The Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwinter blahsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t normally affect me, at least in any real way that I can measure them having a negative impact on my life. For most of us winter is something to be looked forward to, to be enjoyed and savoured. Every once in a while though, you find yourself out of your normal routine and, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re lucky, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re able to bask in the fresh sensations that come with your new surroundings. Last week I hopped off a plane in Vancouver, B.C.. The sky was blue, the air was fresh and the warm temperature made it feel as if I should have been sitting on a beach, tropical beverage in hand Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a welcomed change from the sub-zero norms IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve tried to grow accustomed to in Montreal. With a one-hour delay in Vancouver I had more than enough time to wonder if I should just abort my planned mission and chill on the beach for a week.
Onwards and upwards though, as they say. My recent good fortune has landed me a nice little getaway to Whistler for the week. It seems as though spending hours staring into a computer screen can have itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s perks: after getting the new High North site dialled with Harvey, Mr. Szocs seemed more than happy to have me crash at his place while he, and his newly-adorned wife Amanda were off on their honeymoon in Hawaii.
I was stoked to get back to the real mountains to do some real skiing, and I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t disappointed. Having received my new Seth Pistols just in time for my trip (thanks Gutt) I looked forward to the possibilities of epic snow days and bringing the challenge back to skiing. Well, one out of two ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bad.
Being the plan-it-all-out guy that I am, I definitely didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to rush into things and wreck myself on the first trip up the mountain, so I spent most of the first day getting re-acquainted with Whistler Mountain. When I spent the season out here a couple of years ago, the one thing Whistler lacked was a terrain park. To put it lightly, that is no longer the case. The Whistler park, located off of Emerald Chair is the best place to hone your park skills that I have ever witnessed. Small to medium sized tables scattered throughout with a wide assortment of rails and boxes take up two full runs of Whistler-goodness. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever seen such an un-intimidating terrain park environment in my life. Definite props to the park crew for spending lots of time maintaining it and giving everyone a safe place to get comfortable in the park.
The next couple of days were spent doing laps on both mountains, exploring my favourite runs in the alpine. Hooking up with some long-time friends for some death-defying antics in Ruby-bowl (weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re all going to die!) and cruising the alpine off of Harmony Chair with Iannick B. and his visiting Family was more than my legs could handle after being stuck out east for a couple of years. Nothing that a little hot-tub action couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fix though (and some Wildcat of course) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ ah what a life I lead Ã¢â‚¬â€œ did I mention Shane has a great collection of Movies and Ski/Skate/Snowboard vids? Pure relaxation.
Heading back up Whistler on my second last day I boarded Peak Chair to see if I could find any remaining pow, knowing that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d only received enough new snow to fill in some tracks each night since IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d arrived. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been said over and over again, but the terrain in Whistler is endless. Heading over ridges, down bowls, and towards runs like the Christmas Trees you realize just how long it would take you to really ski this whole mountain. Glad, but not surprised at finding some almost knee-deep snow in the trees, I was reminded why so many people call this place home, year after year. Laps completed on Peak: probably about 6, but my body would have you believe I just climbed Mount Everest. I guess there are some drawbacks to sitting in front of a computer all the time.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be cheating you by writing an entire story about Whistler without mention of the village and all itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s amusement. Whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s excellent restaurants, never-ending nightlife, or countless boutiques where you can buy everything from sex toys to candy by the pound, this place has it all. Granted most of my meals consisted of ordering the McDeal of the day and the best on-hill $9 Chicken Caesar Wraps money can buy, I did get to hit up the infamous Sushi Village on my first night in town. I fancy myself as somewhat of a sushi aficionado but when the likes of Mike Atkinson, JP Auclair, and an assortment of other Village veterans converge, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best to just sit back and enjoy the show. And enjoy I did.
So, after 4 days of skiing my brains out, eating my fill of exotic (if you count the Whistler McDonalds exotic Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which I do) food, and catching up with old friends, there was only one thing left to do. And that was to school JP Auclair in Daytona USA. I managed to do so at the arcade in the villageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new movie theatre, where for one dollar, I was able to fend off JP and his crazy QuÃƒÂ©bÃƒÂ©cois driving style for the win. Needless to say I was stoked, and JP was less than impressed.
My last day on the hill arrived and I was looking forward to a nice leisurely day on Blackcomb. As I had a ski-date to meet James, the Youth Marketing guy from Whistler at noon, I took every opportunity to sleep in until the last minute. Arriving at the top of Jersey Cream, James greeted me with his usual class and dignity (see accompanying photo) and we headed off with a posse for some laps in the Blackcomb park. Now, the Blackcomb park has always been regarded as one of the best in the biz but when I got there I was utterly amazed. Not only have they stepped up the beginner area with an assortment of rails to learn on and perfectly shaped tables and hips, but the Highest Level Park was off the hook.
From the Shack Booter (the first hit in the HL park) you can choose to hit 3 more increasingly massive jumps in succession, or head to the right for a variety of rails and boxes, your average every-day-40-foot transfer gap, more tables and hip jumps, and of course, the newly installed wallride. Now, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen pictures of said wallride before but to really appreciate the size of this monstrosity you have to see it in person. I was blown away. Oh and lets not forget the quarter pipes and the ever-perfect Superpipe. I could go on and on, but it would be easier Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and a lot more fun - for everyone to just go to Whistler and see for yourselves.
My last few runs of the trip were accompanied by none other than the Sun, which made its first appearance since I had landed in Vancouver, six days prior. As is usually the case in Whistler I experienced it all in my week long trip: new snow, old snow, clouds, sun, great food, even better company, and to top it all of, the feeling that I had done what I had set out to do, have a great time in the mountains.
Again, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to thank and congratulate Shane and Amanda for being so damn awesome. Thanks to Katie, Karla, James, and everyone else at Whistler-Blackcomb for the hospitality. And a big shout out to everyone else that got me back out to Whistler for some real skiing. Until next yearÃ¢â‚¬Â¦