FEBRUARY 12, 2016
Procrastinating life, a job and the now routine day-to-day of life in Vancouver, I have now made three trips to the fabled land known as Whistler. It’s one of the best ski resorts in the world, 2 hours north of Van, which boasts 2 massive mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, over 200 runs, and 8, 171 acres of terrain. I don’t have much to compare it to, but next to the hulking giant that is Whistler Blackcomb, Niseko is a tiny baby hill.
I was taken aback by the sheer magnitude of it; the rolling mountains stretching on for miles covered in a whimsical baking powder. It looks like that fairy snow track from Diddy Kong Racing. If Christmas was a place, it would be Whistler. The lights, the cute little snowtopped townhouses, the friendly loca-
“OI FUCKIN’ DAWG LET’S GET US A BEVVY MOYT!”
I was snapped out of my reverie by shrill notes piercing the air. Ah, I thought. That’s right. This place is overrun with Aussies. Whistla, they call it. I’m serious. The village offers the authentic Australian experience, with an abundance of meat pies, vegemite, and gonorrhea.
I’m not sure what it is about snow resorts that attract us so much. Maybe it’s because we don’t really get them in this scale back home. Maybe we’re just paid too damn much and are therefore in the fortunate position to travel. Maybe the pasty white complexion of the United Kingdom’s convict descendants make us super susceptible to the sun, and so we long to escape its cosmic death rays. (Seriously, 44 degrees? Did anyone else see that chick who literally BAKED CUPCAKES on her windshield? It might be better collectively for WA to pack up and move to the surface of Mercury).
What a magical place, though. Meet up with mates, engage in a long bender of partying, snowboarding, snowboarding while regretting partying, bussing around, eating, snowboarding and partying. I got a good deal on a hostel that was honestly one of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in, but the catch was that it was a 20 minute bus ride to the mountain. Liveable, yes, but it’s not super pleasant sitting in a bus for so long with all your gear nursing a hangover that would slay a gorilla.
The flipside of being so damn pretty is that this place is now incredibly popular and commodified. My third visit was during a holiday weekend, and so that added an extra 3 hours to the transit/gondola wait times. It was, to borrow my favourite Canadian expression, a rampaging gong-show. There is a god damn KFC and a cinema here. It’s basically a city. The mountain even has WiFi, with a Whistler app showing you your top speed, runs, altitude and live camera feeds of the roads and lifts. My current snowboard level is probably “not totally ass sucking”.
So all in all, I was having a joyous time in WhisVegas when on the second last day of my first visit, I decided to hit the mountain solo yolo. It was a grand adventure, carving the fresh (boom boom) pow while listening to post-rock. No other experience quite like that. (Other noteworthy experiences include: Giving yourself a facial! Which happens when the pow is so fresh it flies up into and around your face. It’s violating)
Anyway, unlike most other ski resorts, Whistler shuts its lifts down at 3pm, because due to the sheer size of the mountains it’s impossible to police and monitor the place after dark, so they round up the stragglers around then. It was 2:45 when I decided to attempt one last run, a blue on the far left side of Whistler I hadn’t done before. I started the descent and regret my decision almost immediately: there was a flat expanse before a small ravine that was entirely chopped up and mogulled on my side. I attempted to cross before losing all of my speed and pitifully sliding into the snow about 1/5 of the way across, sinking like a slice of bread in the ocean.
Starting to realize the magnitude of my fuck up and that I had inadvertently taken on a black diamond, I unclipped my bindings and attempted to walk up the other side of this ravine. The powder was so deep, though, that my foot went straight in yet refused to come up the same way again, resulting in a twisted ankle and a stream of profanities.
Seeing as I was now in pain, thoroughly pissed off and determined to finish this run, I attempted to lean over the side of the lip and bind up quickly enough that the momentum would see me through to the other side. I started to bind, accidentally pressed on my sore ankle, and slipped. The tiniest slip, ever so slightly, and for a fraction of a second, the board left my fingertips.
Then it was gone, riderless and free from my ineptitude. It saw its chance and dove off the side of a precipice like a tiny neon rocket.
Then, I leaned over to see where it had gone.
Nothing. Nothing but the branches, swaying in its wake, and trees, for miles and miles.
I decided to follow it, and so began a 45 minute long journey of a foolish, foolish man hobbling down an incline that would make Sly Stallone proud, hopelessly lost and highly concerned my refugee board was going to decapitate some poor ski child. Surely, it will be at the bottom. Or lodged firmly inside a tree. Or some hibernating bear had been woken by it, and charitably handed it in the nearest gondola station. As time went on, I stopped wondering if I would find my board, and instead began to wonder if I was going to have to try and survive on this mountain like Liam Neeson in The Grey.
Eventually, ski patrol picked me up, and I had to endure a snowmobile ride of shame to the bottom. “Where the hell is your board?” my mates asked, in disbelief. Hanging my head, I raised a single finger to the mountain behind me.
And that’s the story of how I lost my snowboard in Whistler. Some say that on a quiet day, you can still hear it on the mountain, zooming off cliffs like the Sleepy Hollow Horseman.