watch. The chair hadn’t engaged correctly and they wanted to play it safe. This was the only time in the whole day we didn’t ski straight on to a lift. We had been right about people staying away, but it was their loss as the conditions were awesome.
It was however seriously cold!! On Liams’ trip they recorded a temp of -21 and while the forecast was no wind there was a lot – pretty sure with wind chill we were around -30 but more on that later.
After two runs we had to have a pit stop at a restaurant to warm up cold toes, fingers and clear goggles as ice was forming on the inside, which was a whole new issue to me.
We then only managed a couple more runs before we needed another pit stop. Josh and I went and did one more black through the trees before stopping. This was one of my first tastes of the more extreme skiing Whistler has to offer. On a number of occasions I could see that I was making the next 5 turns through the trees on a steep slope with tight turns. There were no places to slow or stop so you had to have faith and commit to it. It was a lot of fun as skiing in the trees always is and we both survived. We then joined the girls for some snacks and to thaw out. My toes were really struggling and took at least 20 mins with my boots off to get back to normal. (One still feels a bit funny – socks is the one place you cant really layer up unfortunately)
Eventually we were all ready to go and did a couple more runs. It was a great group to ski with as we all had very similar views of what we were looking to do. I do however find skiing with snowboarders slightly frustrating. Firstly at the top of every chair they have to stop and strap their feet back in which is a bit annoying especially when its so cold. They also don’t like moguls, and while I don’t hold that against them they are my favourite. Finally on flats they get rather stuck which normally isn’t too bad but today was a real problem as the snow was just so sticky. I’ve never been on anything like it and even on downhills Laura and I quite often had to push to keep moving, the snowboarders didn’t have a chance!
All in all we had a great day and Laura chose our routes very well. She did have one slight error. She took us down a “nice blue with nice snow” to get to a lift. This turned out to be a brutal mogul field which I was a fan of, I wasn’t sad we only did it once though, but the rest of the team did not enjoy them.
In the afternoon we skied over to 7th Heaven which is an area I wanted to ski although Laura had her reservations about how cold it would be as its pretty exposed and the wind had really picked up. She did admit the snow would be awesome. Unfortunately to get there we had to traverse a really long cat-track which turned into a nightmare due to the sticky snow. It was bad on skis and I really felt for the borders but they stuck at it.
My nose and hands were really struggling so had to keep my nose covered and bring my fingers back to my hand to warm them up. Everyone was struggling with slightly different parts but we were all feeling the cold.
We went up the chair and the conditions weren’t too bad although the visibility dropped. It turned out there was a tail wind as when we got to the top it was really bad. The wind was howling along the ridge, the visibility was poor and we were stuck on the sticky snow. Eventually we got to the top of the run but the light was so flat it was hard going. I followed Josh down and he had a serious fall, must have gone head over heels at least 4 times but luckily was ok after a little sit down. We took it pretty easily till the visibility cleared but the snow was still amazing even if hard to see.
Next it was my turn. Lower down I was very happily doing some lovely turns when all of a sudden on a bit of a bump my uphill ski popped out. This left me skiing down the mountain (medium difficulty) quite fast on one ski but I was in control(ish). I tried to work out if I could control this situation on one ski or whether it was going to get worse. After about 5m of going straight down on one ski I knew the answer and hit the deck in a big cloud of snow. Despite looking like quite a big fall it was sort of controlled.
Next up? Another quick warm up, although I came across something new which I think is sad. At the restaurant there was a computer game area where there are numerous game consoles, seemed completely unnecessary and a waste of a great resort.
After the break Josh and Vicky headed home and Laura and I decided to do 1 more run and then ski down. This turned in to 4 more runs as the conditions were so good and there was no one left on the mountain we couldn’t let it pass. These runs really got the legs working and took us to a new part of the mountain which was nice although they were very exposed and cold, our balaclavas etc were all frozen solid.
On our way home we noticed all the snow machines were on despite the fact it was snowing. Didn’t seem necessary but I guess “make snow while the air freezes” or something like that…
By the time we had got to the bottom we were pretty tired but so happy after an excellent days skiing. This was definitely the best days skiing I’ve had in years. It really reminded me how much I can love skiing which is good. I also love skiing with Laura. We ski to a similar level and very similar views about mountain etiquette and when to stop etc. Never boring being on the mountain with her and cant wait to go again. (most importantly she sees the funny side when I steal her skis)
At the bottom we rejoined the others in the pub for a beer and a burger and to wait for Liam. I didn’t realise until I took my kit off that my jacket in places had frozen absolutely solid, I’ve never seen anything like it. When we got back to the car it was -14 and I am so glad that all those years ago my parents bought me some heavy duty ski kit as you really need it when its like this!!
Having joined the others in the pub we ended up watching the Superbowl (not a fan) and it was an awful game. Liam had got delayed on the course so they didn’t join till quite late and stayed to have a beer and some food with the guide. I was knackered and would have loved to leave earlier as it’s Sunday evening but thats how it goes sometimes and Liam and Laura look after me very well :)!
Eventually home and reflecting on the day and still so happy. Think it will be the best day of the season as I cant see their being better conditions combined with so few people. Would love it to be a bit warmer but impressed that we stuck it out despite the numerous stops as most people I knew out had managed a half day at best.
Now for some sleep as tomorrow at 8am I have 2hrs of 1-on-1 training with the boss. unfortunately it can’t be all play time 😦