And then nothing happened for ages. Or rather, some resort skiing happened, and it was hugely disappointing.
It seemed like a great idea at the time. We’d gone from a painful lack of snow to far too much in far too short a space of time, and avvy conditions went through the roof as the late Jan/early Feb melt-freeze layer and the loose facets sitting on top of it got rapidly overloaded by all the storm accumulations.
And to be fair, there was nothing wrong with the snow we found in the resort. We scored some great runs: untracked on Dave Murray in the morning, soft chop on the Blackcomb Glacier when it finally opened in the afternoon. Even the groomers were fun, because I hadn’t skied them in forever and sometimes it’s cool just to rip something smooth and predictable as fast as you possibly can.
It was the people. After so many days skiing empty, open slopes in the backcountry, it felt like trying to thread our way through a cup final sports day crowd. The lift lines were brutal, but they were just downtime. It was negotiating the hordes on the slopes that completely broke my spirit. Only the glacier was big enough to give us even a little respite from it.
This isn’t what I want anymore. I’m not sure if it’s Whistler itself that’s reached saturation point (Michael Beaudry thinks it is, and he might well be right) or just the resort experience in general, but I’m done. I don’t care if I only get to ski four runs, or one, during the course of the day. I know the lifts can speed me to thousands and thousands more feet more vertical descent than I can reach on my own two feet, but it’s not about maximum descent.
I’d rather climb. I’d rather put in the work and the sweat, and have the silence and the peace and that moment when you look down over the perfect unbroken snow and pick your line without being rushed or hurried or having a single thing to think about apart from the best place to put your skis and the way the snow’s going to feel beneath them. I’d rather be out there, somewhere a long, long way from anywhere, in a space where there’s just me and one or two companions and the mountain and the snow.
Skiing has changed for me. I thought I’d find a balance between the backcountry and the resort experience, but it’s kept inexorably tipping in one direction and now there’s no going back. This doesn’t mean that I won’t ski at resorts anymore – or even ski them often, at times, and have a lot of fun doing it – but my heart is never going to be there again.