Day seven: a show of cloud and light

After a variety of Christmas excesses I needed to sleep in, so instead of heading up to Whistler on Sunday I made a leisurely trip up to Cypress. It was a perfect bluebird day, with a slight temperature inversion trapping a layer of dense fog over the Georgia Strait. All day long the cloud, land and ocean partnered in a strange dance of light and shadow, with fog teasing at the edges of the city. At sunset the entire bank of cloud caught fire, flaring briefly before fading into a deep blue twilight.

The skiing, unfortunately, wasn’t up to much. Most of the snow on Black Mountain has melted, leaving one open run which feeds into a narrow, annoying bottleneck that skirts the Olympic construction zone. A couple of laps on that side were enough to realise that it was worth enduring the lineups for the Lions Express. The snow on Mount Strachan was icy in the morning, but softened up nicely in the afternoon. I got in some storming lunchtime runs on Rainbow, straightlining the top of the face into high speed carves on the lower half. I’m working hard on quieting my upper body and getting more hip movement into my carving, and I was pleased to see some real progress at higher speeds.

After lunch the lineups on the lower part of the mountain became excessive, and rocks began poking their way through the surface of Rainbow and Horizon. Oddly the Sky Chair was mostly deserted, and in the afternoon sun Ripcord was almost like ungroomed spring skiing. Three awesome ski kids were doing cliff jumps in some of the tightest spaces I’ve seen, and oddly there were at least half-a-dozen snowbladers on the top part of the mountain. (Regardless of their limited popularity, the fact remains that snowblades are enormous fun.) The run itself was short, but probably the most challenging open terrain on the mountain: bumps, drops, pungy trees, and a few large rocks and small cliffs. The contrast between black runs at Whistler and black runs elsewhere always amuses me.

Later I took a ride on the Sky Chair with a Cypress ski instructor, and while chatting about the high cost of skiing and how I’d like to take a few lessons soon (it’s been 19 years since the last one) he made a blindingly obvious suggestion: take my Level 1 Instructors’ certification and start teaching skiing one day a week. It’s no more expensive than regular lessons, you get taught by the best, and end up getting to spend more time on snow while getting employee lift discounts the rest of the time. I said it had never crossed my mind because I didn’t think I was anywhere near good enough, to which he said that he’d seen me on the run and I was. I don’t have time this year (and will likely make my priority an avalanche safety course if I do get extra time) but next season? If my knees are still going, I’m there.

All in all a good day, in spite of the cruddy snow. The North Shore really needs a big dump ready for 2010.

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