The start-stop ski season cycle, the rhythm of our lives, seems as predictable as the start-stop cycle on Symphony chair proved to be unpredictable. Start sometime in the fall; stop when the World Ski and Snowboard Festival ends, the snow runs out, biking muscles take over from skiing muscles, waxing becomes more alchemical than mechanical, interest just fades away.
So why does this season’s end seem more abrupt?
Let’s not parse reality here. I know skiing’s not over. I went skiing yesterday; I’ll go again today. But the ski season is most definitely over. It’s time now, as the congregation leaves the church, for the choir to sing, sing for the pure pleasure of hearing our own voice. Hallelujah.
There is something remarkably soothing about spring skiing. It’s a quality not shared by the desperate, early days of the season, the dark days of January, the powder of February or the spring-break crowds of March and April. Spring skiing demands late, lazy starts except on those rare occasions when a rogue storm drops a foot or two of fresh on the frozen corn. There’s time for a rollover snooze, an extra cup of coffee, even a run with the dog before waxing up — necessary but impossible — heading up and searching out the best run of the moment, a never-ending game of hide-and-seek that changes run-by-run as the sun and freezing levels cream ice into the afternoon’s inevitable schmoo.
Someone asked last week where the best skiing on the mountain would be the next day. “Sun Bowl?” he asked. “It gets the earliest sun, doesn’t it? West Bowl?”
I started to answer… stopped… started again and finally shrugged my shoulders. “Beats me,” I said, quickly adding since that seemed not to be the kind of answer he was hoping for, “The elusive mystery of spring skiing is finding the best runs at any moment. There is no magic formula. Might be a groomed run; might be off-piste. Might be high; might be low. In the end, it’s a Zen puzzle. As soon as you find the answer, it changes and you have to start searching all over again.”
He left thinking I was crazy.
He was probably right.
But that was last week; this is now. Monday dawned on the end of one season and the start of another. With a three-metre base, Whistler Mountain was closed! Quiet and empty except for the strum of big machines clearing snow off the road up to the Roundhouse where fifty-four million bucks began to be poured into the ground and strung through the air for the amusement ride currently named the Peak to Peak gondola. Long rumoured but fanciful, the gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb is another Olympic reality looming large in our immediate future. Like the Olympics, it’ll change this place forever. Like the Olympics, we all hope the change will be for the better but many of us fear the bad will accompany the good like rain to the top seemed to accompany big dumps so many times this season.