Tuesday, March 8, 2011

rolling frozen side down

I'm not sure how to begin, except from the beginning.

Day 1 at Whistler was quite uneventful. Other than doing multiple bunny hill runs, everything seemed to be OK. The occasional scaring of random children as I fight to stop and snowboard around them was mildly amusing at best. Okay, so only amusing to me because I'm sure the kids were quite frightened when a grown man in an orange jacket plows uncontrollably toward them, with arms flailing - like a giant octopus on skates.

Day 2, Bee and Grumpzilla decided to take the woman and I to the top of Blackcomb, which is the sister mountain to Whistler.

For a really good idea of what's going on, I would advise you to check out the interactive map of the mountain, HERE.

We take the gondola and ski lifts all the way to 7th Heaven which is at the peak of Blackcomb.

The idea is to snowboard down from the top to a point called Rendevous (middle of Blackcomb - right next to the webcam icon), then take a 1 kilometer gondola across to Whistler's peak, and gently snowboard down to the bottom.

Because I'm sort of a n00b, I'm definitely slower than Bee and Grumpzilla - however, I've got enough natural balance to be faster than the Woman.

The Woman is glacier slow, so Bee elects to stay behind and help her along. Grumpzilla decides to take a run and then come back up to meet us again. We agree to stay on the green runs so Grumpz can find us later. As anyone who's ski-ed before, that's the easy stuff. For the n00bs, it's green, blue, black, double black - something like that.

Anyhow, since I'm a bit faster, I decide to board down first, and wait at the bottom. Good idea.


Except I'm colourblind, and I'm having a hard time seeing the green signs. Soon, I'm faced with a sea of blues, with nary any other colours in sight. Wait. Untrue, I also see orange signs.

So I set my sights for them. Like a giant slalom downhill skier, I aim between all the orange posts, trying to link them like I'm going for the gold. This was not the best choice, as I later found out*.

Quite tough, I'm not a snowboarder, so obviously I fall a bunch, have to slow up a bunch, and well try my best to carve.

Not bad. I get to a point and read a sign that says: "All runs lead to the bottom of 7th Heaven." Brilliant, I'm sure Grumpz will be there waiting - bored to tears.

Thing is, all runs are blue, and I'm resigned to the fact Grumpz and Bee tricked us into snowboarding something a bit more difficult.

I try the best I can, and eventually, I reach the bottom of 7th Heaven.

I take off my board and wait. And wait, and wait. After about an hour and half of waiting, I still do not see the twins.

Okay, this is dumb. The Woman is going so slow, it's taken her forever to get down here. So I decided to take the lift back up to the top, and try to find all the green runs, and hope to catch up to them before they've reached the bottom. Only afterward did I realize I wasn't suppose to wait for them there. I had completely forgotten about "Rendevous", which is where we stored our bags and stuff in preparation for snowboarding that day.

I get up to the top, now concentrating on the greens, and of course after about 15 turns, I've once again lost the green path. Stupid.

At the bottom, I reach some lift I'm not familiar with, and I'm frankly sort of lost.

Now, decision time, son. What would you do? Do I ride this lift back up to the top and try one last time to find them? Or do I wait at the bottom of the mountain's Gondola? Or should I try to find our car and wait there?

I decide waiting at the car is the best option. No matter what, they will eventually have to find the car to get home, right?

So I begin to make my way down the mountain. "Jersey Cream" sounds like such a nice run to go down, except it isn't.

Partly through this, there's a left and right fork. The right looks steep, but the left has trees. I figure since I have enough control not to hit people stopped in the middle of the slope, trees shouldn't be a problem.

And it isn't, except it gets pretty flat. So I'm stuck in this flat spot, and I remove my board. Big mistake.

Next thing I know, I'm knee deep in snow, and it's very difficult to trudge through this. I get a little downhill gradient and I triumphantly strap my board back on and begin to make my way down, only to slide into a ditch.

15 minutes later of me turtling around and trying very hard to stand back up, I once more being to point my board downward.

Rocks. So that's what it's like to fall on rocks and drop 5-6 feet at one time. Not fun, not really.

I pass the rocks, and I'm good. Then I hit a 45 degree slope, with moguls.

There's no way around it, by now I'm pretty blaggered, but more importantly, I'm thirsty. At least I'm not cold, because I'm drenched in sweat.

I hit a mogul, and I'd fly on my butt, or on my chest. Each time I stand up, I begin to slide, so I fight to stay up, but after 2 or 3 moguls, I'm invariably back on my bum.

I reach a breaking point, and after making sure no one else sees me, I pick up a chunk of snow and being to chow down, chewing furiously because there was no other way of extracting liquid otherwise.

After what felt like another 1/2 hour, I reach the bottom, and low and behold, I see a lodge, and humans. Civilization! I am saved.

I unstrap my board and run the lodge. First things first, pee break.

Mission completed, I fill up on water in the empty little water bottle I happen to have in my pocket.

I check out the giant map inside the lodge, sure as snow is white that I'm close to the parking lot whence we came.

To my utter chagrin, I'm not even 1/3rd of the way down, and worse, I'm on the wrong bloody side of the mountain. In short, I'm at Glacier Creek. (Refer to map, middle of the left, Blackcomb). I forgot to mention. My end goal is the village cam at the very bottom, middle of the map.

I'm now quite discouraged. Do I fake an injury and get snowmobiled down? I could never live with myself. My elbow does hurt from a tumble earlier, but it's not fractured, so that's out of the question.

I decide to trudge on, secure in the fact at least I'm still in one piece, and not cold.

I begin to make my way down, faster this time, less stopping, less slowing down. I'd rather zoom down 100 feet and wipe out than to snowboard slowly down. Straight down I went.

Problem. I don't really know where the car is. I mean, there are at least 2 major gondola lineups. I'm not sure which one to go to. I remember something about "base II", but I'm not entirely sure.

So I criss cross between all sorts of runs. For whatever reason, no matter which way I turn, I keep on missing this "base II" area. I even at one point stop, unstrap, walk back up the hill, only to find that the "bottom" isn't Base II, and that I can keep going down. Drat!

Finally, what seemed like an eternity, I find myself bombing down the same bunny hill I was at the day before. And baby, I own it! I'm carving, I'm go left and right on my board like no body's business. In short, for that 5 minute, I am a snowboarder.

I reach the bottom proper, but surely this is not where the car was parked. This was the one place I did not want to be at, for I knew we didn't ride up the gondola from here.

I walk into the lodge. Again pee and water, in that order. I jauntily walk up to the help/ticket desk, and I say, "Hi, I'm wondering if you can help me out. I lost my friends earlier in the day, and I'm wondering if I can get directions to Base II."

The Australian gentleman on the other side of the looks at me, ready to show me on the map, but he pauses.

"Is your name Eric?"

"Yes." I answer hesitantly, am I wearing a name tag?

"Eric Looo?" He continues, with a thick Aussie accent.

"Yeah?" How the....

"You've been reported missing. I have to make some phone calls to make sure they stop looking for you on the mountains."

B U R N S.

That means in 1 day, I did blues, blacks, went through trees, hit some wicked moguls, and generally made a fool of myself. The worst part? The Woman had to wait outside the whole time, hoping I would show up and rejoin the group. SORRY!! She was so cold, I'm surprised she wasn't frostbitten. Thanks honey.

For a scale of how big Blackcomb/Whistler mount is, here's a comparison

Here's a random picture of where we stayed at Whistler. 10 minutes walking distance from the slopes.

*Oh year, remember in the beginning when I went down orange "runs"? Apparently, they're not paths at all. They're like warning signs saying "Don't go here, because we don't groom the place, and it's SERIOUSLY tough going."


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