Something didn’t seem right. I was driving north, away from the bulls-eye Mother Nature was pointing toward the Cascades. Weather forecasters were predicting one of those storms that were measured in feet, not inches. But the plan was set in stone. Drive across the border, pick up a friend at Vancouver International, and continue along the Sea-to-Sky Highway to the Holy Land.
As soon as my car steered away from the coast and with the elevation rising, so were the piles of snow. The sheer amount of snow was mesmerizing for early December. Although I knew it was going to be an epic dump, I felt something of a foreshadowing coming. The tall, stately fir trees stood proud shouldering heavy loads of snow on top of their bristles. Christmas music seemed to resonate with each turn of the radio dial. A joyous time was sure to come.
Twas the night before Peak Chair, and all through the town. Not a skier was stirring. Not even a louse. The powder was bombed by the Patrol with much care- only to awaken the next morning with much more to share while Whistler Village was decked out in a festive Holiday flair. The skiers nestled all snug in their beds- would have dreams of sugarplum powder pillows and face shots above their heads.
As promised, Whistler patrol opened Peak Express by 10 a.m. and we were off and running- lap after lap of placing track next to track. Once we finished with Whistler Bowl with touches along Surprise, we made the trek toward the VD Chutes. Dream-like fir trees covered in snow with pillow after pillow of powder booters. Coverage remained outstanding for early December. Continuous laps involving Big Red and Peak Express were in motion for hours to come. I couldn’t shake the excitement each time I approached the rock garden. Soft, cushioning snow and with sequences of five or even seven kickers lined up in a row. A later exploration onto Garbanzo Express revealed more untracked powder and ghost-filled chairs. Something just speaks to me when you have the opportunity to rip pow lines all day with minimal line ups. Especially at The Big W-B. A long afternoon of Kokanees certainly lurked ahead at the Garibaldi Lift Company.
Sunday morning, Tom and I met up with local photographer Magali Roy. Blackcomb opened with yet another fresh coat of snow. Dropping into the Café Chutes beneath the Rendezvous restaurant, we discovered the beginning of the day’s first bounty. I followed close behind Magali and her friend Pam- as they raced in and out of tree pockets toward Jersey Cream Express. These “Betty’s” were high on life. I could tell from the smiles and stoke talk while riding up the Wizard; it was going to be another stellar day.
Heading straight for The Bite, we entertained ourselves in knee deep powder amidst the rocky outcroppings. This was my first time riding the W-B early season. I kept waiting for rocks to rear their ugly heads, but there were none. Amazed, I leaned over toward Pam to ask about conditions in the gut. “Not a single core shot yesterday. It’s good everywhere!” With that assurance, I dropped into the center and raced through powder pillows and snow banks. Our runs began to add speed and soon I felt like I was riding the Bullet Train Express with these ladies. Growing tired (yawn) of the wide open powder, our fearless female powder warriors steered the group into the mystical trees just shy of 7th Heaven. The first nine turns were…well…DEEP. The trail opened up below a catwalk into one of the perfectly gladed sections of Raptor’s Ride. Perfectly spaced powder bumps greeted us with wide grins. It seemed that everyone was fond of this sheltered area with yesterday’s low visibility. We returned to JC where the goods were plentiful and bumps hard to find.
Numerous laps later among the trees in the Jersey Cream Zone, Glacier Express made a surprise opening. The staff had been preparing the Crystal chair when they got the call from Patrol that “G” was a go. We had pretty much given up hope the high alpine would open today. 60km. + winds were scouring the upper faces. Our first ride up was a cold one. Wind howled and nipped at our boards, almost as if to try and rip them from our bindings. Keeping a watchful eye on Spanky’s Ladder, we dropped in Heavenly Basin for a quickie. The snow in the High Alpine had certainly accumulated and drifted more so than the lower mountain. Charging through snow drifts and virgin tree shots, our faces began to develop that contagious permagrin. Miraculously, with only a handful of riders angling for position, we were able to hit up Spanky’s Ladder for multiple laps. One of the sites for the upcoming Canadian Free skiing Championships in January, both Ruby and Diamond bowl seemed to be peaking at the right time. A bounty of untracked powder, turn for turn, awaited us each run until our legs could go no more. Another perfect start to yet another exciting season. Like little kids sneaking around the house looking for signs of Christmas presents, we snuck a peak underneath the wrappings of what’s shaping up to be an incredible season across North America.