Contrasts

With my lungs finally behaving like part of a functioning human body again, I decided to sneak one extra ski day into my week of vacation. Yesterday was the perfect day for it.

I drove up a snowy Sea to Sky, with the trees wearing progressively thicker capes of white from Squamish onwards. My first chairlift rides were in thick cloud, with snowflakes falling lightly from a leaden sky. The mountain was cold and quiet, and I was able to steal first tracks on about 10cm of overnight snow on the blue runs under Franz’s, Tokum, and Dave Murray. The light powder on top of groomers felt like silk beneath my skis. On Bear Paw the snow was boot-deep and unbroken on the edges of the run, with deeper pockets here and there.

Clouds behind Symphony

As the clouds cleared I headed to Harmony, where I caught a run on largely untracked powder down Low Roll and then through soft, churned up snow through Boomer Bowl back to the chair. It was the kind of conditions the Rockers were made for, and I couldn’t believe the difference they made to my performance. I popped back out at the lift with an unshakeable, lightly snow-dusted grin plastered to my face. For me, these skis are already a game changer.

In between the euphoria of the runs, I saw a sobering incident just below Low Roll. An injured snowboarder lay completely motionless on the snow, being tended to by a friend. Patrollers gathered round and worked on him, and a short time later a heli flew in and he was loaded up and taken away. I hope he’s alright; he didn’t move once, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many patrollers attending a single person before.

Around mid-morning I headed over to Blackcomb and the Glacier, unaware that this was its opening day. The area closest to the bootpack was already tracked out, but on the lower angle slopes to skier’s right and just outside the boundary on the Husume apron there was plenty of untouched powder. I flew down it, sliding into huge surfing turns on a run I never wanted to end. It wasn’t quite as epic as the day last season when a ski buddy and I got first tracks after a huge storm, but it was easily the best Glacier run I’ve had apart from that. The Rockers are the perfect ski for this kind of snow: tons of float, super maneuverable, and a joy to arc through turns on bottomless snow. I was grinning the whole way down Glacier Road.

The Glacier was so awesome that I went back to do it again after a brief stop for lunch. There wasn’t as much untracked snow left second time around, but the Rockers just rocketed over the tracks between powder pockets and I barely noticed they were there.

Blackcomb Glacier panorama

It was one of those days when I didn’t want to stop skiing. Even frozen feet and hands couldn’t drive me inside. Secret Chute yielded some awesome soft snow, and unfortunately one lurking rock near the entrance that took a core shot out of my left ski. Seventh was bony up top with super fun soft carving lower down (the camber underfoot makes the Rockers surprisingly competent on groomers for their width), but the off-piste slopes were littered with more rocks so I quickly moved back to the Horstman side of the mountain.

Back on Whistler I was able to sneak one final run in on Red before the chairs stopped turning. Even the ski out to Creekside was fun, with half of the runs left ungroomed and little creeks to hop over here and there. The evening light lit up the last traces of cloud lingering in the valleys as I cruised down Kadenwood to the village.

Kadenwood views

Re-entry to the world after a day on the mountain is always jarring; even more so after days this good, when the snow is incredible and the skies are blue and there’s no place on earth you’d rather be. Yesterday reality came crashing in with a desperate harshness, the tragic news from Connecticut so at odds with the simplicity and joy of the slopes I’d just left. I wish I could have stayed up there, above it all, a long way away from the news and the violence that humans can inflict on one another.

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