For big mountain enthusiasts, the Whistler experience really begins at about 8,000 feet and ends in the valley, and not the other way around. The love of snow and high places brings millions of visitors to the resort every year from around the world to ski, snowboard and telemark.
For some people, a day on the slopes begins at the gates to the backcountry, with long traverses away from the crowds to pockets of fresh powder that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
The Big Mountain Experience, sponsored by Whistler-Blackcomb and Stella Artois, is a five-day celebration of the high alpine and backcountry, encouraging people to enjoy the recreational opportunities out there while respecting the risks.
Canadian Freeskiing Championships Jan. 7-10.
The headline event of the BME is the annual Canadian Freeskiing Championships, which is part of the International Freeskiers Association world tour. Some of the top big mountain skiers from around the world will challenge one another in extreme terrain to see who can take the hardest line to the bottom. There is more than $10,000 US in prize money up for grabs.
The qualifiers run Jan. 7-8 and the finals from Jan. 9-10. The weather day is Jan. 11.
For a complete schedule of freeskiing events, visit www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events/bigmountain_schedule.asp.
Lifelink/Dynafit Randonnee Rally Jan. 10
In its second year, the Randonee Rally is part of a four-year old North American alpine ski touring series that is based on popular European events. Racing in competitive and recreational categories, participants will climb, traverse, and descend on their skis around a course using backcountry touring techniques. The competitive racers will complete a course with about 5,000 feet of vertical gain that is expected to take two hours. The fun recreational race has half as much vertical and should take about an hour.
You can register for this event online at http://life-link.com/race.htm.
In addition to the alpine events, the Big Mountain Experience features a number of daily events.
Available daily from Wednesday, Jan. 7 to Sunday, Jan. 11, professional guides will be leading groups of skiers, snowboarders and telemarkers out of bounds into Whistlers backcountry. Guides will divide groups based on ability, and no experience is necessary. Participants must be comfortable on blue runs, and in a variety of snow conditions. Groups will meet at 8 a.m. at Escape Route in the Marketplace to get outfitted.
More information is available at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events/bigmountain.asp.
Avalanche Awareness Clinics
Hosted by the Avalanche Awareness Association, these free clinics run Saturday and Sunday and include avalanche seminars, transceiver workshops, and rescue dog demonstrations. They run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and participants can meet at the top of Whistler Mountain.
Telemark Clinics / Extremely Canadian Ski and Snowboard Clinics
Want to improve your backcountry skiing or riding? Visit any ski school sales location to sign up for clinics taking place from Wednesday to Sunday.
The top ski and snowboard manufacturers will be hosting BME Demo Days, giving visitors a chance to try the latest equipment for free. Tents will be set up outside the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
For more information on the Big Mountain Experience, visit www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events/bigmountain.asp.