Well, well. I don't think we could have asked for a more fitting Christmas present for our wee mountain town. When you start to measure a storm's output in the number of metres rather than its rather underwhelming hundredth denomination, you know the season is pretty much on its way to the playoffs (after throwing a few early seasons games).
Zero to hero they call it. In less than two weeks, Whistler Blackcomb has had enough snowfall to bury a dwarven village. It came straight outta left field, wreaking havoc with the highway and already-crowded supermarket parking lots. Some days on the mountain were so deep that unsuspecting snowboarders were spending as much time digging themselves out as a rookie snowmobilers. The alpine opened to the frothing masses, powder ripe for the pickin', when the wind allowed.
Alas, of late this frothing skier hasn't been up the mountain for his usual morning powder harvests. My left calf muscle fell victim to early season conditions a couple of weeks ago (at once reminding me to practice what I preach), levelling my storm-skiing ambitions. And while I inch through the next few weeks wearing a heavy crown of FOMO and diligently performing my physiotherapy exercises, time out of my ski boots has blessed me with some time to reflect on 2018.
The fall. Summer always gets the limelight, but it was the autumn that stole the show this year. After a late September snowstorm (one that gave plenty of people the wrong idea of when winter actually starts), October and even November gave us more clear skies and the most perfect outdoor temperatures I've ever seen in Whistler's fall season. My usual weeks of hunkering down and working on indoor pre-winter projects were spent riding hero dirt in the Sea to Sky and watching a humpback whale breach off a sunny shore of Vancouver Island while I was eating breakfast. It's not often we get a full six-month riding season (the determined bikers can stretch that even longer), but 2018 was ripe for the picking. Let's hope for a repeat of that performance in 2019.
Trying new sports (and new toys). While I don't have the athletic prowess of polymath sportsman, I do enjoy trying my hand at something unfamiliar and hopefully getting to experience that steep, exciting part of the learning curve. In 2018 I retried my hand at snowmobiling, participated in my first real ski-mountaineering race and went (mostly successfully) trials motorcycling. I also had a play on those wacky A-Rides (thanks Alpine Riding) and finally took an e-bike out for a spin on the Squamish mountain bike trails. If you missed it, you can find my impressions on the above experiences in The Outsider 2018 archives in Pique.
Travel. I'm personally not into the "finding oneself" tripe that circulates among privileged sojourners, but after 15 years of living in Whistler's insulated bubble, I've come to the conclusion that we all need a reality check sometimes. Whether skiing somewhere with just a couple of T-bar lifts or immersing in a foreign culture, the choice is up to the individual. Whichever adventure you embark on in 2019, there's no better feeling than coming home to Whistler.
Community. One of my most rewarding trips into the mountains this year was a three-day dig shift to excavate the concrete foundations of the Kees and Claire hut. After years of writing stories, features and updates on the Spearhead Huts, it was high time I rolled up my sleeves and actually contributed some elbow grease to the project. I also returned to once again help set up and tear down fencing for WORCA's annual bike swap, though I did miss my usual couple of trail nights to give back to the dirt that my tires roll over all summer. There are so many volunteer heroes in this valley, and while I'm not aspiring to fill those shoes, picking a couple of local non-profit outfits and donating a few days of your time helps your own self as much as the community you live in.
For 2019 (and any year for that matter), our biggest goal as outdoor folk should be to keep learning. Learn about the town you live in and the real struggles people are going through. Learn (from credible news sources) about what's going on in the rest of the world, whether it directly affects you or not. Learn what makes you and your friends safer in the backcountry. Sharpen the mind and the body will follow.
Keep on truckin' into 2019.
Vince Shuley wishes all the Pique readers a happy and prosperous new year. For questions, comments or suggestions for The Outsider email firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram @whis_vince.