There are two shoulder seasons in Whistler. Spring & Fall.
If you live in Whistler, or if you have visited Whistler during one of those shoulder seasons, you will know they are a wondrous time in their own right. The local restaurants put on fantastic offers (more on this later), which quite frankly are too good to resist, the village takes on a much more relaxed , sedate feel, and there is always a parking space.
Spring is upon us right now, and with Easter long disappeared over the horizon, we are on the last day of April. The sun is shining, the snow is receding and I have put away my snow thrower with confidence that its job is done for this season. Right now, the transition into summer is taking place. The whole village is putting away skis in favour of two wheels and pedals. Whistler mountain is closed as the transition from ski hill to bike hill takes place. Right now, almost everyone is getting ready for the Crud to Mud and opening day of the bike park.
The transition is often so abrupt, I sometimes joke that somewhere, at a secret location, there is a secret job, and at the right time, the Mayor calls on the secret phone and gives the order "Flip the Switch" and a secret but long serving and loyal employee "Flips the switch" that starts the thaw for Spring, or turns off the heating to start winter. Around the end of October, and in early November you can literally feel the change. One day it is fall, and the next winter returns. It is like a breath of the freshest air you've ever breathed, and with it a sense of anticipation for snow. All eyes and conversations turn to the mountains in a daily ritual of seeing how far the snow line has descended.
Will it be a good year? A bad year? A great year? Side bets are taken as to how early 'Whistler Blackcomb' dare to announce they will be opening early! With an 'Average' snowfall of 38.2 feet, Whistler gets its share of snow. In 2010 the mountains had a record 622 inches of snow; thats 51 feet!
So far 2016 season had brought is 422 inches snow (April totals not yet in). December and March were 'epic' months with 133 and 125 respectively.
All things aside Ski season 2016 was quite simply staggering. When the snow arrived it just didn't stop. It seemed at one point that the powder days were becoming almost reliable to the point there was no point skiing until the next one, which will be, oh yes, tomorrow.
By comparison to some locals however, my ski prowess pales by comparison. I have always heard locals talk of how many days they 'Got in'! With the arrival of Whistler Blackcomb's new app WB+ which not only tracks your visits to the mountain, but thoughtfully compares days to skiing mountains such as Everest, and places you on a leaderboard that quite frankly astonishes me. I've thoroughly enjoyed watching my own ski day count rise, and reach goals I set, and watch my place on the leaderboard ! I'm a full time daddy, a business owner / manager and an aspiring entrepreneur; the last one might only ever remain a name, but honestly I was pretty stoked at my 61 days.
Currently I hold the esteemed position of been number 2621 on the leaderboard. I achieved a season vertical of just over half a million vertical feet; 512,897 to be exact. For me, that was a wonderful achievement. Jack is only 1, and is not yet sleeping through, and with a new business I was pretty chuffed. I got the Mt Kosciusko not once, not twice but forty times I tell you. That is I skied the equivalent of descending Mt Kosciusko (Australia's biggest mountain) in one day on forty occasions!
Yet the dizzy heights of getting the Mt Everest badge evaded me this year. 29,092 feet in one day. I came reasonably close on a few occasion, but it remained just outside of my grasp.
So as I put this season behind me, and prepare my rock skis for the odd spring skiing day, I say here publicly that next year, oh yes next year I will descend Mt Everest. I will be arrive early with my Fresh Tracks ticket in hand, I will eat a hearty breakfast (inlaced in my fresh tracks ticket price of a mere $19 of our Canadian Dollars) and I will emerge onto my first run with strong legs and waxed skis. I will time lunch perfectly to miss the other 5000 skiers ordering poutine, and I will ride every damn lift on Whistler and Blackcomb mountain and get that damn badge as well. Oh yes, next year is going to be 'Epic'!
The leaders I hear you ask?
Well right now there is a bitter competition ongoing between three clear leaders. It looks like 'Vertbag' is going to win, with a staggering 5,214,731 vertical feet, and 134 days skiing this season and a 'streak' of 31 days. I mention this last point for one specific reason. The gentleman in third place has skied 164 days with a 'Streak' of.... 164 days!! He hasn't missed a single day. and with an admirable 4,522,307 vertical feet, it is to this gentleman that I say "To you sir we doth our caps." Phil Nichol is an inspiration, and example of a real local, a dedicated skier. So in my eyes, he is the winner of our imaginary made up little WB+ competition. What an achievement, and achievement that no doubt is actually made up of a millions of feet of sheer pleasure, enjoyment and freedom on the mountains that tower over our town.
What a winter.