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Opening the Mountain Flood Gates

Winter's official start marked by lift line reunions

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Derek Foose

Rabbit Hill's most extreme Canadian

There are few working skiers who can say they have a gig as good as Derek Foose. Splitting his time between coaching steeps with Extremely Canadian and leading the next generation of pro skiers around the mountain with the Whistler Freeride Club, Foose spends every work day in technical terrain and if conditions allow — sending it big. The 36-year-old now has two children, and though fatherly responsibilities take up more time than ever before, Foose says hitting the mountain with his four-year-old son, Mason, is as rewarding as it gets.

Pique: Where and when did you learn how to ski?

DF: I learned to ski at Rabbit Hill in Edmonton, Alberta when I was three. I grew up ski racing there and coached for a year while I was at university and I came out here just to take a year off, your classic Whistler story. Within about a week I knew I was never going back — once I was here it was over.

Pique: What do love most about your job, besides getting paid to ski every day?

DF: It's the reward of showing people what it is that brought us all here and kept us here. I like coaching and I think it's really rewarding developing skills and helping make people better, but I love just giving them that little insight into our lives and sharing the passion. It's nice to take some of the guesswork out of it too. It was definitely a bit of a bumpy process learning your way around Whistler and Blackcomb in the '90s, there was nobody showing you the way.

Pique: What does opening day mean to you?

DF: I missed last year, but if circumstances allow with the kids I'm up there for sure. I'm still frothing like a little kid over it. The main thing is that you get to ski again, but there's a bunch of subplots going on too. In the summer there's a whole bunch of things to do so everybody just scatters. People are mountain biking, climbing, fishing or hiking. In the winter the whole town is concentrated on the ski hill so you see people you haven't seen all summer. For me it's the beginning, summer is just something to get through. Winter is the thing, the passion. It's on now and I know exactly what I'm doing every day for the next six months.

Pique: Where is your go-to zone on Opening Day?

DF: That definitely depends on the situation. There's a lot of (people who ski) Pale Face (then traverse) over to the Goat Path, but that's a bit of a risky one. You can get stung over there falling into open creeks and I work pretty hard to not be the guy who ends his season the same day it starts. The last few years they've been really good at allowing us foot access to the Peak. Maybe one or two laps on the Green Chair then hike up to West Cirque and link up to Christmas Trees.

Pique: What is your favourite run or favourite zone?

DF: I'm probably 60/40 ratio Whistler to Blackcomb and every year that ratio gets more towards Blackcomb. I worked for Whistler Mountain when I first got here, when they were still separate companies and I think that formative time is why I still see Whistler as my home mountain. My favourite lift by a long shot is the Peak Chair. West Cirque to Christmas Trees to me is a classic. If all things are equal and I had the opportunity for an untracked powder run that would be my choice.

Pique: How has your winter ski time been affected since you became a Dad?

DF: I'm not freeskiing as much as I used to, but since he was two I'm putting time and effort into Mason's skiing, which is amazing. Now he loves it. He had his first year of Valley Kids in ski school last year and every day he came home just over the moon and stoked on skiing. I'm loving being a parent of a ski kid. We go skiing together now, which is like a dream come true.