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Feature - Wilderness unplugged

Another perspective, from Callaghan Country’s backcountry lodge


By G.D. Maxwell

"Oh my goodness!"

The woman, of indeterminate middle-age but with an unmistakable Texas accent, had just regained a shred of dignity, having lost pretty much all of it in a comical, spiral, backwards, ass-over-teakettle fall part way down Burnt Stew Basin.

"Are ya hurt, Honey?" yelled her husband, huffing and puffing back uphill to tend to her.

Having wrestled herself into a sitting position, where she appeared to be settling in for an extended stay, she simply pointed toward something on the horizon. "Look," she said. "Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?"

Her gaze, having finally extended itself beyond the six feet of groomed trail in front of her, took in the vastness of the bowl she’d been skiing and drew her attention toward Fissile, Overlord Glacier, Decker, Blackcomb, 7 th Heaven and… well, certainly more mountain peaks than exist in the entire state of Texas.

I’m not sure if her husband saw what she saw – or cared – and, having fetched her skis, I didn’t wait around for his response.

That , I thought to myself, is the fundamental flaw of downhill skiing.

The that to which I refer is downhill skiing’s great paradox. As a sport, skiing takes place in some of the most achingly beautiful settings on the planet. But rarely do skiers notice. When they’re skiing, their attention is riveted to a patch of ground in front of them smaller than a good flashlight will illuminate on a dark night. And when they’re riding back up, they’re looking uphill, the direction with the least expansive view, a bit like riding in a rear-facing seat in the family station wagon.

Among other reasons – fewer people, untracked powder, more exercise, solitude – escaping the paradox and reconnecting to the supernatural countryside is one of the best reasons to leave the resort behind. At least temporarily.

Ducking a boundary rope – know where you’re going before you even think of doing that – or skinning up in the near-backcountry of Oboe or Cowboy Ridge will get you away from people but leave you within earshot of the mechanical din Whistler generates 24/7.

But for the full-junkie mainlinin’ rush of powder, solitude and lost-in-the-expanse-of-B.C.-wilderness, it’s hard to beat what lies just down the road.

Ten minutes by auto, 35 more by snowmobile or an hour by snowcoach, the indifference of wilderness partners with the caring of civilization to bring you the best of both worlds. Untracked powder blankets 3,500 hectares of wilderness and down comforters blanket worn-out skiers at day’s end. A winter playground serves up a smorgasbord of outdoor activities and a talented chef serves up a groaning board of tasty treats. The silent solitude of winter warms your soul and a crackling fireplace warms your toes.

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