Sunday, May 9, 2010

Whistler, I think I love you…

The scene is idyllic: white snow, green trees, blue sky, bright sunshine, no lift line-ups. Ahhh. A spring skiing day at Whistler.

Jacob and Zoe and I had the good fortune to be invited to spend a few days with our lovely friends Donny and Lisa and their daughter, Isabella, in Whistler. We stayed in their awesome condo with them and enjoyed the heated outdoor pool with water slide (slightly stressful for this former lifeguard), games room, and miles of hallways for 8 yr olds and 13yr olds alike to roam at will. Throw in some good food, some lazing around in hot tubs, some wandering in Whistler and it’s all good.

But back to the slopes. It was one of those days that you hope for but hardly ever actually experience: perfect skiing conditions and hardly anyone else around. As this was the first time the kids had skied at Whistler, there was an ‘overwhelming’ factor that us island kids had to get past but once we got used to the fact that there is approximately 862 chairs at Whistler and 50438 runs, we were fine.

We started our first day off with a trip up the Blackcomb side to the new Peak to Peak gondola. Those of you who know me will recall that I am not good with heights. So this gondola may not have been a good choice for me but with my other choice being a trek down Blackcomb, across Fitzimmons Creek, and then back up Whistler, which would take me approximately 3 days, I effectively had no choice. So on I got. At first it was pleasantly amazing as we soared over the runs, skiers below zipping around like so many ants. Then, all of a sudden, the cable appeared to fall off the side of the mountain. It was at this point that I noticed the decal on the inside of the gondola, happily explaining how this gondola has the longest unsupported span in the world. Great. Why would they point this out?

Hey Everyone! Guess What? You just passed the last support tower and there isn’t another one for, like, a mile or something! And Is it Ok if we just send you out over this ravine? The one with the jagged rocks at the bottom? Awesome!

So I sat quietly and looked out and not down and gripped the side of the seat until my hand cramped, all the while nodding and smiling yes isn’t it amazing. Mmmhmmm. At least there were no idiots riding with us that day. Not like the next day when Mr. Gondola-Statistics got on. He was only mildly irritating until he started in on how wasn’t it amazing that the gondola was only supported by that thin little clip and those other two 6 inch thick cables are only to guide it and really consider how amazing it is that it’s just the one thinner cable that actually holds the car and blah blah blah. Thankfully his wife clued in that maybe not everyone was as thrilled to consider this as he was and suggested that he stop. Just as well as I was about three seconds away from suggesting that perhaps he would like to consider shutting the hell up. Not very polite of me but frankly I was getting tired of envisioning my family plummeting to our death, as I am prone to do in these types of situations.

Anyway. I digress. So there we were enjoying our day. Lisa and I decided to take Zoe and leave Jacob and Bella with Donny. We headed off up the Symphony Chair, enjoying the lovely view. About two-thirds of the way up, I noticed that Zoe had only one ski pole. I frantically looked about, as if there was a chance that it was still in mid-air and I could grab it. Instead, I spotted the people in the chair behind us madly trying to get my attention. “You dropped your pole between towers 4 and 5” he yelled. “Thanks” I yelled back, giving the thumbs up. Well that would be no problem. Most of the runs under this chair were blue and green so I would just whip down the hill, grab the pole, jump back on the lift, and be back up at the top in no time.

I headed off and found my way down the runs. I passed towers 8, then 7 thinking all the while what an excellent skier I had become. When tower 6 approached, I noted the terrain had changed suddenly and was decidedly steeper than it had been. But still I persevered. By the time I got to tower 5, I could only guess that it was actually tower 5 (my intense deductive powers of reasoning kicked in here) due to the fact that a thick dense forest had popped up out of nowhere. Peeking out of the top of this forest were towers 4 and 5. Great. The whole freakin mountain is like a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream except for this one little area rising up like a chunk of unwelcome walnuts. I skied to the edge of the trees and managed to align myself with what I could only assume was roughly the area between towers 4 and 5. There were a few tracks leading into the glades but they looked like they were from 1979 (the tracks, not the trees). I gave myself a mental slap. How bad could it be? I had skied through glades before many times. I liked glades. I squinted further in through the branches. Yes, I could just make out what looked like the run, or at least a clearing. I pointed my skis in and pushed off. I think I remained standing for about .47 of a second before my left ski shot off down a tree well, leaving me in a somewhat compromised position. I struggled to my feet, disentangled my ski from the tree and surveyed my position. The trees were starting to feel like the ones in Snow White – all gnarled and threatening. Too bad I didn’t look like Snow White. Anyway, I managed to get my skis back on and slid rather than skied the rest of the way through the trees until I reached what I will euphemistically call the ‘run’.

At this point, I met a patch of snow that had formed a hard crust, more testament to my earlier assertion that no one had been on this ‘run’ in a very long time. This patch and I had little to say to each other except ‘Shit!’ from me and ‘Hah!’ from the patch. Again I found myself in a severely compromised position, one which forced me to remove my skis. And so there I was, skis off, up to my ass in snow crust surveying the scene. It was then that I heard the ski patrol from overhead as he passed by on the lift. Great.

Ski patrol: “Hey are you OK?”

Me: “Oh yeah. No problems thanks”

Ski Patrol:  “Are you sure? You look a little…

Me: (thinking ‘A little what??? Like an IDIOT?)“Yep. Yep. Just lost a pole”

Ski Patrol: “Oh OK Yeah it’s just down the run a little ways”

Me: (thinking ‘Fucking GREAT'!’) “Awesome! That’s good news!”

Ski Patrol “mwah blah balhdlfjlka; (too far away to hear him) but I think he was probably saying something like “I scrape your kind off trees regularly and I don’t recommend that you go down there because frankly, you don’t really look like you have a clue…” or something like that.


At which point I gave the ski patrol the Thumbs Up sign and smiled sweetly. This smile quickly turned to alarm however when I realized that the ‘run’ appeared to drop right off approximately 10 ft from where I was stranded. Fortunately the deus ex machina of this story appeared in the form of an expert skier who appeared from out of nowhere, shot past me, stopped on the hill like it was flat (it wasn’t), picked up the pole and waved it at me. At that exact moment my cell phone rang and, of course, it was my mother. For a few moments I fielded two conversations with both my mother and Nancy Greene (or whoever it was).

Me: “Hey Mum…can you hang on a sec…”

Nancy Greene: “Hey is this your pole?? Hey? Hey You over there is this…”

My Mum: “Hi Jane. I’m just at your house and I’m wondering if the rabbit is supposed to be on….”

Me to Nancy Greene “Oh hold one a second yes that’s my pole!!”

Nancy Greene: “Oh I’m sorry, I thought someone had dropped it..I’ll just leave..”

Me to Nancy Greene: “No please don’t leave it!..!

My mum: “Jane? I wasn’t going to leave it…I was concerned that…”

Me to my mum: “No,I’m not talking to you, what's the matter with the rabbit?”

Nancy Greene: “Hey do you want me to take it down for you?”

Me to Nancy Greene: “Yes please, that would be wonderful I’ll be there in a minute..”

My mum: “You’ll be here in a minute? I thought you were at Whistler. Well I’ll just leave it then…”

Me: “What? No, mum I am at Whistler. What did you say was wrong? Oh forget it I’ll call you right back.”

Energy renewed at the realization that I would not have to crawl down the hill on my ass as hundreds of people pointed and laughed on the lift overheard,  grabbed my skis, turned back into the Forest of Doom, and trekked back through to the main run.

Upon emerging from the trees, I eagerly threw my skis down, clicked my boots into the bindings and took off down the hill. I made it about three feet before my right boot came out of the binding, and I fell sideways and rolled downhill onto my face. My ski, free from its boot, shot off down the hill. In an act of agility and flexibility that I didn’t know I had, I lunged after it, skidded down the hill some feet and grabbed it with my finger tip.  It must have been a spectacular fall as several people came zipping over to me to see if I was OK. I nodded and got up and put my ski on properly (one must remove the hard crust of snow that builds up on the bottom of one’s ski boot BEFORE putting on one’s skis).

Back at the bottom of the run, I was happy to see the wretched pole waiting for me beside the lift. I grabbed it, got on the lift, and managed to make it to the top of the lift without any further crisis. The rest of the week was magnificent, the company lovely and I can't wait to go back! Although please note, anyone losing a pole must now go and get the damn thing themselves.

Ahhhh. Whistler, I think I love you.


The lovely Lisa


The drop of Doom



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