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17th January 2010 – Whistler, Take 1

March 30, 2010

It could be said that if one’s first experience of skiing on snow is at Whistler then you’ve already experienced some of the world’s best runs, especially if they’ve had plenty of the fresh fluffy stuff lately, or even overnight (the lovely powder days). It could also be said that to ski at Whistler for the first time since some beginner lessons on a tiny, plastic, dry ski slope in a small Derbyshire town sixteen years hence is throwing oneself distinctly in at the deep end. However, I hadn’t been able to resist the opportunity to ski on my first weekend in Canada when the option was discussed over dinner, especially as a friend had ski equipment I could borrow. I told the story to two lovely lady ski patrollers on the way up to the very top of the mountain on my 3rd chairlift ride ever (the first had been just moments before); their description for the effort was “brave”.

Convinced that I would survive being as I could remember the important things-how to fall (sideways) and how to stop (the good old snow-plough) and that I’m reasonably strong-legged from cycling, I was now attempting to keep up with friends for whom this scale of skiing had become as everyday as partaking in a cup of tea is for the Englishman. However, it wasn’t very long before I felt out of my depth. The first hill attempted was fine, it was wide and not too steep, but by the second steeper hill, the boots I had borrowed started to pinch my calves badly, even for my high pain thresholds and I tensed up as images of flying down the mountain uncontrollably (Bridget Jones style) were on my mind. My friends were extraordinarily patient and good coaches, making sure my “pizza slice” turning had good technique, but it was all taking it’s toll rather quickly on me and we’d barely done any skiing. In some places they could do intermediate runs and I would go the easy way but I was still in agony from the boots and going stupidly slow. At one point I had to pull my poor feet out of the boots and massage them to get the circulation going again and owner of the boots revealed they could be loosened a bit. Thank goodness. Back on the chairlift and up again and I enjoyed some flat-ish easy green runs as we traversed the mountain to get to a particular run they fancied. We traversed further to get to the best powder and it was a good fun wide intermediate run. I just followed rather slowly, widely and gingerly where they were going. The snow was so deep in one place, I managed to face-plant the snow whilst keeping both skis attached. The trouble with that was then I had to dig the skis out of the snow and was stuck in a giant hole in the powder that I’d created and couldn’t get up for a long time, each time I almost got my balance, I would then fall to the other side. One of the harder and less anticipated exertions of starting out in snow sports is this aspect: hauling yourself up after bailing out! The next run, I was happy to let the folk do without me as I sheltered and stocked up on energy and fluid for an extortionate fee in the hut at the top of the mountain. Mind you, the views made it worth hanging out there. Next, the decision was made to go down the other side of the mountain and the guys decided to go a certain way and send me down an “easier” way. It was still a blue intermediate run, and the access to it was down a narrow traversing section. Unfortunately I didn’t make it clear enough to them quite how tired I was already, and that I was really unsure that my fatigued legs would work to stop me rolling down the mountain. They did notice my technique was faltering though. We kept in contact by radio, and they managed to get to the bottom before I was even a third of the way down the mountain. Now the fatigued legs were really causing me trouble and despite managing to continue and get to the easier green section, it was still going to be some time before I would get to the gondola down and now the boots were hurting again and I was stopping every 2 minutes to sit down and allow the legs to recover before carrying on. I was determined to continue, and despite hearing a skidoo coming down the track, I continued on. I soon admitted thought that I was so tired I really was not going to make it before my friends would be getting hungry and I was at risk of being last off the mountain. So upon hearing another skidoo coming, whilst slumped on the floor in a suitably tired manner, I thumbed a ride! The kind Aussie electrician probably didn’t know quite how grateful I was, I was so relieved that I actually cried whilst he whisked me to the gondola and then shook his hand enthusiastically before heading down. I had wanted to ride a skidoo, but I hadn’t wanted it to be quite in this manner!

View some pictures here:

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