So it now been 2 months since I arrived to Whistler. What’s new? I’ve found some awesome friends, got a promotion, and become a snowboarder!
A few weeks after fall colours 12cm of snow appeared overnight. Once again the village was near unrecognisable and I adopted the toddler walking style to get anywhere on the icy trails. In the lead up to opening, it wasn’t uncommon to arrive at work with a light dusting and leave making trails through shin deep powder.
Whistler mountain opened a week early, 17th November, with Blackcomb following suit on the official opening day, 23rd November. As I frantically prepared by making my first purchases of skis, boots, poles and helmet, I was lucky enough to be able to ski both opening days. After a wobbly first few slides, the legs clicked in and the runs flew by.
Our shift pattern of four long shifts allowed for three days on the mountain. I decided that with the luxury of the season, I would try snowboarding, maybe dedicating a day a week. I rented the gear (far more comfortable boots) and got a lesson. On the bunny hill for the first time since ski school on family holidays we got taught how to control the board with one foot in, and work out which foot more naturally led. If you lead with your left foot, your regular, and if you lead with your right foot, you are goofy. Well, apparently I’m naturally goofy. After a lunch break we strapped both feet in and started sliding, weight on the heels. This balance posture seemed totally alien, and without the instructor holding me, I spent the first few slides in a crumpled heap on the ground.
And then it clicked. Once I found the balance sweet spot, it was intuitive. Weight transfer to slide left or right mirrored the subtlety of skiing. Eyes up going, it was exciting. By the end of the afternoon we tried the same thing but toe side. This time you learnt forward, up into the hill, effectively reversing down the mountain. Snowboarding is a combination of both.
By the end of the afternoon, I was exhausted but filled with adrenaline. From my reluctance at the start of the day, I went to the rental store and said, I’ll be back in the morning… Then quickly headed to the bar to cure the dehydration with a beer and new friends.
Second day we rehearsed toe side, and then began to loop turns. This basically means staring on toe side facing up the hill, turning the board down the hill, and then transferring weight and using the heel edge to kill the speed. This resulted in a lot of frustration, catching edges, bruised bums, knees and egos. I stayed up over lunch break to practice. By the end of the afternoon I was hitting about a 50% turn success rate, but launching back up into it after every fall. I had tackled the chair lift on the board, a one footed nightmare, and I was truly addicted. Back in the village, I went straight to the shops to kit out on gear for my newest hobby.
Third day, Rachael, Meika and I, were Pauls Angels. Our newest instructor was not interested in talking about it. He wanted to do it. After learning the technique the day before, we were thrown into it to get mileage, turning on greens, in occasional powder, and all round just pushing our boundaries. It was an incredible day. Tiring, full of spectacular wipeouts that barely knocked you back as you were numb with adrenaline. The learning curve had been so steep that in three days I had gone from a never ever, to a level 3, and a mum on her skis had said to her child ‘hey, watch out for that boarder.’ I smiled to myself smugly, am I a boarder now?!
In the meantime I had interviewed for Senior host. This was a chance to be off the phones, helping the reservations hosts with queries, answering internal calls from other departments and growing my role a bit further. With two others, I heard the good news that I had got the position, and began training in my new role. The days flew by with so much to focus on, but the blue sky out of the window was tantalising.
In the morning of the following week, I had to choose which discipline it would be, although the choice to board was frighteningly easy. While playing on the skis would definitely unlock more terrain, the potential of improvement in a day of boarding was too much to pass up. This time I bypassed the lesson, hoping that a day by myself would give me the confidence to be a level 4, a whole new board game. At first not being with a group, and with four days passed, i took tumble after tumble as I flunked the turns without confidence. After one run I met Omari, and the pressure of being with someone else gave me the drive to pick up speed and land the turns. Come the end of the afternoon, I was looping with much more confidence, energised by the bluebird day I had been blessed with.
As always, Whistler was amping up with Events. Cornucopia came first with 10 days of cheese, wine and local delicacies drawing big crowds. I was involved in the holiday market, welcoming visitors to Whistlers Film Festival, with 47 movies showing around the village in one weekend, and the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup. Once again amongst athletes in lycra, this time with the infectious excitement of race day crowds, I stopped to pause about the incredible opportunities this small town had afforded me so far.
We managed a night out in the big city as we took an old American school bus to Vancouver to watch Cirque De Soleil. Performed in the big top, the amazing array of trampoline acts, trapeze, ribbons blew us away, whilst eclectic mine. And entertaining puppetry left us bemused by Kurios. The start of December also welcoming the pub crawl 12 barz of Christmas, and as if reliving our student years, we visited (only 5) bars completing challenges and decorating the streets with colour and carolling.
I was forewarned that Whistler was a party town, and yet I seem to have not had time to visit the bars as much as I thought. Strangely, unlike most people in Whistler, I think my New Years resolution will be to make a bit more time for a few cold ones in true ski apres style.