Monday, December 13, 2010

Day #3/4/5 - Whistler Trip #1

With the 2010/2011 snowboarding season officially full steam ahead, it was time for our core Whistler group to make our customary December trip up to the beautiful British Columbian coastal mountains.  Early season trip such as these can be very hit or miss when it comes to conditions.  I’ve been up there when there has hardly been any base with only a third of the mountain open.  I’ve also been up there early in December and gotten my first powder turns of the year.  You really never know what you’re going to get until you actually get up there and check out the short term forecast.  As we all checked the forecast early last week, we knew the weekend had the potential to be an epic weekend for shredding.  A huge system with tons of moisture was stacked up in the Pacific Ocean ready to obliterate the Pacific Northwest Cascades.

My group of three left the Seattle area around rush hour Wednesday afternoon in a complete downpour.  After navigating through the idiots who have no idea how to drive in the rain (which is still completely weird to me for some place that gets a ton of rain a year) we were full steam ahead to Whistler.  A few hours later, we arrived at the snowy Whistler Village and made our way to the Snowbird condo complex near the Blackcomb Base.  First order of business was to get our minds in shred mode, which I accomplished by replacing one of the weird paintings with a poster of John Jackson’s backside double-cork 1080 (courtesy of Transworld Snowboarding magazine’s 200th issue) and cracked a few adult beverages.  Before long, it was time to rest up for the next day on the mountain.

Day #1
Thursday morning brought an early wake up call of avalanche bombs exploding in the adjacent mountains.  This was a good sign.  We all geared up, ate some breakfast, and checked the weather report.  Roughly 10” of new snow fell overnight, on top of the 10” or so of fresh from the day before.  With this little tidbit of information, I chose my weapon of the day:  my rockered pow stick, the Ride Slackcountry.  As we loaded into the Whistler Village gondola, we got the bad news that the high alpine areas (Peak, Harmony chairs) were probably not going to be opened due to high winds and high avalanche danger.  Sad news indeed, but we knew there would still be a ton of nice terrain and nice powder to ride.

We chose our first lines near the Big Red Express to the south of the Roundhouse Lodge.  Despite being a pretty tame run overall, there were a ton of trees and technical terrain in the surrounding areas.  After dropping in and gaining some speed, I pulled my first big heelside turn and discovered the powder was pretty much bottomless and got my first faceshot of powder for the year.  We spent the majority of the morning lapping Big Red, ripping some great lines through the trees and finding a few steeps and kickers to grab some air off.  The powder was just right; super light and pretty much bottomless.

Right before lunch we switched it up a bit and hiked up Pika’s Traverse as far as Ski Patrol would let us to access some of the terrain served by Harmony Express.  We dropped in to the skier’s right of the reservoir next to Rabbit Tracks and shot through the trees and deeper into the Harmony area.  There had been a few others hiking out in the area during the day, but there was still enough powder that we were able to all get fresh lines zipping through the tress.  On our way down to find the Sidewinder cat track back to the Emerald Chair, DBro and I found hidden section of shorter trees that hardly anyone had seen yet.  It was down this little chute that I shredded my first mini pillow line of the year!  From here it was to Roundhouse Lodge for lunch via a terribly flat cat track.  Best lines of the day, bar none.

After lunch, DBro, JK, and I decided we needed one more hike up to the Harmony area.  By this point in the day, Ski Patrol was done bombing and had opened up more terrain for hiking.  We went another 50 yards up the traverse to a new section through the trees that only seen a few lines so far.  As before, the turns were bottomless and the lines were epic.  For those who know the Harmony area pretty well, you know that Back Bowl area off Pika’s Traverse can get very flat so as a snowboarder you really have to choose your line wisely.  This time, I did not do so.  I slowed to a crawl and eventually stopped in a very flat area about 50 yards or so from the groomed GS run.  My only option was to boot out and hike the last section.  As soon as I unstrapped myself from my board I proceeded to sink to my waist.  Ahh the drawbacks of flat terrain and deep pow for a snowboarder.  With my board over my head, I trudged the final flat to the groomer and collapsed completely exhausted from my little hike.  Painful yes, but the ride down was totally worth it.  After getting my legs back under me we cat-tracked out and hit the Peak 2 Peak gondola over to Blackcomb to finish out our day on the Crystal Chair.

It only took a few runs for all of us to realize that our legs were completely shot.  My big powder board became pretty unruly on the tracked out powder.  It felt like I was trying to steer a freight train with my burnt up legs.  Time to call it a day.

That evening brought an amazing combination of friends, home made mac & cheese with bacon (courtesy of our favorite Social Narcissist), hot tubs, and adult beverages.  Team Snowbird was in full effect.  Before we knew it, it was time to shut it down and rest up for the upcoming day of shred and the rumored opening of the Peak and Harmony chairs.

Team Snowbird waiting for the bus on day #1.
My Slackcountry waiting to drop into Harmony.
GS digging himself out after a nosedive.
Arguably the best run of the day down into the Harmony trees.
DBro, JK, and myself on Crystal Chair.
Late day clearing on Blackcomb.
Day #2
Day #2 brought us a little more fresh snow, but not on the level of the two previous days.  Conditions were a little better than the day before with a lot of the clouds clearing for better visibility.  Instead of the big stick, I selected my all-mountain board for the day and as before, DBro, SN, and I started by lapping Big Red again, awaiting the opening of the high alpine terrain.  Right before lunchtime, we got word that Harmony had begun uploading for the first time in about 4 or 5 days.

My usual line of choice on Harmony is to follow the lift down pretty much the whole way, starting up in the Little Whistler bowl, down through Back Bowl, Die Hard, and ending through the trees under the lift.  The first few laps were rewarded with all fresh lines and a lot of smiles.  My smaller Never Summer board performed quite well in the deep powder.  Not as much float as the Slackcountry, but a lot more fun in the tighter areas.  Harmony was as good as it’s ever been with this amount of powder.  I swear if I had to choose one single place to ride for the rest of my life, I might just choose Harmony Ridge. 

After a quick lunch break, it was back to Harmony to lap until our legs wouldn’t hold us up anymore.  Unfortunately I didn’t quite make my way all the way around the Harmony Ridge before my legs told me it was time to wrap it up in a very painful way.  So down it was to the Village for a post-mountain beer at GLC.

The day ended with more Team Snowbird hijinx around the condo and Village.  The Whistler Brewhouse, a group favorite, was finally graced with our presence at once point in the evening, where one of the servers actually recognized us from our previous exploits.  In the end I was left with a sizeable headache as a result of my actions, but I doubt I was alone on that front.

Blue Sky heading up Big Red Express.
Me ready to drop down under Big Red.
DBro ready to shred.
Freshies under Harmony Chair.
More freshies on Harmony.
DBro and SN excited for pow.
Bright pants crew: DBro, me, and AK.

Day #3
After leaving everything I had on the mountain during the previous two days, I told myself that I was going to take the day off for a nice relaxing day in the Village.  Once I woke up and started my day, this feeling didn’t last very long.  With the help of DBro, I was persuaded to head back up for a third day in a row for as much as my legs could handle.  My only caveat was to take it easy and just cruise.  I did just that until we heard that the 7th Heaven Express chair was about to upload for the very first time of the year.

I had previously only ridden the 7th Heaven terrain a few times two years ago in very icy conditions, so I didn’t really know a lot about it.  The idea of new terrain with a lot of fresh snow made me forget about my dying legs and pull it together.  We surveyed the terrain on our first chair up and decided the runs directly below the lift were the way to go with hardly any tracks at all.  Despite the lift lines being ridiculously long, most of the people must have been heading over to the bowls instead of following the lift down.  Run after run, we lapped the same area under the lift until lunch at the Horstman Hut atop the 7th Heaven lift.

After lunch, the group headed out to the bowls to the skiers left of the 7th Heaven lift.  This proved to be disastrous for me.  First, I got cut off by some idiot not cutting across the traverse and had to drop down below.  This put me in a position where I had to either hike back uphill 10 yards to the traverse, or drop into the bowl earlier than the rest of the crowd.  In the condition my legs were in there was no hiking for me so I decided to head down, directly into a low coverage boulder field.  Not good, especially for my brand new Never Summer board.  I did make it out alive, but with a scarred board.  My toeside edge really took a few bad hits and will need a little TLC before she sees the mountain again.  The base came away with only a few dings, but nothing to the core thankfully.  That was pretty much the end of my day.  My legs were completely dead from the 3 hard days of riding, my board was dinged up, and my attitude was admittedly a little sour after hearing how great everyone else’s ride was.  A ride back up 7th Heaven took us to the Horstman Glacier, and down to the Blackcomb Base via what seemed like mile upon mile of painful groomers.  The only saving grace was the thought of apr├Ęs at my favorite bar, Merlin’s.

Holy lift line!  7th Heaven is finally open!
Under 7th Heaven.
Aftermath of an epic DBro crash.
I spent my last night out in the Village with DBro and SN walking around and grabbing dinner at the infamous Splitz Grill, which was amazing as usual.  The rest of the crew eventually met us out at Splitz after proceeding to polish off the remaining amount of alcohol in the condo and out for our final night in the Village.  Full steam ahead for Team Snowbird!

It takes one hell of an epic trip to be considered as one of the best Whistler trips for me, but this one almost unanimously takes the cake.  The conditions were just perfect all three days I spent on the mountain.  I’ve never had back to back to back powder days, and it might take awhile until I see another one.  Despite still being the early season, this trip was one of the best.  Ever.  Team Snowbird came through both on the mountain and off.  I feel incredibly lucky to have all these amazing friends who make these trips as much fun as they always are.  I will always be looking forward to the next excursion to Whistler.

Redecorating the Condo.

1 comment:

  1. Great work mate - very nice report and super jealous.