Spring Ski in Whistler

In somewhat impromptu fashion, Hitomi and I spent an extended weekend in Whistler. Hitomi wanted to spend her birthday time skiing and I was invited to join.

The last time I was in Whistler was with my Dad and Stepmother during the summer time and they had rented a cabin near the village and we did a fair number of touristy things for a week, like riding the gondola up over the ski resort, hiking a few days, riding bikes through town, and we had a day of river rafting. We had a pretty good time, but the weather was fairly rainy and cold, I recall. (Thinking back, minus the awesome mountains, you can get a similar resort experience at a lower cost, maybe if we stayed someplace like Winthrop or Leavenworth close to Seattle. Whistler is, and was, expensive.)

Spring skiing often means soggy, old snow. If there's rain on the slopes, you're better off staying home than ski the muck. But my luck had been better of late and the forecast looked quite alright. Still, I wasn't looking forward to the long ride; we were taking the bus to Whistler. And hadn't we done enough skiing already?

Most skiing requires a bit of money paid to the resort just to use your gear, unlike many outdoor sports where you pay very little, e.g. hiking or kayaking, which seems absurd. Hence the considerable money spent on AT gear, which is at least useful off the resort. Two four-day ski resort passes and hotel and resort food etc. could end up costing quite a lot, so I hoped for decent weather.

Miraculously, the weather was near perfect. We new powdery snow for two days, cold conditions (at least on top), and the third day we had a ski guide take us up to the summit Decker Mountain.

There wasn't any new snow the third day but all the snow was still fresh and everything was glistening with hoar frost. As much as fresh snow sounds great, you don't really get any to yourself except for those first few runs when the resort opens up. But in the backcountry, there's very few tracks you cross. As for the climb I can't say it was a difficult ski up, but really I need to keep working on techniques such as kick turns and side steps.

Our guide, Chris, has been a ski and rock climbing guide for about 20 years. I talked to him about avalanche dangers and his worst experiences being a guide and there have been very few incidents he said, and no incidents of being buried. Most, if not all, avalanche danger can be avoided through good judgment, knowledge of the area, preparation, etc. Backcountry Skiing (book) states that human factors were responsible for 90% of avalanche accidents.

Hitomi and I also spent some time with Mr. Noguchi, a Japanese ski guide who's been living in Whistler these past 20 years. A lot of Japanese, European, Australian, and now Asian and people from other countries come to ski Whistler, which is the biggest ski resort in North America. (And actually most of the people working there aren't Canadian at all, on working holiday visas.) Noguchi had tea, and  dinner with us one night, and spent the last day with us on Sunday, doing a mini-tour of places in Blackcomb and we went out to Blackcomb Glacier as well. Not only a guide though, he frequently blogs and takes pictures about happenings in and around the resort.

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About eliasross

Blogging before the word "blog" was invented.
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