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The winter survival guide



It begins. Blackcomb Mountain opened last week, and will be opening daily starting Nov. 11.

After this the next five months will pass by in a blur of early mornings, late nights, chairlifts, banana bread, beer, nachos, damp gloves and stinky long underwear. You should awake from this trance sometime near the end of April, dehydrated, disorientated, broke and probably a few pounds overweight. I’ve been through it all six times already, and it’s awesome.

And every year I get a little better at it – a little more organized, a little bit better equipped, and a little more balanced in my approach to living.

When the snow flies I already have my first six runs of the day mapped out and timed with the precision of a jewel heist. I know the shortest route between two points is not always a straight line, I know the best powder is sometimes in the most obvious spots, I know where to go to avoid the crowds, where to go when the visibility is low, and where the chance of hitting rocks is minimal in the early season.

While no ski bum in his or her right mind would share all of their secrets (note to all you ski instructors and overly helpful locals – quit being so nice to the newbies!) I can give you a bit of hard-earned advice to help your winter go smoother.

The first thing you need to know is the weather. Things change fast up there, and despite 40 years of forecasting the predictions and the reality seldom coincide. Sometimes weather systems hit early, and sometimes they hit late or not at all.

The first place to start every morning and evening is at WhistlerBlackcomb.com ( www.whistlerblackcomb.com ) – click on the Weather & Cams tab to have all of the options at your fingertips. The snow report is all-important for the morning, but also check out the Valley Forecast to access the also all-important Alpine Forecast.

Before you head up you should also check the Live Temperatures, which will tell you how cold and windy it is at the peak. Not only does this help you dress for the weather, it can also give you clues where to go – winds over 50 km/h usually mean that the alpine is going to be slow to open, and you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast.

The Live Temperatures section also lets you know when there’s an inversion – sometimes the top of the mountain is a lot warmer than the base, even by as much as 10 degrees Celsius, which can help you choose wax, clothing and your strategy for the day. My girlfriend skis and snowboards, and generally chooses her weapon based on the type of snow we’re expecting – e.g. in heavy, wet snow she usually goes with her board, and snow gets wet and heavy during an inversion.

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