Words, photos and video by Teddy Knape
Fall storms excited skiers for what appeared to be an incredibly early season for skiing in the Northwest. But after the late October snow, skiers have had little to do but sit and watch the weather, hoping for the next storm to give enough snow for areas to open. It's now mid-November, and while every ski area in the Northwest is still watching the Weather Channel, Whistler Blackcomb makes the announcement that they will open Blackcomb Mountain for skiing Nov. 20. A combination of cold temperatures, natural snowfall and the best and largest snowmaking in the area will allow them to be the first ski resort open in the region.
Whistler announced they were opening and after only an hour or so of debating over whose car we would take, plans were set for the NS crew from Washington State to make the trip up to Whistler to check out the opening weekend conditions. Zach Davison, Erich Kunz, Danny Watts and I were along for the ride.
Even after a very late night prior to departure, with half the crew getting less than four hours of sleep, we weren't too far behind schedule. A quick border crossing and Erich's driving helped us to recover some of the lost time, while a 6-pack of Wired Energy Drink more than made up for the loss of energy.
We arrived a little after 9:30. It wasn't first chair but not bad, considering how far we had driven and how little sleep we had the night before. Our understanding before coming was that we would have to upload two chairs to get to where there was enough snow to ski. However, we arrived and were amazed to see that there was enough snow for us to ski all the way down to the top of the Wizard, meaning we would only need to download one lift. We spent the morning just excited to be back on skis and not hiking for once. There was still quite a bit of powder left over and we spent our time making laps on the Solar Coaster and Jersey Cream Express lifts. Considering the time of year the snow was excellent. Laps were quick with the high speed chairs and less than expected crowd, we didn't even want to take the time to pull out the camera.
After a morning of nothing but skiing fast and some nice early season powder the entire crew was rather tired. Between the snow turning from powder to moguls and the fact that everyone in our groups legs still have a little more recovering to do from the long summer, we it was time to check out the rail park. Blackcomb has a reputation for one of the best parks in North America and even on opening day there park was no let down. Eight rails were set up for skiers and boarders to session. Three flat rails of varying lengths, 2 C boxes, a handrail-style descending box and a rainbow box were all set up. Our crew met up with local Austin Ross and spent quite a bit of time sessioning the 20ft flat rail. While I spent my time just remembering how to grind and relearning all my tricks from previous seasons, the rest of the crew was already learning new ones. I would try and describe them but just watch the video to get an idea.
After a long thorough session on the flat rail we went and checked out the other rails in the park. We spent time on all the other jibs in the park, having lots of fun trying new stuff on the rainbow box and c-boxes. Finally after a long session on all the rails are crew was too tired to keep going. With less than a half hour until the lifts shut down we didn't feel bad leaving.
After downloading one lift and walking to the car the entire crew was completely worn out. It would be hard to have a better day to start the ski season. With Erich behind the wheel I slept the entire way home. With Whistler still appearing to have the best conditions of anyone around I think I might be returning this weekend.
**WATCH THE VIDEO**