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11 hours to freedom



I had a revelation on the mountain the other day. I was standing on the top of a ridge, checking out the untouched powder field below me and enjoying the silence while I buckled into my snowboard. There was no one else around except for the people in my group, and there were plenty of nice lines to go around.

This, I said to myself, was how things ought to be.

And there I was – in-bounds, a mere five minute skate from the top of the chairlift, and I was having a backcountry moment. Nobody was going to steal this from me.

The only catch was that it took 11 hours of driving to get to this place, the distance from Whistler to Nelson in rain and foggy conditions. It’s a long way to go, but worth it for a few powder runs.

Powder is the greatest substance in the world, and it’s as important to some mountain people as air and water. Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough to go around, and that’s when the Whistler powder hounds panic.

The Whitewater Winter Resort is just a small valley with two ridges serviced by a pair of old two-seater chairs. One of these chairs is the old Olive Chair from Whistler Mountain, and my girlfriend was excited to see it again.

She has been coming to Whistler her whole life, and remembers when a powder day actually lasted a whole day, long before the mountains had, or needed, an hourly lift capacity for 50,000.

The good ol’ days that misty-eyed locals all tell you about aren’t gone, they just moved inland.

Both chairs access long ridges, and a lot of different types of terrain. There were steeps, chutes, rock slopes and tree runs that are reminiscent of Khyber’s Pass, as well as huge features to huck yourself off at almost every turn. All runs lead back to the two chairs, where our longest lineup of the day was about five minutes.

It was a Saturday with close to 20 centimetres of snow over the 48 hours, and there were maybe 500 people there by the early afternoon. In the morning there was almost no wait at all.

My girlfriend and I were with a couple of locals who really couldn’t understand why we were so ramped up that morning. They were calm, and took their time getting ready. Instead of staring down the other skiers in the lift line, they said hello to them – and meant it! Didn’t they comprehend that there was fresh snow out there?