On a cold, clear day in February, a couple of season ago, I did something very unusual. I went skiing. That’s not the unusual part; cold, clear days in February generally find me skiing, working or loafing, more or less in that order.
It was one of those February days I’d generally choose to term one of those February days except I can never be certain italics will translate from my computer to the Pique’s written page, which, if they didn’t this time will render this particular sentence even more ridiculous than usual.
But it was one of those February days. The kind of day we enjoy around here when we aren’t enjoying a deep powder day. It hadn’t snowed in several weeks, there were no fresh tracks to be had anywhere short of the backcountry and the snow had that chalky, styrofoamy quality that makes skiing steeps so attractive. It was one of many April-in-February years when picnic lunches on a nearby glacier were the order of the day.
Skiing the chalk off the backside of Whistler peak, I caught up with Paul Street at the high entrance to Bagel Bowl. Notwithstanding he teles, skiing with Paul is often a matter of catching up with him. If you’re not familiar with it, the high entrance to Bagel Bowl lies across an uninteresting field of snow notable only for offering a lower access to West Bowl. Many people avoid going into Bagel Bowl that way because it is marked with a red sign that says "Cliff". It’s not so much a cliff as it is a steep, rock-strewn thrill ride but the sign keeps people away and that’s a good thing. I’ve often thought randomly posting cliff signs at the top of good runs without cliffs wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Then again, I’ve thought stringing yellow police Crime Scene tape across the entrance to Whistler Bowl would be a fun, April 1 st kind of thing to do too.
Slipping through the rocks at the entrance to the noncliff cliff, I cut right, then left, then right again to get to open – more or less – snow. Having skied that line dozens of times, I know it like the back of my hand, which is to say I take it for granted, which is to say I wasn’t thinking about the glazed rock covered with a millimetre of snow I inadvertently tried to turn on. As my skis slid across it, I performed a pratfall worthy of a fat man on an icy sidewalk. In very rapid order I found myself on my back, head downhill, feet and skis in the air, sliding quickly down the chalk and accelerating at a rapid rate.