Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's Whistler TIme!

It’s that time of year when I really start to get excited.  No, no, no, not Christmas or the holiday season.  It’s WHISTLER TIME!  Every year early in December our core ski/snowboard group always makes our first pilgrimage of the season 200 and some odd miles north to one of my favorite places on the face of this earth. 

Say what you want about the Whistler Village and “elitist atmosphere” I’ve heard some people describe it as, but I still would never pass up a weekend in Whistler.  I hear a lot of people complain that Whistler has been completely commercialized and geared too much towards the average tourist.  Sure the village isn’t the cheapest place in the world and there are a lot of touristy things that are heavily advertised, but it still doesn’t take away from the epic snowboarding that can be had up on either mountain or the fun atmosphere wherever you go.

Granted I haven’t had a change to ride a ton of different mountains to be able to really compare terrain, but I can say that Whistler blows every other mountain I’ve ridden completely out of the water.  The shear amount of terrain, variety of features, and quality of the snow are unmatched in the Pacific Northwest.  From steep glacier riding above treeline, to complicated glades, to award winning terrain parks, to easy cruisers, Whistler/Blackcomb has EVERYTHING you could ever want in a resort.  The light fluffy powder that can be found in the high alpine on either mountain is probably the lightest pow that can be had in the Pacific Northwest.  Of all the places I’ve ridden, I’ve only had lighter powder in Colorado last winter.

Every time I page through the “mountain stats” page on the Whistler/Blackcomb website, I’m always amazed (www.whistlerblackcomb.com/mountain/stats/index.htm).  With over 8,000 skiable acres and 37 lifts between the two mountains, no other North American resort comes close to offering the same amount of terrain.  I’ve spent roughly 15 or so days riding Whistler/Blackcomb during the past two seasons and I know I still haven’t explored everywhere.  Last year I stayed primarily in the high alpine on Whistler, exploring the terrain served by the Harmony and Symphony chairlifts.  This area of the mountain always seems to have the best snow and enough area where it takes quite a while for it to all get tracked out.  I’ve been able to hit some fresh lines on my last run of the day.  There’s even some great hikeable inbounds sidecountry off of Symphony (among other places), which I fully intend to take advantage of more this year.

The only thing that trumps Whistler/Blackcomb’s inbounds territory is their epic backcountry.  There’s a reason there are multiple heli-ski and cat-ski outfits posted up in the Whistler Village.  One spot where you can really get a better idea of how much vast backcountry terrain there is to ride, hike out on Flute Ridge off Symphony and look to the east at all the incredible steeps and deeps for miles and miles and miles.  Without this vast amount of backcountry terrain, professional video producers and photographers would be missing a huge piece to their puzzle as well.  You’d be hard pressed to go through an entire video or magazine publication without multiple references to the Whistler backcountry.  From what I’ve seen in my years of watching a fair amount of ski-porn, the Whistler backcountry is only second to Alaska (Valdez or Haines) when it comes to backcountry terrain references.  And yes, my bucket list includes a heli-ski trip to the Whistler backcountry.

After I’m completely spend from ripping my way all over the mountain, there’s nothing I crave more than Whistler/Blackcomb’s awesome Après atmosphere down in the Village after the lifts close down for the day.  Just about every single restaurant and bar has some sort of Après deals going for food and drinks.  My personal favorite is Merlin’s at the Blackcomb base (www.whistlerblackcomb.com/todo/apresnightlife/merlins.htm).  Nachos and pitchers of Kokanne all around!  And no, I will NEVER be doing Jaeger Bombs at Merlin’s ever again.  Ever.

Typically after a solid Après, a quick nap, and a Red Bull, it’s time to head out for dinner and a solid night out on the town.  The Village has just about any type of food you could ever crave.  My favorite (and highly recommended) dinner destinations are the Whistler Brewhouse (www.markjamesgroup.com/brewhouse.html) and Splitz Grill (www.splitzgrill.com).  Splitz Grill makes some of the most amazing burgers you’ll ever have, plus the employees are awesome!  I definitely recommend the Brewhouse bar on Saturday if you want to take in some serious Canadian hockey spectating.  The nightlife after dinner offers a little bit of everything.  From dirty beat dance clubs (like Gabe’s favorite Tommy Africa’s) to a typical bar-scene like The Longhorn or GLC, there’s something for everyone.  One of my favorite things about almost every bar and club in Whistler is they ALWAYS have some sort of ski-porn running on the TVs.  Gotta love that!  Oh, and don’t forget to get some putine from the street vendor right by The Longhorn.  A night out in Canada is not complete without a plate of putine.

So here we go, it is Whistler Week #1; insert happy dance here!  The weather is looking great with a lot of fresh snow coming in.  If all goes right with the weather, I’ll be able to bust out the Slackcountry for the first time this season!  Be sure to stay tuned early next week for my trip report, pictures included.

On a non-Whistler related note, I just wanted to plug a buddy’s blog: gravityproductspot.wordpress.com.  Powjunkie, also known as SM in my Baker opening day post, has been writing technical product reviews on all sorts of gear and trip reports as well.  If you enjoy my blog, you’ll definitely enjoy his as well!

Pics from past Whistler trips:

DBro atop Symphony (last season).

Me at the top of Symphony looking southeast (last season).

About to hike up Flute ridge (last season).

DBro on top of Flute ridge looking north towards Blackcomb (last season).
I learned cotton sweatshirts are definitely not made for rag-doll'ing through late Spring powder (last season).

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