Opinion » Alta States

Christmas time at Whistler — lots to be happy about



"Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us — what happens with the rest?"

- Amadeu de Prado

We were hanging out in the alpine, waiting for the sun to set. Clear skies, relatively warm temperature, great snow: it was one of those rare coast mountain afternoons where the weather gods had conspired together to provide the prefect winter setting. Black Tusk was resplendent in the day's last light. And the Tantalus Range, well, its mountains were mighty tantalizing on this day. Oh yeah, and the date: 12-12-12. A moment to remember, for sure.

In the old days, we would have been alone. I mean, the Peak lift had closed hours ago. The patrol's last sweep was long passed. But this is the 21st century. Whistler's reputation is such now that secret spots and sunset idylls are no longer reserved for the old guard.

To our right, a well-heeled posse of Swedish boys was donning climbing skins and screwing in their Go Pros for a filmed assault on some obscure destination. Decked out in the primary colours of this year's fashion palette — with all the right labels and, of course, all the required "freeskiing" accessories — they looked nothing so much as a band of skiing Smarties on their way to a kid's party.

But they were happy. Really happy.

To our left, a gaggle of Quebecois snowboarders was whooping it up off a little kicker they'd built over a mini-cliff drop. One after another, each rider took his turn risking life and limb for an opportunity to display his prowess for the camera. For of course, it was all being filmed — probably getting posted on Facebook or YouTube as we watched! There weren't a lot of primary colours among this group, however. Mud seemed to be the dominant shade. Oh yeah, and nothing matched. It was like they'd picked their clothes at random out of some sports-store reject bin.

But they were having fun. Lots of fun.

"Think of how many generations of riders have leaped off that little knoll at sunset," I remarked to one of my companions. He smiled. Snickered. "Yeah," he said. "And think how many have smacked themselves on the landing..." And a flood of memories came dancing through my head. Nearly forty years' worth — all the way back to when ol' Jim McConkey first led me in this direction during my rookie year at Whistler.

Back then everything was a discovery. The powder. The mountains. The whacky band of crazies that lived in the valley. It was like I'd finally discovered a place that was wilder than me. That could absorb my energy. That could inspire me to push harder, aim higher. It was like I'd found the ideal lover. Harsh and demanding at times, sure (only when I needed it though), but so sexy and seductive that I was mostly helpless before her charms. And that feeling, you know, has never left me.