Opinion » Range Rover

Opening daze



As I sit here Tuesday, Nov. 21, listening to the malignant patter of what weather forecasters gleefully label "heavy rain" (heavy because it's usually accompanied by chunks of snow the size of sheepdogs falling past your window from the roof), it gives me pause to reflect on the excellent season so far. Who cares if it's only five days old at this point? Fully four of those days have been epic, and if you were a worm-nibbling early bird today, you could even have bagged a couple of tasty hours before everything started to taste like overripe pineapple.

Not that I have it in for tropical moisture plumes or anything, but some years you dodge the soggy bullet of early-season fluctuations and others, it seems, you don't. It'll all be right again soon enough, and today and tomorrow will just be misty memories... Well, unless they leave us with a November crust up top. Then they will be crunchy memories with a tendency to make themselves known later in the season in the form of a weak layer that subsequent snows will go tobogganing on at inopportune times — like, say, March. If that's the case, take comfort in the knowledge that it'll doubtless be worse in the Interior than here on the coast. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's raining cats and dogs for the next couple of days, and that's all she wrote. Break out the umbrellas. It happens. And, after all, such an episode is, in the immortal words of Whistler über ski-bum Jean-Claude Gudaimaite, "good for the base."

But let's talk about something more pleasant. Like Friday's crazy deep first run even after not going up until 10:15, and how everyone was getting fully after it on every visible face and in every reachable glade... or Saturday's sumptuous leftovers in the trees that weren't hit on Friday... or Sunday's ridiculous near-metre of blow-in, mid-winter conditions in VD Trees and Frog Hollow, and perhaps the deepest walk ever out to an almost too-deep-to-ski Peak to Creek... or how about yesterday's sunny ski tour into Harmony Bowl, the hike out to Million Dollar Ridge, and sweet poaches on Fridays. Have you seen Eric Berger's Instagram shot of Mark Abma? Paul Morrison's shot of Mikey Rencz? Mike Douglas's video of his daughter Kirra's disappearing face shot? These images are pretty much all people are talking about, so they're clearly channelling something. Let's call them zeitgeist shots of another spectacular opening.

We've had a lot of great openings in the 18 years I've lived here. Enough that it's difficult to say which was best. Many locals — even old-timers — are calling this no. 1. But I know how capricious memory is and how the brain works, and I'm not about to let it win that contest.

I thought last year was pretty good, too, if not quite this regal, though I soon realized my faltering mind was conflating memories of opening day with opening weekend. However, everyone tends to have their own benchmark, and a lot of it depends on what you actually skied, or how gnarly the gondola lineup was, or how long it took you to sort out your pass situation. For me, I still look back at those rare years when my first run of the season was straight down Lower Insanity. It has only happened twice, but given that I'm a pretty conservative skier, there would have had to have been a shit-ton of snow. Like 2009, when 560 centimetres of snow fell in November and you could ski to the bottom on opening days at both Whistler and Blackcomb without noticing the ditches. There have been years where I got waist-deep before Halloween, or skied blower in Harvey's in mid-November (Harmony Chair opened early in those days).

Of course, there have also been the years that you handily (conveniently?) forget. Like the soggy, foggy openers, or the sunny day in 2003 that we all went up to enjoy turning on only a few hundred metres of man-made snow — but were still stoked as hell for the opportunity. Which brings me to the point of all of this: do we really even need to remember past opening days? Is it important in any way, shape or form when the entire seasonal nature of snow-riding means that each year comes with a giant eraser (summer) and reset button (fall) whose vector points ever-forward? Opening day is always good in some way. And down the road your brain tends to aggregate those first few days on the snow because getting started again each season is a physical and mental "assembly required" phenomena.

In the end, what matters most to your enjoyment, whether conditions are epic or tragic, is that you make friends with the moment. Kick those rosy memories of glorious opening days past down the road. After all, following this rain it's going to be reset city and opening day all over again.

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