Sunday, March 11, 2007

I could totally do that... If I could see it

So after six days at Whistler the conclusion is this... The mountain's huge, and they've got some pretty good terrain, but the weather's really sucky. I take pride in not being a person who says this - aside from rain, which I prefer not to ski in, I believe that if the weather's too nasty, it's just because the person whining is under dressed.

Whistler has a lot of fog. A frequent theme of my skiing or snowboarding there was to ride to the top of a lift serving kick-ass terrain, then follow the "easiest way down" trail, marked by green and orange discs because even the ground becomes invisible, until I could see the snow in front of me. Then I'd drop in, but because most of Whistler's better stuff is bowls, all the really interesting things would be somewhere above and behind me. On other occasions, I might start that terrain high, having established from the lift ride up that there was nothing to hit or fall off of, but then allow my inability to see to cause a failure in nerve and do kick-turns down until I could see. And I wasn't the only one - that seems to be the standard method for negotiating even the simplest terrain during these fog-outs. Not only do kick-turns still track up the beautiful new snow, they actually track it more than a series of nice, fast powder turns down whatever terrain feature it is - they're wider and dig up more snow.

Don't get me wrong. Zach and I still bagged some pretty cool stuff. On one run from Harmony Ridge, we decided to do something called McConkey's, a fairly narrow bowl with a cornice at the top that descends into the main body of the Harmony bowl. Standing on top of the cornice in the drifting fog and blowing snow, we couldn't see the run below, let alone estimate the drop. While I may alter some details when I develop the hot tub version of this story, what Zach and I did that day was to go to the side of the cornice where a rock had formed an air cushion preventing the cornice from forming and slide down to below the level of the cornice in the rock's wind shadow. We could kind of see the run from there - enough to theorize about the possibility of drops. We stood and dithered for a little while. Zach declared that you only live once and took a sideways line in - what would under normal circumstances be far too conservative an approach for him. That initial line had a very odd trajectory - he dropped at one point. He commented to me, loudly because of the storminess, that there was a small drop. Then he started doing turns down the run. Knowing about the drop, I took a very lateral line. I suppose I thought that the drop was perhaps in his route but smoother higher. Nope. Once in the main part of the run, I did a couple kick-turns and then some rather nice powder turns if I may judge my own skiing. But if we coulda seen it... I might not have jumped the cornice. In fact, probably wouldn't - it was about ten feet tall. But I definitely would have gone straight off the mini-drop we did take, and I would have been able to do powder turns right away because I would have seen where I was going.

So whine, whine, whine, moan, moan, moan. Ultimately I had a good time and bagged some pretty cool runs. But, to paraphrase my brother, that not seeing thing got pretty old.

On a side note... The good food at Whistler is really good and the other food is no worse than every other ski resort.

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